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Grading the Giants: Defense gets highest mark as they finally get the job done

Tae Crowder #48 of the Giants celebrates with

Tae Crowder #48 of the Giants celebrates with his teammates after returning a fumble for a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Washington Football Team at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020. Credit: Jim McIsaac


There were a few times when things looked promising, such as the 23-yard touchdown pass from Daniel Jones to Darius Slayton that was as gorgeous and arcing as a Steph Curry three-pointer. And Jones’ ability to take off and run with the ball has become one of the most explosive elements of the offense, as it was Sunday, when he had a 49-yarder and finished with 76 yards on five true carries (he lost two yards on two kneel-downs). But for the most part, the Giants still are stagnant. Their only offensive touchdown came thanks to a defensive takeaway, as James Bradberry’s interception gave them a short field. And with the game potentially on the line after Washington tied the score at 13, they managed one first down before having to punt. Jones completed 12 of 19 passes for 112 yards, the fewest he has thrown for as a starter. And their one big drive in the third quarter ended with an interception that nearly doomed them.


Kyler Fackrell’s strip sack that led to Tae Crowder’s 48-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown won the game, but the Giants' defense nearly blew it when they came back on the field after the emotional turning point and allowed Washington to drive for the potential go-ahead touchdown. Washington scored with 36 seconds remaining, yet another glaring example of teams posting points on the Giants in the final two minutes of halves (Washington also scored a touchdown with 13 seconds left in the first half). That the Giants were able to defend the two-point conversion play that likely would have beaten them was very good, though. The Giants missed quite a few tackles, had some chances at sacks that never materialized, and gave up far too many receptions and passing yards to Terry McLaurin (seven for 74) and J.D. McKissic (six for 43). But when it came to the game-determining plays, the Giants' defense made them.


Logan Ryan’s recovery of the onside kick in the final minute sealed the win, and he did a good job of attacking the ball on the watermelon-style spin Washington used (a la the Cowboys against the Falcons from earlier this year). But Austin Johnson’s penalty for running into the punter late in the second quarter nearly was the gaffe that allowed Washington to come back and win the game. The Giants clearly saw something they wanted to take advantage of in their kickoffs, with Graham Gano keeping them short and pinned close to the sideline. Whatever that was, it didn’t work because Washington’s returns came out past the 25 on three of the four. Madre Harper has become a solid special teams tackler for the Giants. Gano didn’t have to kick any 50-yarders like the three he connected on last week, but he was solid with field goals of 33 and 20 yards on a windy day at the Meadowlands.


Judge was more conservative than he has been in the past, opting for a short field goal rather than attempting a fourth-and-goal play from the 2 in the second quarter and taking a delay of game on a fourth-and-2 from the Washington 38, then punting to open the third quarter. It paid off, though, and was a counter to the aggressiveness of Ron Rivera on the other side. There was a time when the Giants had just two healthy receivers in the mix, and they still were able to function as an offense. Patrick Graham installed a defensive coverage on Friday that he felt confident enough about to use on the game-deciding two-point conversion. Overall, the coaches needed the win as much as the players did. It wasn’t a pretty game, but it gives them something positive to reinforce the messages they are trying to send.

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