LANDOVER, Md. — The Giants head into the playoffs with an identity that was cemented in Sunday’s regular-season finale: a strong defense and an offense that struggles to score.
It’s been that way all season, so why should it change now?
That style of play was on display yet again in a 19-10 win over Washington at FedEx Field. “That’s exactly what we needed coming in here,” Ben McAdoo said. “And now we move on.”
They hope that recipe will hold up in the playoffs. The fifth-seeded Giants (11-5) will face the fourth-seeded Packers (10-6) — who beat the Lions on Sunday night to win the NFC North title — at 4:40 p.m. Sunday at Lambeau Field.
The Packers beat the Giants, 23-16, at Lambeau on Oct. 9. They’ve won six straight games, and Aaron Rodgers has thrown 18 touchdown passes and zero interceptions in the last seven.
The last two Giants Super Bowl runs have gone through Green Bay. The NFC Championship Game was played there after the 2007 season and the Giants returned for a divisional-round game after the 2011 season. Now they face a wild-card meeting with McAdoo’s former team.
The Giants left Washington unsure of their next opponent but fairly certain of their ability to win close games and do so on the road.
“Any time you go into the playoffs, you want to win and go in on a high note and have that positive energy going in,” Victor Cruz said. “We’ve accomplished that.”
After a 44-yard pass from Eli Manning to Tavarres King (playing in place of Odell Beckham Jr., who sat out most of the second half), a 40-yard field goal by Robbie Gould with 2:12 left snapped a 10-10 tie and accounted for the winning points.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie intercepted Kirk Cousins for the second time in the game with 1:12 left to seal the win. It was his sixth pick of the season.
After Washington got the ball back at its 5 with six seconds left, the Giants’ Trevin Wade scored a touchdown with no time left on the clock when he scooped up a lateral at the 11 on a backyard-style desperation play.
The Giants took a knee on the extra point, which only punctuated their offensive difficulties this season: They have not scored as many as 20 points in a game since Nov. 27 in Cleveland. It was the ninth game in which they have been held to fewer than 20 points — and they have won five of them.
The Giants dominated most of the game statistically, rushing for 161 yards — including 102 by rookie Paul Perkins in his first career start — but managed only one touchdown. That was a 2-yard run by Rashad Jennings in the second quarter.
It seemed as if it was the Giants who were playing for their postseason lives, not Washington, which would have clinched a playoff spot with a victory but was eliminated from playoff contention when it lost.
“I felt like the whole game, up until the last few drives, they were kind of out of it,” Giants guard Justin Pugh said. “For them to have that demeanor and for this game to be a must-win, I don’t think they were going that crazy until the fourth quarter. I think the way we did things early took them out of the game a little bit. Their offense was not doing too much and their fans were getting on them for that.”
The Giants had other chances to find the end zone but settled for a field goal after driving to the 4 in the first quarter and turned it over on downs when Manning threw an incomplete pass intended for Beckham on fourth-and-2 from the 16 on the first drive of the second half.
The Giants sacked Cousins four times and did not allow a point until Washington kicked a field goal with 25 seconds left in the third quarter to make it 10-3.
On Washington’s previous drive, it reached the 23 on a 49-yard pass to Pierre Garçon, but on the next play, Rodgers-Cromartie stepped in front of Maurice Harris, who slipped, and intercepted the pass.
Washington scored its only touchdown with 8:13 left to tie it at 10. Cousins hit Garçon to convert a third-and-17 and found Jordan Reed on first-and-goal from the 1.
It was the first 11-win season for the Giants since they went 12-4 in 2008. That team was one-and-done in the postseason, though, so it’s not something this year’s squad wants to emulate much further.
“It feels good to make the playoffs,” Manning said. “That’s what it’s all about. I guess 11 wins, that’s a nice accomplishment, but it’s all about getting to the dance. I’m proud of this team. I think there is a uniqueness and something special about this squad of guys. We are finding ways to win games. It’s not perfect, it could be prettier at times, but we are winning games. That is a good quality to have.”