EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Giants fans began booing early in the third quarter of their team’s game with the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night.
It was an impressive show of restraint. Booing in the first quarter would have been understandable. The Giants’ offense certainly deserved it. Odell Beckham Jr., who had dropped two crucial passes, knew that.
“I walked onto the field and told myself, ‘You need to wake up,’” Beckham said later. “I was on autopilot. It was time to wake up.”
And just like that, as often happens, Beckham changed the course of the game with a flash of his signature, unmatched speed. The Giants trailed by 4 points late in the third quarter when Beckham caught a routine, short slant pass, evaded four Cowboys defenders and dashed virtually untouched into the end zone for a 61-yard touchdown.
The Giants’ defense, which was one blown pass coverage from shutting out the N.F.L.’s leading team Sunday, stoutly protected the lead from there. And the home crowd was on its feet cheering for the rest of a stirring 10-7 Giants victory.
For the Cowboys (11-2), the loss ended their 11-game win streak. The Giants (9-4) are the only team to have victories over Dallas, having also won the season-opening game on Sept. 11.
“I like being able to say that they’re the best team in the league but they lost twice to us,” Giants linebacker Jonathan Casillas said of the Cowboys, who were held to just 260 yards.
Added Casillas, “And we did it in our first game without our most dominant defender.”
Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul missed the first of several games after hernia surgery.
Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott was hectored into two interceptions, and he threw for only 165 yards while completing just 17 of 37 passes. The Cowboys rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 107 yards on 24 carries, but it was an arduous day from start to finish against a swarming Giants defense that yielded just 13 first downs.
The physical nature of the Giants’ defensive effort, their players said after Sunday’s game, was a result of at least one demanding practice last week when the team took the unusual in-season step of putting players in pads and running drills that stopped just short of all-out live contact.
“It was a very intense week, and we were on each other pretty good,” Beckham said. “It was an eye-opener and probably good for us.”
The Giants, after winning six consecutive games, had been manhandled in a defeat in Pittsburgh Dec. 4.
While the team’s defense, which has led the way all season, came out with energy and aggression, the Giants’ offense, somnolent in so many games, was once again floundering. And as much as the Giants remain primary playoff contenders, the state of their offense continues to be a concern.
Like the Cowboys, the Giants gained only 260 yards. Quarterback Eli Manning fumbled twice, albeit under pressure, and threw an interception. Another Manning pass was nearly intercepted at a critical juncture. Manning threw for 193 yards and completed 17 of 28 passes.
“We’ve got to just keep working at being more consistent,” Manning said. “We make good plays, and some of them are explosive like the one that put us ahead tonight, but there hasn’t been enough of those plays.”
Beckham’s touchdown was set up when Giants safety Leon Hall intercepted Prescott late in the third quarter. Two plays later, Beckham streaked across the middle of the field, catching a quick pass from Manning at the Giants’ 46-yard line and cutting upfield.
When Beckham received the football, three Dallas players were within a couple of yards of him, and a fourth was closing with a good angle for a tackle. But as he has done before, Beckham simply out-sprinted each defender to the corner of the end zone.