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Upon Further Review: Defense shines


Coach Ben McAdoo recaps the Giants win over the Cowboys after viewing the game tape:

Dig below the surface of their significant achievement, and the Giants have a classic good news/bad news scenario on their hands today.

The best news, of course, was their scintillating 10-7 victory last night against the Dallas Cowboys, who entered MetLife Stadium with an 11-game winning streak and left wondering why they haven't found success against the Giants as they have vs. the rest of the NFL. Dallas is 11-0 against every opponent except the Giants, who have beaten then twice.

The Giants host Detroit on Sunday. Both teams are 9-4.**>> EXPERTS REACT TO GIANTS WIN**

The Giants' defense, which has developed into one of the NFL's best, was one breakdown away from perhaps shutting out a Dallas team that entered the game fifth in the league in scoring, averaging 27.8 points game. The Giants kept the Cowboys in single digits, and Dallas' only touchdown was a 31-yard pass from Dak Prescott to Terrance Williams, who was wide open because of a blown coverage.

The Cowboys gained only 260 yards (well below their per-game average of 395.7), had 13 first downs (about 11 less than their norm), and succeeded on only one-of-15 third-down conversion attempts. Ezekiel Elliott, the NFL's leading rusher, ran for 107 yards, but only 21 in the second half, when the Giants shut out Dallas. In the Cowboys' last 13 offensive possessions, they punted eight times, turned over the ball three times, missed a field goal, and lost the ball on downs.

"Tremendous effort by the defense all night," coach Ben McAdoo said on a conference call today. "We stayed in the moment the entire 60 minutes of the ball game. I really thought we put our foot down in the second half of the game. We tackled fundamentally sound. We held the offense to seven points, minimized explosive gains and forced turnovers."**>> WHAT DOES THIS WIN MEAN FOR GIANTS?**

The offense, however, wasn't nearly as proficient as the defense. Indeed, the Giants matched Dallas by gaining 260 yards. They actually had one less first down (12), and one more third-down conversion (two, on 14 attempts).

But the Giants ran the ball 31 times before two late Eli Manning kneels downs. That helped push their time of possession to 30:52, and kept the ball out of the hands of the Cowboys, who entered the game with a league-leading TOP of 32:20. Dallas had succeeded by wearing down opponents in the second half. But the Cowboys owned the ball for just 13:25 in the second half.

"It was important for us to not have the game be one-sided and tilted in time of possession," McAdoo said. "That was the key for us going into the ballgame as a team. We felt that Dallas in their wins has been very successful with a bunch of rush attempts. Really holding the ball and playing the whole game like a four-minute offense. Just protecting their defense. We thought that we needed to limit the number of opportunities that they had with Dallas' offense along with all the playmakers that they have. Limit the number of touches they have and increase the number of touches that you have. Try and run the clock a little bit. We need to complete the ball a little bit better; that would also help us. The number of rushes last night was a key."

Had the Giants been more productive offensively, they would have had some breathing room in the frantic final quarter.

"We left some offense out there, obviously," McAdoo said. "I like the physicality in running the football. The 31 rush attempts, is what it ended up being. We made Dallas play a full game on defense, something they haven't had to do a lot of this year. That was a big part of things. We don't want the time of possession and the number of plays to get tilted to one side, so our defense can play physical and aggressive for 60 minutes. We thought that was key in the ball game. I thought we did a nice job there."

But the Giants averaged just 2.9 yards on those 31 rushes, none of which gained more than 13 yards.

"I thought we had some opportunities for some big plays," McAdoo said. "We had a chance to get physical; they're a line movement-type operation. They do a great job with their line movement trying to keep (linebacker) Sean Lee clean. He had a lot of production because of it. We played with the physicality upfront. Obviously, we need to get a little bit better this week at it. Keep pounding the ball. When the elements change and you're playing in element games and December football, you have to be able to run the ball and get to that Rule 53 (rushing attempts plus completions), which we did. We had enough rush attempts to get there. We need to keep the run game progressing."

The passing game had one big moment, when Eli Manning connected with Odell Beckham, Jr. for a 61-yard touchdown in the third quarter. Manning completed 17 of 28 passes throwing a slick ball in the cold conditions, but he was intercepted once and lost two fumbles.

"I think it was a gritty performance," McAdoo said. "He hung in there and took some shots early in the ball game. We need to take better care of the football.

"When things go well, the quarterback gets a lot of credit. When things don't, the quarterback gets a lot of the blame. Right now, things aren't going very well on offense. We're having consistency issues. It's not just the quarterback. It's the whole way around. We have to keep working at it and find a way to get that out of our system. Find a way to eliminate the unforced turnovers."

The ball simply fell out of Manning's hand on the first fumble.

"It just slipped out of my hand, just slipped," Manning said. "I did a move, thought I was going to have a shot to hit Roger (Lewis) on a big play down the sideline, but it just slipped right out of my hand. It was one of those deals where as you got drives going, the longer the drive, the more wet the ball got. It stayed in there and wasn't getting substituted in and out."

On the second fumble, Benson Mayowa slipped past Ereck Flowers and leveled Manning, forcing the ball to come out.

"I think (Flowers) settled down in the second half and played a better second half than he did the first half," McAdoo said.

In the fourth quarter, the Giants were in field goal range when Manning's pass for Victor Cruz was picked off by rookie Anthony Brown. Whose fault was that?

"I think it was a combination of things," McAdoo said. "Victor has to be more aggressive coming back to the ball. Could've been a little bit of the placement of the ball or he could've pushed it to the back. He felt the squeeze. There was an open triangle and that's where he felt the ball should go. You'd like to see that be ours or no one's."

*Running back Shane Vereen, who was playing in his first game since Sept. 25, is in the NFL concussion protocol.

View the best photos from the sidelines as the Giants take on the Cowboys at MetLife Stadium

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