ARLINGTON, Texas – The Cowboys defense can hold its head up looking at the scoreboard, knowing the majority of the Giants' 29 points weren't their fault.
The Dallas offense did just about all it could to put the defense in arduous circumstances, turning the ball over six times, including three turnovers in the first quarter. The defense stood firm, letting the Giants reach the end zone just once all day.
"We don't look at the offense and see what they're doing and get down or up or whatever," said cornerback Brandon Carr. "We play our game. When our number's called to go out there and defend, that's what we do."
Carr and cornerback Morris Claiborne helped hold the Giants' dynamic duo at receiver, Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, to a combined six catches for 69 yards. Claiborne was up to the task after finding out he'd be covering Nicks.
"It built my confidence early in the week when they told me who I had," Claiborne said. "I had to get right, right then and there. It started on Monday. I just tried to keep that confidence going into the game with it, going with that type of swagger that, 'Hey, I'm here. Can't back down.'"
Cruz was shaken up in the third quarter on a hit by safety Gerald Sensabaugh, which popped the ball in the air and down the back side of Sensabaugh, hanging up long enough for safety Danny McCray to secure his first interception of the year.
Both McCray and Claiborne said the defense, and specifically the secondary, played its best game of the year on Sunday. After going five games without an interception, Claiborne and McCray now each have one pick. McCray said he thinks Carr is next.
The Cowboys defense single-handedly kept the team in the game and delivered after halftime, holding the Giants offense to just six points from that point on.
"I think we did a pretty good job, to be honest," McCray said. "We gave up one big play at the beginning of the game and held them to a field goal. Other than that, there were no big plays made. We got a pick, a couple of (pass breakups), nobody really got loose."
After allowing a 56-yard pass to Rueben Randle on the first drive of the game, the defense held quarterback Eli Manning to just 136 yards passing the rest of the day. His 192 total passing yards marked his lowest total of the season.
"We put our defense and our team in some really difficult situations with the early turnovers," said head coach Jason Garrett. "I thought our defense did an outstanding job handling those situations, holding them to field goals on a couple of occasions, making them really earn the touchdown on the other occasion, and really keeping us in the ballgame."
The Cowboys forced punts from the Giants in five of their final eight possessions. One of those other three series ended in McCray's turnover, while the other two produced field goals. The Dallas offense put up 24 points in the second and third quarters, and the crowd started getting involved for reasons other than booing.
"Our thing was just to keep fighting, keep battling," Carr said. "We came out in the second half, our offense woke up and started making plays. We got our fans back into the game and the defense in turn, we fed off of that. The momentum swung completely in our favor."
Despite the valiant effort, the defense could only stand helplessly on the sidelines as the offense went scoreless in the fourth quarter and Dez Bryant's go-ahead touchdown was reversed.
"We fought hard, we lost," Carr said. "But at the same time, guys are starting to believe. Guys are 60 minutes staying focused, staying into the game, battling, not worrying about things we can't control."