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Giants shut down Cowboys in low-scoring slugfest


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants (9-4) made it a stunning clean sweep of the Dallas Cowboys (11-2) on Sunday night with a 10-7 victory. The Cowboys go back to the drawing board with one glaring weakness -- the second-best team in their division.

Here's what we learned ...

1. Because we can only roll our eyes at high-turnover, low-scoring football perhaps Sunday night's game might not go down in recent history with proper context. It was a slugfest, with Sean Lee, Tyron Smith, Olivier Vernon and Devon Kennard among the hardest punchers. In terms of what was at stake, this was about as good as it gets for regular season football with three weeks remaining in the season. On the line was Dallas' first-round bye and the Giants' slim cushion in the wild card. Dak Prescott was humanized and the Giants' offensive line was stripped bare for the world to see. Ezekiel Elliott got more than 100 rushing yards with a majority of them coming after first contact. Beckham passed Plaxico Burress as Eli Manning's highest-scoring target.

2. Janoris Jenkins has been staking his claim as a top-five cornerback all season and did a fantastic job on Dez Bryant on Sunday night. Aided by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the pair held Dallas' top wideout to zero catches and zero yards until his fourth quarter catch-and-fumble with 2:13 remaining (he had seven previous targets without a catch). Prescott was picked trying to hurl it to Bryant in double coverage, a desperate attempt to get one of their best offensive weapons involved in the game. We chastise teams who spend big in free agency and end up saddling their rosters with expensive dead weight. But what about Giants general manager Jerry Reese? The $200 million in new deals brought in the league's best run-stuffing defensive tackle (Damon Harrison) and Jenkins, who completed a troika of cornerbacks (Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple) that are playing some top-level football.

3. What's amazing about Odell Beckham is how he almost never finishes with a completely negative game. Earlier on Sunday night, he dropped a potential touchdown that hit him in the palms. In the third, he dropped a third-down conversion that forced the Giants to settle for a field goal. The lazy assumption would be that it somehow fuels him, but the reality is that he's simply an excellent big-play receiver with a quarterback smart enough to continue feeding him the football. On the 61-yard touchdown, the display of top-end speed was prime Victor Cruz-esque. Manning, for all of his shortcomings (especially this season) might be the perfect quarterback for Beckham after all thanks to a lack of concern for feeding the ball into tight coverage. When it works out like that, who can blame him?

4. This was the situation the Cowboys were hoping to avoid, no? Dak Prescott had a bad game in a big spot and Tony Romo is finally healthy. It would be impossible for the rookie not to be looking over his shoulders but it's important for Dallas not to create the type of environment where he has to. Prescott still had his moments on Sunday but needs to develop a quicker trigger finger when facing this kind of pressure-oriented defense. The Giants secondary managed to catch up to a lot of his reads before he was able to make the throw.

5. When Beckham was asked about the game, he credited the defense, noting that Dez Bryant finishing with one catch for 10 yards was the "real story." But what about his 61-yard touchdown catch? "I just caught a slant. I hit a gear. I looked back -- actually I didn't look back. I just felt somebody running and (Brandon) Carr was chasing me as fast as anyone I've ever felt chasing me. I had to hit another gear but it came down a little tight. It was a real race I had to run."