The Giants picked up a much-needed victory over the Washington Commanders in the national spotlight of Sunday Night Football and kept their playoff dreams alive. The 20-12 win, ironically the year the Giants last won a Super Bowl, guaranteed that New York would finish at least .500 or better this season.
While Brian Daboll tried to downplay the importance of the game in the lead-up, the Giants’ victory was a significant one. The win increased their chances of making the playoffs to 89%, according to the New York Times, with games against the Minnesota Vikings, Indianapolis Colts and Philadelphia Eagles on the horizon.
But first, let’s take a look back at Sunday night’s game and who did well and who did not.
Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way.
The officiating crew will be sharply criticized in Washington after two calls late in the fourth quarter impacted their chances of tying the game. First, Terry McLaurin was called for illegal formation that whipped away a touchdown and it looked as though the Washington receiver had checked in with one of the officials to confirm he was lined up correctly.
That dropped the Commanders back to the 6-yard line and then a few plays later it looked as though the officials missed a pretty clear pass interference call while Washington looked for Curtis Samuel in the end zone. Understandably the Commanders were furious and the NFL officiating crew made themselves part of the story from the game, which not what you want.
Referee John Hussey said afterward that the call on McLaurin was confirmed that he didn’t line up in formation and that even though he checked with one of the officials, they do “not typically” have to say whether he’s at the line or not.
“The official could be doing other things, like counting the offense – there’s a multitude of different duties. So, I can’t confirm whether the official even saw that or not, but he was clearly off the line of scrimmage,” Hussey said.
While the rookie right tackle did get better as the game went on, he still struggled a bit. He cost the Giants with a pair of false start calls in the first half and Montez Sweet got the better of him in pass protection at times.
Now for the good news.
There’s no way you can talk about Sunday’s win without discussing the effort of Kayvon Thibodeaux. The rookie was all over the file and has continued to show what a force he can be in the NFL. Thibodeaux finished the night with 12 tackles, three for a loss, a strip sack and a fumble recovery for a touchdown.
That’s on top of the fact that he was constantly pressuring Commanders quarterback Taylor Heinecke during the game and saved a touchdown late in the game when Heinecke tried to scamper into the end zone. What also has been more apparent has been his leadership inside the Giants locker room.
“The biggest thing for me that stood out, outside of his performance was before the game a rookie stepped up and called everyone up and got us going,” Saquon Barkley said. “And that’s big. He showed his leadership qualities, showed the type of person he is and it’s every single day. He comes to work every single day, he grinds and works on his craft and gets better.
“Like I said, big-time players need to step up in this game and our guys gotta be the guys. And he’s one of those guys, and I think that’s just the start. He showed what he’s capable of doing and the future is really bright for him.”
The Giants have relied on their run game as a big reason for their success this season, so it shouldn’t be a total shock that that aspect of their game has struggled during their recent stretch of rough luck. And the fact that New York won while Barkley seemed to regain his form shouldn’t be a surprise either. Barkley had a number of key runs in the fourth quarter and finished the game with 87 yards on the ground and a touchdown. The Giants back also added five catches for 33 yards.
The Giants quarterback’s stats won’t jump out at you, but he commanded his team to arguably their biggest win of the season on one of football’s biggest regular season stages. Jones threw for 160 yards on 21 of 32 passing without turning the ball over once in the game. His most impressive moments came during the Giants’ 18-play, 97-yard drive that saw him keep the drive alive with completed passes to Richie James on 3rd & 9 and 4th & 9.