The Giants defense has been the backbone of their team all season long. They’ve been the reason they’ve been in almost every game they played.
And boy, did that defense bail them out on Sunday afternoon.
They came up with five turnovers overall, including two interceptions in the final 2:18, to seal the Giants’ 23-20 win over the Washington Football Team. It was just the Giants’ second win in this miserable season – and yes, they’ve beaten the Football Teams both times.
The two late interceptions helped the Giants avoid an awful, unacceptable collapse. They had a 20-3 lead at halftime and led by 13 points entering the fourth quarter. But in the second half, the defense was being shredded by Washington quarterback Alex Smith (24-of-32, 325 yards) and the Giants’ offense was basically shutting down.
But some big pressure from the Giants’ front led Smith to float a pass that was tipped into the hands of safety Jabrill Peppers, just as Washington was getting in line for a game-tying field goal shot late in the game. And then, after the Giants’ offense stalled, Logan Ryan came up with the game-ending pick on a pass that was thrown right to him.
Those were easy interceptions, but plays the Giants desperately needed to make. Blowing a lead that big against a bad team could’ve been demoralizing.
Instead, yes it’s true, they are still in the NFC East race – just 2 ½ games back with seven to play.
Here’s a closer look at the Giants’ second win of the season:
- Give Daniel Jones credit. He didn’t make the big mistake he usually makes, though there certainly were a couple of close calls early. His stat line (23-of-34, 212 yards, 1 touchdown) puts him squarely in game-manager territory, and he barely took any shots down field in this game. But no fumbles and no interceptions is always a good thing. Take the victories when they come.
- Evan Engram remains incredibly frustrating to watch. He made a terrific catch on that 16-yard touchdown pass from Jones. He had to reach out to grab it and seemed to snatch it by his fingertips. Yet earlier, he had a ball thrown slightly behind him bounce off his hands and then he nearly bobbled it into an interception. Then worse, in the fourth quarter, Jones hit him with a pass right in his hands. For some reason, Engram jumped even though it was about nose high. Then, the pass went right through his hands and off his helmet. He can be a big-play guy, but he is just not a reliable receiver. That drop could’ve put the Giants in field goal range. Instead, they punted (more on that later), leading to a Washington touchdown.
- The first half of this game was the best the Giants’ offensive line has played all season -- and remember, they were coming off a pretty good game against the Bucs. They kept Jones clean for most part, though things did get dicey late and he ended up getting sacked five times. They were absolutely dominant, though, at times in the run game, which has not been the strength of the Giants’ line for years. The Giants finished with 166 rushing yards (68 from Wayne Gallman and 67 from Alfred Morris). And remember, this is a good Washington front line with tough matchups everywhere. Of particular note, Chase Young was pretty quiet in his matchup with Giants rookie left tackle Andrew Thomas. His one sack came on a miscommunication where he was somehow left unblocked.
- An example of how dominant this line was in the run game: When is the last time anyone saw a Giants running back go up the middle on a short-yardage play untouched? Gallman just did for a 1-yard touchdown in the first half after center Nick Gates and guard Kevin Zeitler opened an enormous hole for him to run through. Granted, Washington’s defense didn’t exactly play that well and the linebacker never moved to fill the gap. But still, the wide hole was there.
- The Giants defense was OK in this game, overall, and even got some decent pressure on the Washington quarterbacks. And they were great against the run, actually, holding Washington to 37 yards. But the secondary had major issues. Too many open receivers with room to run in the defensive backfield, particularly in the second half. They had particular issues with Cam Sims, who finished with there catches for 110 yards. The worst moment, of course, was Terry McLaurin’s 68-yard touchdown. He caught the ball with CB Isaac Yiadom right on him, but he slipped away, and Ryan overran him as he came in to help. Of course there was no one behind them either as McLaurin (7-115-1) took off for the end zone.
- The revival of Leonard Williams continues. He had a strong game, particularly against the run, but of course everyone focuses on sacks. He had another one, giving him five on the season – two short of his career-high and his most since he had five in 2018. He had a half-sack all of last year. He continues to show why Dave Gettleman traded for him, whether you like the deal or not.
- It’s good to see the Giants keep adding razzle dazzle to their offense, which hasn’t exactly been a big part of their plan for the last few decades. This time, on their opening drive, they ran a reverse that started with Jones faking a pass to the left before pitching to Sterling Shepard on a reverse to the right. It took advantage of an aggressive Washington rush, got them off balance, and went for 18 yards.
- Not all coaching decisions are good ones. Also, on that first drive they rushed to the line of scrimmage to quickly go for it on 4th and 1 from the Washington 45. OK, fine. Love the aggressiveness. But running Dion Lewis out of the shotgun? They were obviously trying to catch Washington sleeping and Lewis was already on the field, but he’s really the third choice among the three running backs to get the ball there. Fullback Eli Penny might have been a better choice.
- Bad coaching decisions, Part II: In the fourth quarter, the Giants faced a 4th and 4 from the Washington 39 and they looked like they were going for it. Instead they punted, which was a weak call to begin with, but made weaker by a 23-yard Riley Dixon punt. That set up Washington for the drive that ended with the 68-yard touchdown pass from Smith to McLaurin.
- Austin Mack, an undrafted free agent receiver out of Ohio State, got a big role with Golden Tate inactive for disciplinary reasons. He caught a 50-yarder down the sideline early in the game and had another 28-yarder where he was inches short of the goal line. Between Mack and C.J. Board the Giants have two young, unheralded receivers worth a look down the stretch. So, considering Tate has no future with the team (and they even tried to trade him at the deadline), why play Tate much at all the rest of the way? Keep him active, but make him the fourth receiver. Let Mack or Board get a real chance to show what they can do.
- Washington quarterback Kyle Allen suffered a gruesome ankle injury on a play where he was sacked by Giants safety Jabrill Peppers, who was called for a 15-yard, unnecessary roughness penalty. Peppers was blocked into Allen and as he fell, his leg whipped around and hit Allen’s leg hard, apparently causing the injury. It didn’t appear at all that Peppers had any intent or even control of his leg since he had been upended. That’s a rough call and one that probably shouldn’t have been made.