New York Giants: Their past, present, and future after Sunday's big win
Dec 11, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (13) stiff arms Dallas Cowboys safety Jeff Heath (38) during the third quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

In the spirit of the holidays, what can the New York Giants learn about their past, present, and future after their win over Dallas?

Odell Beckham Jr. left the field Sunday night screaming one word: “Playoffs.”

While he denied saying it in a postgame interview, Beckham stressed that the postseason has always been the end goal for him.

After a hard fought, come from behind 10-7 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football, the postseason is in sight for the first time since the Pro-Bowl wide receiver entered the NFL.

After two very disappointing seasons so far in the Beckham-era, the New York Giants have finally started to piece it together. It hasn’t been perfect though, as fans watching the Giants offense operate consistently for all but one possession had a night tough to stomach.

But after years of disappointing defensive play, they came through big on this cold Meadowlands night to shut down the high-flying Cowboys offense.

That defensive coming of age was a sign of just how far this team has come. From top to bottom, the Giants defense stole the show.

How about defensive end Romeo Okwara, who’s now filling in for the injured Jason Pierre-Paul? He reeled in eight tackles, three quarterback hits, one pass defensed, as well as picking up his first career sack against that stout Cowboys offensive line.

Defensive end Olivier Vernon gave All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith all he could handle as well, almost sacking quarterback Dak Prescott in the end zone twice on the final drive of the game – a drive where the Cowboys went out with a whimper, going four-and-out while being pinned inside their own five-yard line.

And then outside linebacker Devon Kennard, whose five tackles, including two for loss, helped limit Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliot from running laps around the Giants defense. So while Elliot did have 107 yards rushing on the night, none of them were critical yards, as he didn’t even sniff the end zone all game.

Janoris Jenkins put up one of the most staggeringly great cornerback performances of his short time in New York. Dez Bryant, a top tier receiver in the league, could do nothing against Jenkins. He was targeted nine times and had just one catch.

Jenkins also forced two turnovers, picking off Prescott in the first half, and forcing Bryant to fumble only seconds after surrendering his only reception of the night. On 4th & 10, with the game on the line, Jenkins knocked Prescott’s throw to the turf, denying Bryant another first down and sealing the victory for Big Blue.

Here are all three of Jenkins’ tremendous defensive plays:

Nickelback Leon Hall had an interception himself, and corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie quietly held wide receiver Cole Beasley to four catches for 41 yards.

The Giants secondary significantly slipped up only once all game, allowing Terrance Williams to score in the first quarter. In the final three quarters of the game though, Dallas converted just eight first downs, with five of those coming in the second half.

To put this into perspective, this is the same offense that has two candidates for the league’s Most Valuable Player award. And the Giants defense made them look aggressively average, at best.

It wasn’t all perfect for the Giants, however. Eli Manning, quite frankly, could have been picked off on four separate occasions.

Late in the game, Manning faked a rush and then quickly threw for Victor Cruz, just inches away from being picked off. In the third quarter, deep in their own territory, he threw the ball directly to Cowboys safety Barry Church, who dropped the ball while falling to the turf. Who knows – Church makes that catch, and the Cowboys might steal this victory.

Manning and the Giants also missed several key opportunities in the first half.

Beckham was wide open down the field, but dropped what would have been a surefire touchdown at the two-yard line. NBC commentator Cris Collinsworth said after the miss that the LSU product usually makes those catches in his sleep.

On the next play, Manning had receiver Roger Lewis wide open in the end zone, but dropped the ball as he threw, resulting in yet another red zone turnover. Plays like that are what continue to stall any movement the offense can possibly sustain.

And then there’s the offensive line, who continue to struggle mightily.

While left tackle Ereck Flowers wasn’t overly penalized, he did get beat a few times – as did pretty much every member of a struggling line that’s desperate to get guard Justin Pugh back from injury.

A few positives from the game offensively – rookie wide receiver Sterling Shepard‘s impressive catch on fourth down in the first half; running backs Paul Perkins and Rashad Jennings combining for 90 yards on 30 carries, with a large chunk of that total coming in the fourth quarter, where a strong drive spearheaded by Perkins was cut short on a Manning interception.

And oh yeah, this happened:

Basically, the Giants’ game plan has changed. They’re now a team focused on defense and special teams, who benefit from the occasional big play from Manning, Beckham, and the rest of the offense.

In fact, the special teams unit played reliably great, as punter Brad Wing averaged over 43 yards/punt, kicker Robbie Gould hit both of his field goals, and return specialist Dwayne Harris downed Wing’s final punt of the night to pin the Cowboys inside their own five.

In this ESNY story from last week, it was stressed that the Giants O needs to get better – and that argument has not changed. While the defense is knocking on the door of elite status – if they aren’t already there – the offense is still just as bad as it was a week ago, if not worse.

This 10-7 win over the Cowboys – a win that snapped Dallas’ 11 game win streak, while making the Giants the only team in the NFL to defeat Dallas not only once, but twice – shows how far this team has come, but how far they still have to go.

The Giants defensive progression has been staggering, as even without one of their stars, they still managed to bottle up one of the leagues premier offenses.

The Manning-led offense, however, is as stagnant, mistake prone, and reliant on Beckham’s excellence as ever.

At 9-4, the Giants are in tremendous position to make a playoff run. With winnable games against the Detroit Lions, Washington Redskins, and Philadelphia Eagles still remaining, they do have an outside shot at the division title.

Yet, as surely any member of the Giants will echo, there’s still plenty of work to be done.

Staff Writer at Elite Sports New York. Lead Writer at New York Sports Hub and My Weekly Sports. Twitter, instagram: @skylardarel. Avid fan of the Yankees, Knicks, Giants, New York City FC, FC Barcelona, and Arsenal FC. Sophomore at the College of New Jersey, studying Communication. Aspiring play-by-play commentator. Grew up in Manhattan, and proud to know how to work the Subway system.