It was inevitable that if the Giants were going to win a game, the defense was going to make it happen.
That’s exactly what happened on Sunday, as the Giants beat the Washington Football Team, 20-19, for the first win of the Joe Judge Era. With the offense sputtering as usual and beginning to give away a game they should’ve had in control, the defense took matters into its own hands late in the fourth quarter. Linebacker Kyler Fackrell sacked Washington quarterback Kyle Allen and popped the ball loose. Then Tae Crowder picked it up and ran 43 yards for the game-winning touchdown with 3:29 to play.
Quite the relevant play by Mr. Irrelevant -- the final pick of the 2020 NFL draft.
Of course, to be fair, the win comes with a big assist from Washington coach “Riverboat” Ron Rivera. The Football Team marched all the way back to seemingly tie the game on a 22-yard touchdown pass from Kyle Allen to Cam Sims with 36 seconds remaining. But down one point, Rivera decided to go for 2 -- and the Giants defense snuffed it out with some terrific coverage (particularly by Logan Ryan) and some terrific chasing by defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence and safety Jabrill Peppers who made sure Allen had no room to run.
So yes, it was a gift. But a win is a win.
The Giants, of course, needed a defensive big play to have any shot in this game because once again the offense struggled to move the ball. They finished with a miserable 240 offensive yards, including just 112 passing from quarterback Daniel Jones. It was even worse when considering that 49 of those yards -- 20 percent -- came on one Jones run.
But at the risk of sounding like a broken record, that’s where the Giants are: They are a terrible offensive team with a scrappy defense good enough to keep them in games. Their hope is that the offense could maybe pull out a few of those games. But sometimes if you want to get something done, you have to do it yourself.
Here are a few more takeaways from the 1-5 Giants' first win of the season …
- The surprise of the game was that the Giants started third-round pick Matt Peart at left tackle instead of first-round rookie Andrew Thomas. It’s a seismic change, and no official reason was given, until Judge said after the game that Thomas violated team policy. It seemed like it might be disciplinary at first, especially when Thomas came into the game in the second quarter. But the two continued to rotate in the second half, which seemed to indicate this was some sort of bizarre rotation. Regardless, Thomas was the fourth overall pick of the draft. There shouldn’t be any reason to take him off the field this early in the year, so that’s not a good sign at all.
- Meanwhile, the fixing of the offensive line continues to be a work in progress -- and that’s putting it nicely. Running back Devonta Freeman has had a few good moments, but the Giants’ rushing attack continues to be undone by the line. Almost every time the Giants try to run, the running back gets hit in the backfield -- or has to make a nifty move to avoid a tackler. Freeman ended up with 18 carries for 61 yards. He was the only Giants running back to touch the ball.
- Jones had an incredible play-fake that turned into that 49-yard run in the second quarter. He fooled everyone when he put the ball in Freeman’s body and then pulled the ball back out. Even the Fox cameras missed it as Jones took off down the field. He ran a total of 7 times for 74 yards. His mobility has proven to be the Giants’ most dangerous weapon this season. He even had a nine-yard run on third-and-goal from the 11 that should’ve been a touchdown, but his lead-blocker, center Nick Gates, got stood up at the goal line.
- Jones has become quite the game manager, which is not exactly what the Giants expected he would be. He finished just 12 of 19 for 112 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He also had something very familiar: A key turnover in a bad spot. The Giants had a first-and-goal at the Washington 7 and Jones was pressured into a throw off his back foot. He seemed to be trying to throw it away, but he didn’t get enough on it to get it out of the end zone and Washington’s Kendall Fuller was able to make a diving interception. Jones has to know he has to put that ball in the third row. There can’t be any chance of an interception there.
- Cornerback James Bradberry had the easiest interception he’s likely to get -- a pass thrown right to him by Allen. But it’s a good reminder that Bradberry is playing at a Pro Bowl level, even though there won’t actually be a Pro Bowl this season.
- For all the heat Giants general manager Dave Gettleman got for the Leonard Williams trade last season, Williams has been a really good player for the Giants. He’s arguably their second- or third-best defensive player behind Bradberry and possibly linebacker Blake Martinez. Williams had another sack in this game, giving him three for the season -- more than he had in the 27 games before this season started. He also had plenty of pressure and was terrific against the run. I don’t know if that justifies the deal, but it’s hardly the disaster some thought it would be.
- It didn’t really matter in the end, but strange decision by Judge to punt on fourth-and-two from the Washington 38 with 11:46 remaining in the third quarter. The Giants were up 13-10. Their defense was playing well. They’d have plenty of time to recover if things went wrong. Yes, the Giants offense stinks, but they needed a spark -- which they could’ve gotten if a gutsy call worked. In a lost season, I would’ve expected Judge to be more aggressive than that.