Dez Bryant finally shed his shadow, Janoris Jenkins, running a slant to make his first catch with just under 2 1⁄2 minutes left in the Giants-Cowboys game Sunday night at MetLife Stadium. But the Giants cornerback has something special — recovery speed.
“That’s something I’ve always had,” Jenkins said. “That why they call me ‘Jackrabbit.’ ”
So Jackrabbit zipped over quickly and swiped at the ball. It came out. The Giants had their third turnover.
This defense looks as if it has something special and is carrying the team toward a playoff ticket.
The Giants beat Dallas by a point in the opener. The NFC East-leading Cowboys won the next 11 until they ran into the Giants again. This time, it was a 10-7 verdict that brought Big Blue to 9-4.
The defense can take a bow.
“There’s definitely still room for it to grow, but it’s a great game for us,” linebacker and captain Jonathan Casillas said. “People are saying it’s a statement game. I think it is a statement game, a division game late in the season, both playoff contenders. And we beat them.”
The Cowboys converted only 1 of 15 third downs and totaled only 260 yards.
“We played phenomenal,” Jenkins said. “We all stepped up . . . We can be as special as we want to be.”
Even without JPP. There was no Jason Pierre-Paul to lean on. The standout defensive end is out four to six weeks after undergoing sports hernia surgery Wednesday.
Romeo Okwara, an undrafted rookie, Devon Kennard, an outside linebacker, and Kerry Wynn filled in nicely. So the defense didn’t look as if it missed JPP.
Dallas has the two offensive rookie of the year candidates, quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott, the NFL’s leading rusher. The Giants held Prescott to 17-for-37 passing for 165 yards and a touchdown, which occurred when they bit on a run fake and blew the coverage. The fourth-round pick was sacked three times and doubled his interception total for the season, throwing one to Jenkins and one to Leon Hall that led to the go-ahead touchdown.
Elliott ran 24 times for 107 yards but managed only 21 yards on nine carries in the second half. Bryant, targeted nine times, made that one catch for 10 yards.
“I always enjoy my match ups, man, whether I’m following or I’m not,” Jenkins said. “But mostly I’m following. I just go out and play to the best of my ability and do what I’ve got to do.”
This is a confident group.
“If Eli [Manning] throws a pick, the defense is saying, ‘Good,’ ” Casillas said. “Not good that he threw a pick, but that we get to go back out there.”
So they embraced coach Ben McAdoo’s decision to twice leave it up to them near the end.
“That’s how we want it,” Kennard said. “At the end of the day, as a defense, when we’re playing at a high level and doing what we should do, we want the game in our hands.”