McKinney, Giants red-zone defense spark upset over Raiders

Dexter Lawrence of the New York Giants
Nov 7, 2021; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs (28) is tackled by New York Giants nose tackle Austin Johnson (98) and defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence (97) during the third quarter at MetLife Stadium.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Quincy Roche put the exclamation point on a sterling outing by the New York Giants’ defense, coaxing the game-clinching strip-sack of Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr on the Giants’ 13-yard-line to preserve an upset victory for Big Blue, 23-16, on Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium.

Patrick Graham’s unit did the heavy lifting to bail out their offense, which was outgained 403-245 as they limited the Raiders to just a single touchdown in six trips to the red zone in Week 9. 

Xavier McKinney’s breakout 2021 season continued on Sunday with a pair of interceptions — one for a touchdown and another late in the fourth quarter —that played an integral part in the Giants’ (3-6) win.

It was his efforts that led the way for a secondary that limited the NFL’s fourth-best passing offense to 286 yards on Sunday.

Granted, the Raiders’ offense led by quarterback Derek Carr was significantly shorthanded after releasing one of their leading receivers in Henry Ruggs after he was arrested for driving drunk and killing a young woman in a crash in Las Vegas last week.

The safety’s first interception of the afternoon was returned for a touchdown early in the second half to overturn a 13-10 deficit that would put the Giants ahead for good, returning the pick 41 yards down the right sideline

The Giants cashed in on their opening drive when Jones hooked up with Evan Engram down the right sideline from 30 yards out — the tight end coming away with a jump ball before stumbling into the end zone for six.

Nov 7, 2021; East Rutherford, N.J., USA; New York Giants tight end Evan Engram (88) scores a 1st quarter touchdown reception in front of Las Vegas Raiders safety Johnathan Abram (24) at MetLife Stadium. Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

It was the finest completion of an opening drive that saw Jones hit his first three attempts for 44 yards. 

He would complete just 12 more passes for 66 yards, finishing Week 9 with just 110 yards passing.

Las Vegas punched right back though as Carr and Jacobs marched the Raiders 73 yards on 10 plays, ending with a two-yard touchdown to Hunter Renfrow. It was just their second opening drive touchdown in their last 13 games. 

After forcing a punt — which saw 15 yards docked after Keion Crossen roughed up Raiders punter AJ Cole during the return — the Giants gave the ball right back to the Raiders when Jones was stripped by Yannick Ngakoue, awarding the visitors possession at the 30-yard-line. 

The Raiders would drive down to the 6-yard-line, but the Giants defense held firm to limit the damage to a field goal at the start of the second quarter.

Behind running back DevontaeBooker — who rushed for 99 yards on Sunday ‚the Giants were able to drive down into Raiders territory to tie it at 10 apiece with 3:24 to go in the first half.

But the Giants would head into the locker room down as the final minutes of the second quarter continued to plague them. 

Having been outscored 42-0 in the final two minutes of the first half entering Sunday, the Giants yielded three more with six seconds to go before the break after a Dylan Carlson 32-yard field goal.

New York’s defense, however, would start the second half with a splash as McKinney undercut Carr’s attempted pass to Renfrow down the left sideline at the Las Vegas 41-yard-line and returned it to the house for a pick-six touchdown. 

It was the Giants’ first pick-six since Week 5 of last season as they took a 17-13 lead just a minute and a half into the third quarter.

They did just enough to keep the Raiders out of the end zone on Las Vegas’ ensuing drive, stimying them at the 7-yard-line to force a field goal that they canceled out through Graham Gano a minute into the fourth quarter.

The Giants’ defense once again held firm on their own 7-yard-line to force the Raiders to settle for another field goal, but Daniel Carlson missed a 25-yard attempt — the shortest miss in the NFL this season — with 9:31 to keep New York up four. 

McKinney called game with six minutes to go when he picked off Carr again, this time on a deep pass down the right sideline intended for Zay Jones at midfield. The safety was able to leap in front of the receiver — whose momentum was taking him away from the ball — and plant both feet in bounds upon landing.

But after driving near the red zone, the Giants’ offense stalled for another Gano field goal with 3:21 to go, allowing the Raiders to stay in it.