EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – In any of the Cowboys' first 12 games, allowing 10 points would have been enough to win.
Only once in the Cowboys' first 12 games did they force more turnovers (four) than Sunday night's total against the New York Giants (three).
Yet, an outstanding performance by their defense got overshadowed by their offense's uncharacteristic struggles in a 10-7 loss that snapped an 11-game win streak.
"Those guys played a hell of game tonight and they kept us in the game," running back Ezekiel Elliott said. "Getting three takeaways is always big and stopping them when we weren't able to produce anything."
The Cowboys' and Giants' offensive woes mirrored each other on a cold and slippery MetLife Stadium field. The NFC East rivals were a combined 3-of-29 on third down. The Cowboys produced 13 first downs to the Giants' 12. Both teams gained exactly 260 total yards.
All were season lows for Dallas' fourth-ranked offense. But the defense held the Giants to 84 yards in the first half and shut them out for all but the third quarter, when Eli Manning and Co. turned two big plays into 10 points: a 14-yard catch by Sterling Shepard on fourth-and-3 that set up a field goal; and a 61-yard touchdown catch and run by Odell Beckham Jr. on the next possession, two plays after Dak Prescott threw his second interception of the night.
Cornerback Brandon Carr followed Beckham Jr. everywhere but the slot for most of the game with good results. Aside from his long touchdown catch, the All-Pro receiver had three catches for 33 yards.
The Cowboys were able to limit big passing plays by holding New York to 2.8 yards per carry, led by Sean Lee's game-best 18 tackles (11 solo). In their Week 1 win at AT&T Stadium, the Giants gained 113 rushing yards and averaged 4.7 yards per carry.
"I think after the first game we were frustrated how they ran on us," Lee said. "We responded well."
The Giants' 10 points matched a season-low allowed by the defense, and their three takeaways – a first-career interception by Anthony Brown and two fumble recoveries – ended a five-game drought. (Linebacker Kyle Wilber recovered a punt return fumble the previous game against the Minnesota Vikings.)
Still, the defense pointed to missed opportunities. Beckham Jr.'s touchdown proved to be the deciding score, and safety Barry Church lamented two would-be interceptions in which he couldn't quite maintain possession – still adjusting to the cast on his surgically-repaired forearm.
"Every time I go to tuck it and if I hit the ground the ball bounces right off my cast every single time," Church said. "I've just got to figure out a way to land without the ball touching my cast."
Given the talent on New York's offense, Sunday night was arguably the defense's most impressive performance all season.
The offense just wished they could have been more helpful.
"It was good to see those guys go out there and battle and try to pick us up," Elliott said. "We just didn't get it done on the offensive side."