Most of the time when you lose in the NFL, it’s because you get outplayed by the other team. But it’s also completely possible to beat yourself and lose only […]
Most of the time when you lose in the NFL, it’s because you get outplayed by the other team. But it’s also completely possible to beat yourself and lose only due to your own mistakes. That’s exactly what the New York Giants did on Thursday Night Football against Washington Football Team.
Multiple times in the fourth quarter, the Giants had a chance to put the game away. But between a dropped touchdown pass by Darius Slayton, poor clock management, poor defense on Washington’s final drive, and a gut-wrenching offside penalty on Dexter Lawrence when the game appeared to be over, the Giants blew their shot on multiple occassions.
While the Giants put up a much better performance than they did in Week 1 against the Denver Broncos, New York still has to get better at fundamental parts of playing football if they want to have any chance at being a competitive team this season. There were certainly bright spots in this game, mostly on the suddenly decent offensive side of the ball. Daniel Jones made plays with both his arms and legs, and didn’t turn the ball over once, which is a huge stride for the third-year quarterback.
After newly acquired starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick went down with a hip injury against the Los Angeles Chargers last week, Washington Football Team called on Taylor Heincke to make his third career NFL start. The Giants defense made short work of Washington’s first drive, with 21-year-old rookie Azeez Ojulari bringing down Heincke on third down to force a quick three-and-out.
On the ensuing Giants offensive possession, New York wasted no time getting the ball moving. Daniel Jones completed a 12-yard pass to tight end Kyle Rudolph and a 16-yard pass to Kenny Golladay on back-to-back plays, then later found Sterling Shepard for a 13-yard hookup before rushing 15 yards for a first down of his own.
On second-and-goal, Jones called his own number on a 6-yard quarterback draw touchdown run to put the Giants up 7-0 on their opening drive. It was Jones’ second touchdown run of the season after a garbage time score against the Broncos last week.
The Giants defense then forced another three-and-out, with Heincke failing to convert a 3rd-and-four play.
New York’s next drive wasn’t much longer, but it contained a delight for Giants fans (as well as fantasy owners like me.) Saquon Barkley ripped off a 41-yard run, surpassing his rushing total from the entire Broncos game last week.
Washington’s offense finally started moving on their third drive of the night, with Washington’s third round pick, wide receiver Dyami Brown, picking up the team’s first first down of the game on a 22-yard reception. Heincke hooked up with wide receiver Terry Mclaurin four times on the drive, the fourth catch being hauled in for an 11-yard touchdown reception to tie the game 7-7 early in the second quarter.
The two teams then traded short drives, with Jones being sacked by Jonathan Allen on third down, and then Washington being unable to convert a 3rd-and-22 play after an unnecessary roughness penalty.
Jones made plays with his legs all night, sometime by design and sometimes as a last resort, but his most impressive run of the evening was a 58-yard scamper that appeared to be his second rushing touchdown of the night. The play was called back, however, as C.J. Board was called for offensive holding on the play.
After the ball was placed at the 22-yard line, the Giants inched closer to Washington’s endzone, thanks to two catches by Sterling Shepard, but ultimately settled for a field goal and a 10-7 lead with 4:09 to play in the first half.
Washington responded with a 12-play, 84 yard drive, in which Heincke completed 7-of-7 passes highlighted by a 24-yard connection with tight end Logan Thomas. After marching down the field, J.D. McKissic scored on a two-yard touchdown run to put Washington up 14-10 before halftime for their first lead of the night. Jones took a knee for the Giants instead of playing out the final 21 seconds of the first half.
The Giants began the the second half with the ball, and Jones wasted no time, throwing to his favorite target, Shepard, for a 17-yard reception on the half’s opening play. The drive appeared to stall with a five-yard pickup by Shepard on a 3rd-and-7 play, but former Giant Landon Collins was called for defensive holding, extending New York’s drive. The Giants went backwards, with Barkley losing six yards on first down, before they continued forward, and the drive ended with a 47-yard field goal from Graham Gano, cutting Washington’s lead to 14-13.
After the defense forced another three-and-out, the offense got right back to work. The Giants were aided by defensive penalties again, with Kyle Fuller’s coverage of Shepard on 3rd-and-13 being flagged for pass interference. Jones then found Golladay for 12 yards, Shepard for 19, and finally, Darius Slayton on a beautiful 33-yard strike to the endzone, putting the Giants up 20-14 in the third quarter.
After this, a flurry of field goals and back-and-forth drives ensued. A long pass interference call against James Bradberry quickly put Washington in Giants territory, where Dustin Hopkins would kick a 49-yard field goal to narrow the Giants lead to 20-17. New York’s offense moved the ball 41 yards on just six plays, and Gano drilled a 52-yard field goal less than three game minutes after Hopkins kick.
Washington’s next drive had a bit more substance, beginning with an 18-yard completion to McLaurin. McLaurin was responsible for three separate first down pickups on this drive, which stalled after back-to-back incomplete passes from Heincke deep in Giants territory. Hopkins booted a 37-yard field goal and the Giants led 23-20 with 8:46 left in the game.
The Giants offense, which had now been churning points on four straight drives (not counting Jones’ kneel-down to end the first half,) stayed aggressive, as Shepard hauled in a 21-yard catch to start the next drive. Barkley had nine rushing yards on this drive, but Jones himself continued to move the chains, picking up 13 yards of his own. Jones’ 11-yard run on 3rd-and-15 proved especially fruitful, as it allowed Gano to convert a long 55-yard field goal attempt, extending the Giants lead to 26-20 with 4:50 remaining in the fourth quarter. For a Giants offense that looked lost against Denver in Week 1, five scoring drives in five attempts is incredibly encouraging moving forward (as is Gano’s killer range.)
But just as the Giants defense allowed Melvin Gordon to seal the game with a 70-yard touchdown run last week, New York’s defense broke down again in a big spot. On the first play of Washington’s next dive, Heincke found J.D. McKissic for a 56-yard pickup.
Heincke wasted no time, connecting with Ricky Seals-Jones on the very next play for an amazing, toe-tapping, 19-yard touchdown reception, putting Washington up 27-26 after a two-play, 17-second, 75-yard drive.
The Giants had plenty of time to respond, down just one point with 4:33 left to play. Jones found tight end Kyle Rudolph for a 13-yard catch and first down, but missed on three other pass attempts, forcing the Giants to quickly punt the ball away and hope for the best.
The final 3:13 of the game was madness, with the chaos appearing to break the Giants way on multiple occasions. New York couldn’t afford to allow more than one or two first downs to Washington, or the game would likely be over. Washington picked up a first down quickly on an 11-yard run by Antonio Gibson (whose name I haven’t mentioned yet, but he was instrumental in keeping Washington’s offense moving.) Although the situation called for more running, Heincke dropped back to pass on a second-down play and was picked off by James Bradberry, who cut off a pass intended for McLaurin.
Now the Giants posses the ball, on Washington’s 20-yard line, with 2:16 left to play. The odds had swung tremendously in the Giants favor, and while they needed luck a moment ago, Washington would now need a miracle to pull off a win in this scenario.
However, the Giants didn’t do much here, playing it reasonably safe but also being hampered by a third down incompletion aimed at Shepard that did Washington a big favor in stopping the clock. The Giants took a 29-27 lead on 35-yard Gano field goal, but took just 16 seconds off the clock in the process.
Washington was left with two minutes to move the ball in to field goal range, with just one timeout, and the Giants defense knowing all they had to do was stop Washington from making big plays.
Heincke completed a pair of passes to McKissic, but quickly faced a 4th-and-1 play. McKissic pounded the ball forward for four yards to keep the game alive, now with just one minute left to play. Going no huddle, Heincke found Logan Thomas for nine yards and then caught Lorenzo Carter with a neutral zone infraction to move the ball five yards closer to field goal territory.
Heincke completed a five-yard pass to Dyami Brown and Washington called their final timeout with 0:28 left in the game at the Giants 48-yard line. Adam Humphries caught a seven-yard pass on 3rd-and-5 and was able to get out of bounds and stop the clock. Washington suddenly felt in control of the game’s outcome with the Giants defense reeling. Heincke completed another pass that had some doubts, this one for six yards to McLaurin, but after review the catch was confirmed. Heincke spiked the ball with 0:05 left to set up a game-winning 48-yard field goal attempt for Hopkins.
With how accurate kickers are in today’s NFL, a 48-yard attempt seemed likely to be converted, which would have sent the Giants home with a loss. In a shocking turn of events, Hopkins kick sailed just to the right of the uprights, appearing to give New York their first win of the season.
But in a crushing blow, Dexter Lawrence was flagged for being offside, giving Hopkins a second chance from 43 yards. On his second attempt, Hopkins nailed the game-winning field goal attempt, sending the home crowd into a frenzy and dropping the Giants to 0-2.
Statistics and Takeaways
Daniel Jones finished the game turnover-free for just the sixth time in his career. This is pretty important, as the quarterback has managed to turn the ball over 40 times through his first 29 career games. It wasn’t out of conservatism either, as Jones threw 32 passes and rushed the ball nine times.
Jones completed 22-of-32 passes for 249 yards and a touchdown. The former Duke quarterback was also the game’s leding rusher, with 95 yards and a touchdown (nearly two) on nine carries. He was brought down four times resulting in 21 lost yards, and posted a respectable 102.2 quarterback rating, slightly outplaying his competition (Heincke: 99.6 rating.) This was Jones’ first loss to Washington in five career games.
Saquon Barkley broke out for a 41-yard run in the first quarter, but had an otherwise pedestrian day. Barkley’s line (13 carries, 57 yards, 4.4 yards per carry) looks decent, even if still a little underwhelming for someone with his talent, but if you take out Barkley’s long run, the running back tallied just 16 yards on his 12 other carries (1.3 yards per carry.) Barkley also caught two passes out of the backfield for 12 yards.
The highlight of the Giants offense was easily Sterling Shepard, who hauled in nine of ten targets for 94 yards. Shepard now has 16 catches, 207 yards, and a touchdown reception through two games, potentially emerging as one of the best receiving threats in the league.
First round pick Kadarius Toney wasn’t targeted once, begging the question why the Giants bothered taking the wide receiver in the first round. Kenny Golladay was targeted eight times, but caught just three passes for 38 yards. Darius Slayton had three catches for 54 yards and a touchdown, but also had a dropped pass in the endzone that very well could have reversed the outcome of the game.
It’s not often that a kicker gets praise in a losing effort, but Graham Gano was perfect for the Giants on Thursday night. The veteran kicker connected on five-of-five attempts, including a long 55-yarder.
Even with some missteps, the Giants offense played well in their 29-point performance. Defensively, New York has some work to do. Taylor Heincke completed 34-of-46 passes and was brought to the ground for a sack just once. Even after Terry McLaurin emerged as Heincke’s favorite target, the Giants couldn’t keep the ball out of his hands, as McLaurin caught 11 passes for 107 yards and a touchdown.
Washington running back Antonio Gibson was able to do some damage on the ground, with 69 yards on 13 carries (5.3 yards per carry.)
The Giants are now 0-2 for the fifth straight season and the eighth time in the last nine years. New York has to act quickly to turn their season around, and if they can’t beat the Atlanta Falcons next week, the Giants 2021-22 season may be over before it even gets started. Atlanta (ranked dead-last in my Post-Week 1 Power Rankings) is definitely beatable, but with the way the Giants have played this year and for the past few seasons, nothing is a guarantee.
After Atlanta things get much rougher, with road games against the New Orleans Saints and Dallas Cowboys, a tough matchup against the Los Angeles Rams, a quick potential reprieve against the Carolina Panthers, and then a seemingly-impossible game to win in Kansas City against the Chiefs. If the Giants don’t beat the Falcons next week, it could be a while before New York gets their first win of the season.
NFC East Standings
Philadelphia Eagles (1-0, vs. San Francisco 49ers this week)
Washington Football Team (1-1)
Dallas Cowboys (0-1, at Los Angeles Chargers this week)
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