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Giants bolster playoff hopes by ending Cowboys’ 11-game winning streak

Odell Beckham Jr.
Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (13) scores against the Cowboys on a 61-yard touchdown pass play during the third quarter Sunday night.
(Al Bello / Getty Images)

The pass fell to earth, and so did the Dallas Cowboys.

The New York Giants, leaning heavily on their stifling defense, handed the mighty Cowboys a 10-7 defeat Sunday night, denying their bitter rival a chance to clinch the NFC East with three weeks remaining in the regular season.

The game essentially ended when a fourth-down pass to Dez Bryant was overturned on replay, with the bundled-up crowd at MetLife Stadium erupting in cheers even before officials announced their decision. 

The spectators could see the ball hit the ground when the play was shown on the video boards.

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After being shut out in the first two quarters and falling behind, 7-0, the Giants clawed their way back in the third quarter with a 39-yard field goal by Robbie Gould, followed by Odell Beckham Jr. catching a quick slant and outrunning the Cowboys for a 61-yard touchdown.

That atoned for an uncharacteristic drop by Beckham earlier in the game that would have been a sure touchdown.

“When you hit that guy in stride, good things will happen,” said quarterback Eli Manning, whose team has won seven of eight.

The victory completed the Giants’ first sweep of the Cowboys since 2011 and their fifth consecutive win at home.

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The game was a discouraging deja vu for the Cowboys, who suffered a one-point loss to the Giants in a season opener before tearing off a club-record 11 wins in a row behind the surprising play of a pair of rookies, quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott. 

But for the second straight game, Dallas was see-your-breath cold on offense. A week after they converted one of nine third downs in a 17-15 win at Minnesota, the Cowboys converted one of 15 against the Giants.

“I would say that we were doing a hell of a good job on defense,” Giants linebacker Devon Kennard said.

Standing in the visitor’s locker room in his heavy coat after Sunday’s game, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said, in essence, the young players cannot fall prey to believing the hype surrounding them.

“Certainly they’re reading their mail to some degree,” he said. “But that’s to be expected. That’s what happens. 

“As you go into the season, you’ve got to expand that portfolio.”

Jones acknowledged that defenses might be better at making adjustments for Prescott as they get more video on him.

“I expect teams to make adjustments and make it tougher for us on some of the things that we had done with more ease earlier in the year,” he said. “On the other hand, I like our players’ skills.”

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Elliott ran for 107 yards in 24 carries, pushing his league-best rushing total to 1,392 yards. He would need 417 yards in his final three games — a per-game average of 139 — to break the rookie rushing record of 1,808 set by Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson in 1983.

As was the case in the opener against the Giants, Bryant was held to one reception — he fumbled it, no less — and was blanketed all game by former Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins.

“We know Dez is a great receiver; everyone knows that,” Jenkins said. “The defense just did their job as a whole.”

The Cowboys close the regular season with home games against Tampa Bay and Detroit, before finishing at Philadelphia.

The Giants came into the game with the NFL’s 26th-ranked offense, and they lived up to that billing. They converted two of 14 third downs and matched the Cowboys yard for yard with an underwhelming 260. 

Those 260 yards were a season-low for the Cowboys, who had 264 against the Vikings a week before.

New York had three turnovers — two fumbles and an interception — but twice picked off Prescott, who didn’t have to face All-Pro defensive lineman Jason Pierre-Paul. He was watching from the sideline in street clothes and sunglasses, recovering from a sports hernia.

The only scoring in the first two quarters came when Dallas receiver Terrance Williams took advantage of a coverage breakdown and got wide open on a crossing pattern as Prescott ran a bootleg to the right. The play went for 31 yards.

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The Giants lost a pair of fumbles in the first half, and Prescott was picked off. 

On the final play of the first half, the Cowboys nearly built on their modest lead, but Dan Bailey’s 55-yard field-goal attempt doinked off the crossbar.

sam.farmer@latimes.com

Twitter: @LATimesfarmer


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