The Giants defense came up big for Big Blue in a 10-7 win over Dallas:
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – How about that Giants defense?
The unit that was missing its two-time Pro Bowl defensive end, that started three rookies, including two who weren't even drafted, and that got a big play from almost everyone who stepped on the field, throttled the Dallas Cowboys offense Sunday night.
Dallas arrived with an 11-game winning streak and the NFL's fourth-ranked offense, but didn't score a point in the final three quarters as the Giants earned an exciting and fiercely-competitive 10-7 victory.
"Can't say enough about the defense and the effort (with which) they played," coach Ben McAdoo said.
"It's great," said defensive tackle Damon Harrison, "because they have beaten everybody that they play, and it's a high-powered offense with a great rookie quarterback (Dak Prescott) and a great rookie running back (Ezekiel Elliott). For us to come out and hold them to seven points, I have to tip my cap to Coach Spags (defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo)."
The Giants won for the seventh time in eight games and swept their season series with Dallas for the first time since 2011. The Cowboys fell to 11-2, with both losses against the Giants.
Dallas scored the only points of the first half on Prescott's 31-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Terrance Williams. The Giants scored their points in the third quarter, on Robbie Gould's 39-yard field goal and Eli Manning's 61-yard touchdown pass to Odell Beckham, Jr.
The rest of the night belonged to the defenses. Each team finished with 260 total yards, they combined for combined for just 25 first downs, and they succeeded on only 3-of-29 third down conversion attempts.
"We played phenomenal," cornerback Janoris Jenkins said. "We all stepped up. DB's, linebackers, defensive line, we all played together. We knew it was going to be a hard-fought game. We have to come out and do it next game."
"We are a tough, resilient group," said linebacker and defensive captain Jonathan Casillas. "We have great character on that side of the ball. Everywhere from the youngest guy Romeo (Okwara) to a guy like Leon Hall, who has played the most out of everybody, DRC (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie) and him and coming up with huge plays. Like I said, resilient group, man. We had to step up to take the presence for 90 (Jason Pierre-Paul). Ninety is one of the best players in the NFL, JPP. We all had to step up."
And they did. With Pierre-Paul forced into the role of towel-waving cheerleader because of the core muscle surgery he had last week, the Giants had numerous players step up with vital contributions.
Okwara, the rookie free agent from Notre Dame, made his first start in place of JPP. He merely led the team with eight tackles (five solo) and picked up his first career sack, a 5-yard takedown of fellow first-year pro Prescott.
"He was obviously inspired," McAdoo said. "Played at a high level, played with a great motor; encouraging to see."
"(I had) a little bit of nerves, but I think they were good nerves," Okwara said. "I was calm right before the game … I am just excited to be where I am and it is just a great feeling."
Jenkins spent the night shadowing Dez Bryant, one of the NFL's most dangerous receivers, and held him to one catch for 10 yards – and Jenkins forced a fumble on that one reception that was recovered by Landon Collins with 2:13 remaining. Bryant had two catches in two games vs. the Giants this regular season.
"We know Dez is a great receiver," said Jenkins, who had a second-quarter interception – on a throw that was intended for Bryant. "Everybody knows that. The defense did their job as a whole. Everyone just came out and made plays."
Hall, taking a few snaps at safety for starting rookie free agent Andrew Adams, intercepted a Prescott pass intended for Bryant and returned it 29 yards to the Giants' 39-yard line with 1:50 remaining in the third quarter. Two plays later, Manning and Beckham hooked up for the Giants' only touchdown.
Hall, a 10-year veteran and first-year Giant, was recently inactive for four consecutive games.
"It's football. It happens," Hall said. "I just rolled with the punches, stayed ready and went from there."
The interception was Hall's first of the season – and 27th of his career. On the runback, he inadvertently ran over first-round draft choice Eli Apple, the defense's third rookie starter.
"I'm just happy I caught it," Hall said. "I had to go find Eli. I'm still bitter about Michigan vs Ohio State. I just found him, ran over him and just tried to keep it moving."
Third-year linebacker Devon Kennard had six tackles, his first sack and forced fumble in two years, Collins had six tackles and the fumble recovery, and Casillas had a sack among his five tackles.
It was a virtuoso performance by a defense that has come a long way since it was ranked 32nd in the NFL last season.
"Our defense played outstanding," Manning said. "They did a great job getting turnovers, stopping the run, holding them to seven points. They played outstanding and that was a big time performance. I'm glad they could step up like that."
So was everyone else on the team.