EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – For the second time this season, the Cowboys' defensive effort against the New York Giants could not be fully measured by the final score.
In Sunday's 27-20 loss at MetLife Stadium, the defense allowed 13 points (one touchdown and two field goals). Two key Giants touchdowns – a 58-yard interception return and a 100-yard kickoff return – happened with Rod Marinelli's unit on the sideline.
Similarly, in the Cowboys' 27-26 season opening victory over the Giants at AT&T Stadium, the defense allowed only 19 points. The other seven came off a fumble recovery and return for a touchdown by New York's defense.
Sunday, the Cowboys held the Giants to 289 total yards and only 13 first downs. Quarterback Eli Manning was sacked twice and completed only 13 of 24 attempts for 170 yards. Star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. had four catches for 35 yards.
Yet, in the postgame locker room, starting linebacker/defensive captain Sean Lee twice was asked about a continuing trend:
The defense remains without a takeaway during the current four-game losing streak.
The Cowboys entered Sunday tied for last in takeaways (3) and tied for 27th in turnover differential (minus-5). That margin dropped again with three interceptions from quarterback Matt Cassel, a muffed punt by Cole Beasley in the final two minutes, and no forced turnovers by the Cowboys.
"We haven't made the plays when they were there," Lee said. "If you look all year, we've had opportunities with footballs in our hands and we've dropped them, opportunities to strip (the ball) and we haven't made the plays.
"For us, we have to finish plays, we have to finish games. We can't have big plays (allowed) and lapses. I think if you look at us last year, that's something we did really well, whereas this year we're not doing as consistently."
The defense nearly had a game-changing play in the second quarter when it appeared rookie defensive back Byron Jones intercepted Manning after the ball bounced off his cleats and into the air. But the official review showed the ball hit the ground first and the Giants got the ball back.
Ask the Cowboys' defenders, and they'll tell you they pride themselves on forcing turnovers and stopping the run.
The defense did keep Dallas in the game in the second half, only allowing a 34-yard field goal. But they'll lament another week without takeaways, as well as the Giants' lone touchdown drive in which running back Orleans Darkwa rushed for 41 yards on four carries as part of New York's 132-yard effort on the ground.