For two months, Azeez Ojulari had wondered.
What would it be like to hit an opposing quarterback? To drive him into the turf? What would it feel like?
Forty seconds into the third quarter of Sunday’s game against Washington, the Giants linebacker got his answer.
Exploding off the line at the snap, he sprinted toward Taylor Heinicke and clubbed at the ball as the Commanders’ quarterback began to throw.
The ball bounced on the MetLife Stadium turf to Oshane Ximines, who had it dislodged, only to see Ojulari make the recovery at the Washington 20.
In the blink of an eye, the second-year pass rusher, who hadn’t played since Week 4 because of a calf injury, was credited with a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
The feeling? It was good. More than that, it was needed.
“I was dying. It had been eight weeks,” Ojulari said. “I’ve been dying to get back out there. Watching alongside, it’s tough. When I got my opportunity, took advantage of everything. Thank God I was back. Blessed to be back.”
Even though Ojulari and the Giants collectively left MetLife trying to come to terms with a wholly unsatisfying 20-20 tie with Washington, the resumption of long-standing ill feelings between the NFC East rivals left the University of Georgia product excited about the possibilities that await in the season’s final five games.
“As a unit, we all feed off of each other,” said Ojulari, whose sack was his second of the season. “We all get energy from each other and just try to amp it up every game, throughout practice, everything. Just get juice from each other.”
It would be hard to blame the result on the performance of a defensive unit that stopped Washington on six of its seven second-half possessions.
Of course, the one possession the Giants fixated on was the eight-play, 90-yard drive that culminated with Heinicke’s connection with Jahan Dotson on a 28-yard catch-and-run touchdown that wound up being the last points of the afternoon.
“Definitely we have stuff to work on for sure,” Ojulari said. “We just take it week-by-week and go in . . . watch the game again, see what we got to fix for the next week coming up.”
One area that likely won’t need fixing is a pass rush that sacked Heinicke five times. Along with Ojulari, Justin Ellis, Jihad Ward, Dexter Lawrence and Kayvon Thibodeaux got to the Washington quarterback.
As a unit, the Giants have 24 sacks this season.
For Thibodeaux, whom defensive coordinator Wink Martindale called the defensive unit’s “can opener,” his sack of Heinicke on the first play of Washington’s second and final possession of overtime — which led to the Commanders having to punt — was his second quarterback takedown of the season and first since Oct. 16 against the Ravens.
“I keep getting better,” Thibodeaux said. “I know things never go your way in this game all the time, so when you do get the chance to make plays, I got to make them.”