ARLINGTON, Texas – Odell Beckham Jr. told J.J. Wilcox it was the hardest he'd ever been hit.
If you watched the Cowboys' 27-26 win against Beckham's Giants, you know exactly which hit he's talking about.
With New York trailing, 3-0, late in the first quarter, Eli Manning rifled a ball to Beckham on a post route for what looked to be a gain of about 15 yard. That was before Wilcox knifed out of the defensive backfield and crushed the second-year receiver, knocking the ball loose to force an incomplete pass.
"Safeties, that's what you live for. That's what you dream about, and all that good stuff," Wilcox said. "It wasn't only me – it was the pass rush, it was the cornerbacks playing close on him. When I got an opportunity, I had to make it."
Beckham wasn't the only one who felt the effects of the collision. The hit broke Wilcox's nose – not that it was enough to keep him off the field.
"I had it looked at, but I told them don't mess with it – told them to leave it alone," he said.
If Wilcox was bothered by the injury, he didn't seem to show it. He finished the night with three tackles and helped harass Beckham into just five receptions for 44 yards on the night.
"He's a hell of a player, and I knew that I had to bring my A-game when I was around him or close to him. I tried to do that and help my teammates out," Wilcox said.
All of that said, Wilcox said he was happy to see Beckham finish the game, as the hit appeared to knock the star wide out from the game for a brief period.
"I'm glad he's alright, though – at the end of the day you want to be safe," he said. "He's a good player, and I don't want to wish hurt on nobody."
Good Spirits For Gregory
Judging by his postgame demeanor, you'd have never guessed Randy Gregory suffered a major injury scare.
The rookie pass rusher limped gingerly off the field in the dying minutes of Sunday night's game, but he needed the help of several team trainers. It looked like a devastating setback for the second-round pick.
In the victorious locker room, though, there was Gregory – walking around, cracking jokes and grinning about the win.
"I'm still smiling. I'm optimistic," he said. "If you had asked me when I came in, obviously, I would've had a different answer for you. But after walking around a little bit and talking to the training staff, I feel a little bit better about it."
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett classified the problem as a high ankle sprain in his postgame press conference. If that's the case, it could mean several weeks of recovery time for Gregory. At the same time, that'd be nowhere near as bad as the injury looked in the moment.
"I was tussling with one of the linemen and somebody stepped on my left foot," Gregory said. "I tried to plant back and catch my weight so I wouldn't get pancaked – but I guess I didn't get my cleats on the ground fast enough. I ended up coming down awkwardly."
By the end of the night, Gregory was wearing a walking boot to stabilize the injured foot, and he said he'll have the problem looked at further. But for the time being, the rookie had cause for optimism.
"I think I'll be back – that's all I can say. I think it'll heal and I'll be back," he said. "Got to take time, be patient, let it heal up, figure out what exactly is wrong with it and just got from there."
Injuries kept him off the field for a year and a half, but Sean Lee didn't show it.
The sixth-year linebacker led the Cowboys in tackles in his first game since 2013, finishing with nine – not to mention a tackle for loss. That's enough cause for celebration, but the Cowboys' late-game heroics made it all the more memorable for the veteran.
"That's going to go down as one of the better wins for me to be a part of," he said.
Most importantly for Lee: he came through his first game back with no injury problems of his own. That said, having been out of football since December of 2013, Lee said – with a smile -- that he'll need some time to recover.
"I'm sore, I'm sore. It's the first time I've played in a while," he said. "It was fun, but I'm sure these next two days will be pretty tough. But I'll come back around, I'll be ready for practice – I feel great."
Eyes On Leary
Ron Leary wasn't on hand in the waning minutes, as Garrett said he injured his groin in the second half. In his place, veteran backup Mackenzy Bernadeau took over as the Cowboys' left guard.
"He was trying to fight through it but was ultimately unable to continue," Garrett said.
Leary's status will undoubtedly be a topic of conversation as the Cowboys prepare for their Week 2 visit to Philadelphia. Dallas made rookie guard La'el Collins inactive prior to kick off in order to meet the 46-man game day roster limit.
If Leary is out for a significant period of time, it'll be interesting to see who fills in between the duo of Bernadeau and Collins.
Much will be made of the Giants' puzzling season to throw the ball on 3rd-and-1 from the Dallas 1, up by three points with 1:43 to play.
Eli Manning rolled right, couldn't find a receiver and ultimately threw the ball away – all of this coming after Dallas had used its final timeout. Had the Giants run the ball, they could have run the clock down below one minute – or scored a touchdown to go ahead by 10 points.
"It should have been a run, whether we scored or not," said Giants coach Tom Coughlin. The clock would have at least given us the opportunity to take a few more seconds off."
It was a defining decision that allowed the Cowboys to mount their game-winning drive, trailing only by six points.
In the heat of the moment, though, the Dallas defense didn't have time to question the play call – only to stop it.
"You're out there playing and seeing your keys and just trying to do your best to stop it," Lee said. "We didn't know what they were going to come with, but luckily we got out of it."