When you’re one of the best players in the NFL, life comes at you fast.
The Giants had done nothing offensively until Odell Beckham Jr. made their lone play late in the third quarter, leading them to a dramatic 10-7 win over the Cowboys.
The 61-yard touchdown catch-and-run was an eye-opener, ending an incredibly slow start. It was especialy startling for the Cowboys secondary, as Beckham hit another gear and pulled away after a simple slant.
It was the ninth of 60 yards or longer in Beckham’s career, the most in the NFL since he joined in 2014.
The Giants had managed just 128 yards prior to that play, and it was enough to buoy them long enough for their defense to win the game for them.
And most importantly, Beckham was timely.
The fact he dropped two passes earlier in the game will be forgotten, while Cowboys wideout Dez Bryant’s play which will be remembered will be a late fumble, which came on his first reception of the night. It can turn just like that, and as a result the Giants are 9-4, and have won seven of their last eight games.
The fact the Giants can be in position to let Beckham change games is a bit of a miracle.
They can’t really run, and they can’t really pass-protect well, and Eli Manning just let the ball fall out of his hands at one point.The fact they’re 31st in the league in rushing is the most un-Giants thing about this team, and makes it surprising that they’ve had any success at all this season.
But they’re the only team to beat the Cowboys, and Beckham’s a big reason why.
Here are five more things we learned during Sunday Night Football:
1. There was a feeling all along that Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott would eventually have this game.
But then he kept not having it.
Prescott finally looked like a rookie again, throwing a pair of interceptions as the Giants confused him throughout the night.
Prescott only had two picks all season, and hadn’t lost since the Giants beat them in Week One. But he was a mortal 17-of-37 for 165 yards and a touchdown, taking some of the shine off all that premature MVP talk.
2. The Giants spent all the money this offseason on defense.
And it was worth it.
Cornerback Janoris Jenkins has been amazing, and the presence of Damon Harrison in the middle of the line changes the game in many ways. The Cowboys were initially unwilling to run in the middle, and that’s largely because of the large man in the middle.
But the secondary has proven to be enough to carry a lackluster team, and Jenkins’ ability to slow down a player like Bryant is the reason he’s so expensive.
3. The Cowboys defense has seemingly been defined by the fact they overachieve.
But they have at least one legitimate star in the middle of it all, as linebacker Sean Lee continues to prove he’s one of the best every-down linebackers in the NFL.
Lee has the kind of range and instincts to make plays all over the field, against the run and pass. And he’s clearly the emotional leader of a unit that hasn’t gotten enough credit for its role in their success.
Lee was credited with 18 tackles. It just seemed like a lot more.
4. The Giants defense may have found a future contributor at a bargain price.
Romeo Okwara, starting in place of the injured Jason Pierre-Paul, acquitted himself well. The rookie from Notre Dame was in the sights of the Cowboys offense early, as they ran at the place Pierre-Paul vacated early and often.
But Okwara held up reasonably well, and showed flashes of rush ability of his own.
With Pierre-Paul out for at least the regular season and headed into free agency, having plenty of linemen is going to be key, especially having spent all the money this offseason.
5. Hopefully, all the reporters in the Giants locker room are careful during the postgame, or they might get shoved.
Left tackle Ereck Flowers continued to struggle, as he has lately. His inability to keep a hand on Cowboys defensive end Benson Mayowa (one of the most decorated pass-rushers in the NFL, or something) led directly to Manning’s second turnover of the night.
They need more from the 2015 first-round pick, who looks more and more like a right tackle. Perhaps it’s just the contrast of the Cowboys offensive line, but he looked overmatched from start to finish.