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Dallas Cowboys vs the New York Giants: Defense the Key to Victory

John Williams

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DeMarcus Lawrence, Franchise Tags and Realities for Dallas Cowboys

Week two is finally here. Finally the Dallas Cowboys and we the fanbase can put behind us last week's loss -- mostly -- and look toward this week's matchup with the New York Giants. A division rival who also sits at 0-1 is great medicine to forget about a let down of a season opener.

Hopefully.

This is a really interesting matchup that each team has some areas that they can take advantage. Both the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants have strengths and weaknesses and as I began breaking it down, it appears that the Dallas Cowboys biggest strength is the New York Giants greatest weakness.

So, without further adieu, let's dive in.

When the Dallas Cowboys Have the Ball

It's safe to say that last week was a disappointment on the offensive side of the football. Nothing really seemed to go right for Dak Prescott and the offense until they went no-huddle in the third quarter to try and get something going.

I'd love to see them open this week with no-huddle and hurry up to get Dak Prescott and the offense in a bit of a rhythm. But, knowing what we know about this offensive staff, that doesn't seem very likely.

When the Dallas Cowboys Run

We all know that this is the bread and butter of America's Team. They want to establish the run, wear you down with the run, and finish you off with the run. Everything that they're about on the offensive side of the football is about the run.

The problem is that everyone in the NFL and their grandmother's knows it.

Having an identity is one thing, but being locked into their identity has become a detriment to the team. You could see it on pretty much every first down on Sunday. When they ran, they ran into fronts that had more defenders than the team could block and rarely did it go for more than a three yard gain.

Every team is going to come into a game with the Dallas Cowboys with a sole focus on stopping the run.

The Dallas Cowboys weren't the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. Some of that was due to the play of the Carolina Panthers and some of that was due to lacking variety of play call on certain down and distances.

Warren Sharp provided this gem the other day. It shows the percentage of plays a team passes or runs on first down. The Dallas Cowboys 58% of first down run plays is the second highest rate in the NFL over the last three years. Only the Chicago Bears run the ball on first down at a higher frequency.

Warren Sharp on Twitter

Jason Garrett doesn't know what defines a "conservative offense". How about pass rates on first down in the first half. Last 3 yrs pictured. (Note where the good teams sit.)

Predictable much?!?!

Teams get this data and know that they can have their lineman guess run on first down and there's a really good chance that they're right.

Ezekiel Elliott ran for only 69 yards on Sunday on 15 carries. Elliott did average 4.6 yards per carry, but if you watched the game, you noticed that it was tough sledding for the Dallas Cowboys run game.

Ezekiel Elliott didn't play in the preseason and hasn't really had big games to start the season his first two years. Zeke has been a slow starter. He's averaging 63 yards rushing per game, with 3.5 yards per carry and has only three rushing touchdowns in games played the first two weeks of the season in his first three seasons (five games).

In Elliott's three games against the Giants, he's averaged 22.7 carries for 87.3 yards, and 0.3 touchdowns per game. They've done a pretty good job at bottling him up. But given that two of those three games occurred in the first week of the season, it's hard to know if it's beginning of season rust, or if it's the Giants containing Elliott.

Dak Prescott was somewhat hesitant to run at times last week, opting to throw the ball out of bounds as opposed to making something happen with his feet. He ran five times for only 19 yards, but may have been hindered a bit by an ankle injury that happened midway through the second quarter.

Despite struggles in week one, you know that they're going to continue to run the ball. What we can hope for is that the Cowboys coaching staff allows Dak Prescott to pass more on first down so that the New York Giants defense can't be sitting on the run.

The New York Giants defense had a difficult task in week one facing the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars against the Giants ran for 4.72 yards per carry and 137 rushing yards in their week one win. This, while Leonard Fournette only received nine carries (41 yards and 4.55 yards per carry) as he was forced to leave the game due to injury. T.J. Yeldon came in and ran 14 times for 51 yards for 3.64 yards per carry.

Quarterback Blake Bortles had a nice day on the ground as well, carrying the ball four times for 42 yards.

The player that the Dallas Cowboys will have to account for along the defensive line is Damon "Snacks" Harrison. He's one of the better interior defensive lineman in the NFL and will be a challenge for Joe Looney, Zack Martin, and Connor Williams to control. If they are able to win that matchup along the interior, something they struggled with against Carolina, then the Dallas Cowboys should have a good day running the football.

When the Dallas Cowboys Pass

The Dallas Cowboys want to set up the pass by being effective in the running game. The problem that they've run into at times over the last nine games is that they haven't been super effective in the running game, thus making the passing game less efficient. They also haven't been throwing it well, so teams don't really have to worry as much about the pass.

We saw it against the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers' defense didn't have much respect for Dak Prescott and challenged him to beat them. They loaded the box and made it difficult for the identity of the team to get the ball rolling.

The New York Giants only allowed the Jaguars to throw for 168 passing yards in week one. They currently rank ninth in the NFL in passing yards allowed.

Janoris Jenkins is still one of the better defensive backs in the NFL. On five targets in week one, he only allowed two catches, though they both went for greater than 15 yards. One a 17 yard reception to Dede Westbrook and the other a 31 yard reception to Keelan Cole.

Eli Apple played well on Sunday as well, only allowing one reception on four targets.

Surprisingly, Landon Collins, one of the best safeties in the NFL surrendered receptions on all four of his targets.

The Dallas Cowboys may not have the best passing game in the NFL, but if the Jacksonville Jaguars led by Blake Bortles can find some success against this pass defense, then Dak Prescott and the Cowboys should be able to as well.

They're actually very similar in their lack of top-tier receiving talent, as well as quarterbacks who have struggled to throw the ball at times in their careers. Both the Jaguars and the Cowboys want to run the ball and play defense.

Dak Prescott completed 65% of his passes, but his 5.86 yards per attempt is less than ideal. Generally you want to see that number over seven yards per attempt. There's been a lot said about Dak Prescott's week one, and the simple fact of the matter is that he has to be better. It's his third year in the NFL and it's time to show progress and not regression or stagnation. For the Dallas Cowboys to win on Sunday, they need Dak to be the Dak Prescott that helped them win 18 games in his first 24 starts.

The receiver to watch this week for the Dallas Cowboys is Cole Beasley. Beasley followed up a strong offseason with seven catches on eight targets for 73 yards. The seven receptions were the most he'd had since week three of 2016 when he put up an identical seven catches for 73 yards against the Chicago Bears.

With the Dallas Cowboys offensive staff moving him around more and opening up his route tree, it's allowed Beasley to be more active in the passing game. No longer is he relegated to slot duties only, but can work on the outside as well.

For the Dallas Cowboys, they'll have to figure out how to create balance among the receiving corp to find success. Cole Beasley, as great as he is, can't carry the receiving load all by himself. Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup, Deonte Thompson, Terrance Williams, and Tavon Austin have to help Beasley and Dak.

Cowboys Blog - Giants' Fans Bank on Eli to Produce in Week 1

10/19/2014 - New York Giants vs. Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas - New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning #10 surveys the defense during the 3rd quarter.

When the New York Giants Have the Ball

The New York Giants have one of the better skill position groups in the NFL. With Odell Beckham Jr on your team, it almost doesn't matter who the rest of the guys are, because he makes your skill position group so much better.

They've got four guys who are pretty good to great weapons in Beckham, Evan Engram, Sterling Shepard, and Saquon Barkley. Slowing these guys down is going to be a team defensive effort, but it all starts up front.

When the New York Giants Run

New York Giants Running Back Saquon Barkley was the subject of much debate leading up to and after the 2018 NFL Draft. He was the best running back in the draft. Of that there was and is no debate. The debate, rather, centered around whether the Giants should take a running back at second overall or whatever quarterback fell to them.

The choice seemed obvious in a draft with several quarterbacks who were being debated as the top pick in this year's draft. Eli Manning had been benched the season before and many thought that drafting a quarterback was inevitable. Until it wasn't. The team went with Barkley to help add an explosive running dimension the team has missed since the Tiki Barber days.

Saquon Barkley's debut with the Giants started out really slowly. Saquon's first 16 carries went for only 37 yards. Then he broke a 68 yard run that kept New York in the game in the middle of the fourth quarter bringing the score to 20-15. After the long run, Barkley only carried the ball one more time as the Giants had to go pass heavy to try to catch up.

Still his overall line looks really good for his rookie debut against one of the best defenses in the NFL. 18 carries, 106 yards, two receptions for 22 yards, and a touchdown. Not too shabby.

The Dallas Cowboys allowed 147 yards rushing in week one to the Carolina Panthers, though 58 was to dual threat quarterback Cam Newton. Panthers running backs ran 18 times for 86 yards and a touchdown.

You aren't going to have to worry about Eli Manning running the football on you like Cam Newton did, and so your defense already has a leg up compared to its week one matchup.

Containing Saquon Barkley will be a tough task, but one that is doable. The Dallas Cowboys have an edge along the defensive line and will be able to win their one on one matchups to slow Barkley down.

When the New York Giants Pass

Odell Beckham, Jr. Evan Engram, Sterling Shepard, and Saquon Barkley. These are the names that the Dallas Cowboys defense will attempt to cover on Sunday against the New York Giants.

This is one of the best receiving groups in the NFL led by the immensely talented Beckham who had 11 catches for 111 yards in the Giants week one loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Eli fed him 15 targets, which was more than twice the number of Sterling Shepard who was second on the team in targets and receiving. He did most of his work over the middle of the field on Sunday, which would put Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, and/or Leighton Vander Esch in for a lot of work when Dallas runs its cover three zone.

Seems like he's back and healthy and ready to roll. He's going to be a difficult cover for whoever gets that assignment.

The Cowboys have some gamers in their secondary in Chidobe Awuzie, Byron Jones, Anthony Brown, Kavon Frazier, and Jeff Heath. These guys aren't going to allow things to be easy for the Giants pass catchers.

The Dallas Cowboys' defensive line has an advantage over the Giants offensive line.

In week one the New York Giants offensive line allowed 20 pressures to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Yes, you read that right. 20!!! That was more than half of Eli Manning's 37 drop backs. That's an insane amount. What's even more insane is that Eli was only sacked twice during the game. Eli gets rid of the ball quickly, and so the coverage is going to have to be tight and ready to make plays on the football when he does let it loose.

The Dallas Cowboys defensive line was credited with 16 pressures in week one and three sacks of Cam Newton.

How well the Dallas Cowboys rush is able to pressure and affect Manning is a key factor that will decide the outcome of this week's game.

Matchup of the Week

How well the Dallas Cowboys defense covers the New York Giants skill position players and gets after Eli Manning is going to tell the tale of this game. We know that Eli Manning will turn the ball over. In his career he's averaged an interception per game.

When the opportunities arise, can the Dallas Cowboys take advantage?

I don't think I'm going out on a limb by saying the Dallas defensive line has a big advantage over the offensive line of the New York Giants. Whether they will be able to use that advantage to create negative plays -- either sacks or turnovers -- is a big key in the game.

For the New York Giants, they will need to limit the damage done on the ground by Ezekiel Elliott. If the running game for the Dallas Cowboys gets off to a strong start, it will open up the passing game and make for a long day for the New York Giants defense.

Prediction

Last week I predicted a double-digit win for the Dallas Cowboys and that fell flat on its face, though I did predict Carolina's score correctly. I still see the Cowboys as the victors in this game, but I believe it will be a close one. I think it's a fairly even matchup, but the play of their respective offensive and defensive lines will be the difference and I believe the Dallas Cowboys are better in the trenches on both sides of the ball.

20-17. Cowboys Win. 

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Tell me, Cowboys Nation, how do you see this game turning out?



Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could.

Game Notes

Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Leverage Defense to Reach .500 Against Falcons

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: Cowboys Leverage Defense to Reach .500 Against Falcons

The Dallas Cowboys are returning home for Thanksgiving with a 5-5 record, needing to earn road wins at Philadelphia and Atlanta in the last two weeks to do so. Sunday's revenge win at the Falcons did not come easy, as the Cowboys conceded their first touchdown in the final two minutes of regulation to tie the game.

Missed opportunities in the red zone and penalties all had a say in the Cowboys needing a walk off Brett Maher field goal to win. Running Back Ezekiel Elliott once again sparked the offense in the second half, as the Cowboys defense assured this game wouldn't be a shootout in the first 30 minutes.

Here are my observations on the Cowboys latest thrilling win, greatly increasing their chances at reclaiming the top spot in the NFC East considering the Redskins home loss to the Texans.

  • A great down-the-line play from rookie Dorance Armstrong on the Falcons' opening possession to set up DeMarcus Lawrence's first sack.

The Cowboys came into this game thin across the defensive line. Defensive Tackle Maliek Collins and Defensive End Dorance Armstrong really took advantage of the opportunity, pushing the pocket against Matt Ryan and freeing up the Cowboys linebackers to be themselves.

Lawrence's sack was the play that got the Cowboys off the field on third down, but Armstrong meeting Ito Smith in the hole for no gain was as big of a play on second down. The Falcons were smart to test the interior of the Cowboys defense and use the power run to set up their vertical passing game, but Rod Marinelli and Kris Richard simply had their guys ready to play.

If Collins and Armstrong can sustain their high-energy level of play with Antwaun Woods and Daniel Ross working their way back into the Cowboys rotation at DT, this defense can reach a new level of play given their speed in the back seven and ability to give opposing offensive lines fits with just four up front.

  • Cole Beasley did more than enough to make up for it, but his drop in the end zone on the Cowboys first scoring drive is one he'll want back for a while.

The Cowboys play calling on their first goal-to-go situation left a lot to be desired, but Beasley was still able to make a scoring play with the ball in his hands at the pylon. Beasley bobbled the ball going to the ground and couldn't come up with it.

On the next play, the Cowboys finally targeted Amari Cooper, although without Ezekiel Elliott on the field. It was the combination of Cooper on the outside and Elliott in the backfield that provided a boost to the Cowboys offense last week at the Eagles, and for whatever reason they went away from it consistently against the Falcons.

Beasley's 19 yard catch and run on the Cowboys final drive set them up to run Elliott and kick the game winning field goal, giving Prescott an easy target on a crossing route. These are the types of inconsistencies the Cowboys will have to happily live with as they review this win and prepare on a short week for the Redskins.

  • Head Coach Jason Garrett should be questioned about how his offense handled the last drive of the first half.

Trailing by three in a game still looking for its first touchdown, the Cowboys came out firing with 29 seconds left in the first half before shutting the drive down themselves. After Elliott advanced the ball to the Cowboys 35 and prompted a timeout, his catch and run for eight yards was the final play of the half.

I have no problem with the Cowboys getting the ball safely into the hands of Elliott, but after gaining positive yards on two receptions it's inexcusable to sit on a timeout without attempting a pass to the end zone.

  • The Cowboys play calling improved in the second half, evident on Dak Prescott's rushing touchdown to give the Cowboys a 12-9 lead.

Again, taking the good with the bad, the Cowboys did go to this zone read look one too many times in the second half. From four yards out against a defense playing without one of their most talented players in Linebacker Deion Jones, Prescott faking to Elliott and keeping himself is as smart and safe a play as Linehan could have called.

Prescott's score was followed by Leighton Vander Esch's second interception in as many weeks, allowing the Cowboys to go right back to hammering the football. It took just two carries for Elliott to cover 31 yards and put the Cowboys ahead 19-9 off the turnover.

His 23-yard touchdown was sprung by Right Guard Zack Martin, who deserves a ton of credit for not only dealing with an injury sustained last week but seemingly finding an even higher level of play since then to motivate his teammates.

Joe Looney filled in well for Travis Frederick once again, and Xavier Su'a-Filo replaced a now-healthy Connor Williams for the second straight game, making Martin's elite level of play much more important.

Martin's lone mistake in this game came at a costly moment though, as a false start penalty backed the Cowboys up before punting it back to the Falcons for the tying score. Although the penalty created a third and 13 that Dallas used to keep the clock running on a dump off to Elliott, their second down play call to go with another zone read was costly as well.

Prescott lost two yards on a play that didn't fool the Falcons in the slightest, creating the original third and eight situation.

  • Chidobe Awuzie was actually in good position on Julio Jones' fourth quarter TD, but as has been the case all season he reacted late and was beat with the ball.

Awuzie ran stride for stride with Jones, doing his best to force the Falcons best receiver towards the sideline. To Jones' credit, he was able to stay true to his route and run under a perfect pass from Matt Ryan.

Awuzie's fate was sealed on the play when he failed to react in time to jump with Jones, who simply elevated over the Cowboys struggling cornerback to give the Falcons new life in this game. Awuzie has been given every opportunity to be the Cowboys starter across from Byron Jones, trusted by Kris Richard to be a valuable part of this defense.

Quarterbacks in need of a completion have been able to pick on Awuzie far too much this season. The Cowboys don't appear to be in any rush to change this, as Cornerback Jourdan Lewis is designated to handling jet sweeps for the Cowboys offense while Anthony Brown remains the starter in the slot.

It was Brown that struggled through all of 2017 before finding his form again this year, perhaps giving Awuzie some hope that he can respond sooner rather than later.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

The early slate of games proved to be a massive one for NFC East implications. The Cowboys escaped Atlanta with a win, and minutes later the Texans put the finishing touches on a win at the Redskins. Much earlier in the afternoon, unbeknownst to the Cowboys fighting for their life at the time, the Redskins also lost Quarterback Alex Smith.

Smith broke his tibia on a hit from J.J. Watt, and will need season ending surgery according to his Head Coach Jay Gruden.

This division has been waiting for a team to seize control of it all season. Realizing this, the Cowboys didn't sulk through their poor start and made the right moves to play into contention - playing as the desperate team that often achieves a lot in this game through their last eight quarters.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Leverage Defense to Reach .500 Against Falcons" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Game Notes

DAL 22, ATL 19: Elliott, Maher Carry Cowboys to Season-Saving Win

Jess Haynie

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Ezekiel Elliott

A last-minute field goal by Brett Maher lifted the Dallas Cowboys to a 22-19 victory over the Atlanta Falcons. On the strength of 201 yards of total offense out of Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas improved to 5-5 and arguably saved their 2018 season.

Elliott had 122 yards rushing and 79 receiving today, plus scored one touchdown, to make up well over half of the team's offensive production. Dak Prescott was also solid, throwing for over 200 yards and committing no turnovers.

Dallas and Atlanta traded field goals in the first half, and the Falcons took a 6-3 lead into the locker room. But the Cowboys answered with a tying field goal on their first second-half possession, then scored a touchdown on their next drive.

Maher was 3/3 on his field goals today, which included a 50-yarder. A missed extra point created concern, but the Cowboys kicker delivered in the biggest moments.

Once again, Dallas' defense was impressive and played a major part in the win. The Falcons never got into the endzone until their last possession.

Game Notes

  • Leighton Vander Esch had another interception, securing a tipped ball that lucked its way into his grasp. He also made some big tackles and continued last week's exceptional play.
  • DeMarcus Lawrence was credited with 1.5 sacks, getting him back among the league leaders with 8.0 on the year.
  • Elliott was Dallas' leading receiving today. Next up was Cole Beasley with five catches for 51 yards, and Cole's day could've been better if not for a dropped touchdown pass.
  • Jeff Heath nearly had his second interception of the year, but Falcons WR Julio Jones made an impressive play to hit Heath and break up the catch.
  • Tyron Smith left the game on the final drive with an injury, but Cam Fleming came in and the team didn't suffer for it. We'll have to see what the short Thanksgiving week means for Smith's status against the Redskins.
  • Speaking of Washington, the NFC East leaders fell to 6-4 today at home against the Houston Texans. Even worse for them, QB Alex Smith suffered a nasty ankle injury is almost assuredly out for weeks to come. Colt McCoy will be their starting QB on Thursday against Dallas.
  • If Dallas wins next week, they will pull even with Washington in overall record, division record, and split the head-to-head series. With the Eagles facing a tough road game today in New Orleans, and with Alex Smith going down for Washington, the NFC East may have just become the Cowboys' to control.



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Game Notes

Cowboys Wishlist: Snap Julio Jones’ Hot Streak

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Cowboys Wishlist: Snap Julio Jones' Hot Streak

The Dallas Cowboys will try to get their second road win of the season against another inconsistent Atlanta Falcons team. As both try to get back to .500, this game will be filled with interesting matchups and implications. After upsetting the Philadelphia Eagles 27-20 last Sunday, the Cowboys need to get another upset win to keep being relevant in the league this year.

Here's this week's edition of Cowboys Wishlist! I hope you enjoy and I encourage you to let me know what your wishes are in the comments section below or tweet me @MauNFL!

Wish #1: Stop Julio Jones' 100-Yard Game Streak

With the Atlanta Falcons sitting at 4-5, many have overlooked Wide Receiver Julio Jones' hot streak. In each of his last four games, Jones has accounted for more than 100 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Totaling 476 yards in his last four games, Jones is ready to face Cowboys' Cornerback Byron Jones.

Byron has certainly been a pleasant surprise in 2018, playing at a great level right now. He has faced Odell Beckham and DeAndre Hopkins this year and made a good job of defending these "Tier 1" pass-catchers. It's worth noting the Cowboys are not making him "travel" with these players but rather keep him on a specific side of the field. That shouldn't change against the Falcons.

Wish #2: Contain WR Calvin Ridley

Back in April, Cowboys Nation eyed Calvin Ridley as a prospect who could end up wearing the Star on Sundays. However, Dallas passed on him and the Alabama product fell right unto the Falcons' lap. He's had a pretty good season and despite sharing the field with Julio Jones, he's done a great job as a rookie averaging 14 yards per reception.

The Cowboys need to contain him. While Dallas should feel comfortable with Byron doing his job, the truth is Chidobe Awuzie has struggled at times. Not that he's suddenly a bad player, but he needs to step up his game. Lining up against Ridley today will be a great test and one I wouldn't expect him to pass easily.

Takeaway Tuesday: CB Awuzie Hasn't Met Expectations in 2018

Wish #3: Score 28+ Points

The Cowboys have the huge advantage of going against a defense that ranks 29th in scoring defense. They did a nice job on Philadelphia last week and should continue to build on that success to do something they haven't done much this year: score a lot of points.

Scott Linehan's unit needs to do a better, more consistent, job. They've shown us they're capable of scoring, but they've also shown us their remarkable ability to seemingly forget how to do so. Blame it on play-calling, QB play, poor offensive line or whatever you prefer, it's a flawed unit.

They need to capitalize versus a poor defense like the Falcons' to find a steady rhythm.

Wish #4: Dak Makes This Falcons' Game a Turning Point

Last year, when Dak Prescott was sacked six times in Atlanta (five times by Adrian Clayborn) something changed for the Cowboys' young quarterback. Missing RB Ezekiel Elliott and LT Tyron Smith that day, Prescott had one of the worse days in his career. It was a turning point for him as a QB and the public eye.

Now he has a chance at redemption. A shot at putting the Cowboys at .500 and reviving playoff hopes, as unlikely as it sounds.

I wish that's the case for the Cowboys young passer in Atlanta. As flawed as he is, I'm a fan of his. The kid leaves it all on the field.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys Wishlist: Snap Julio Jones’ Hot Streak" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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