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Xavier McKinney's two interceptions key Giants' win over Raiders

Giants free safety Xavier McKinney intercepts a pass

Giants free safety Xavier McKinney intercepts a pass intended for the Raiders' Zay Jones as the Giants' James Bradberry (24) watches during the second half of an NFL game Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Credit: AP/John Munson

There was nothing false about the positives Xavier McKinney provided for the Giants on Sunday.

The safety, who was caught up in the team’s COVID testing fiasco this past week and spent two days on reserve/COVID while his status was sorted out — he eventually was cleared and never had a confirmed positive test for the virus — intercepted two key second-half passes to lift the Giants to a 23-16 victory over the Raiders at MetLife Stadium.

Not bad for a guy who was sitting home Thursday not even sure if he would be able to play.

"He pulled his best Ferris Bueller this week and didn’t have to show up for work and then went out and had a career-type game," Joe Judge said.

Judge finally was able to laugh about a situation that had the team worried about which personnel would be available right up until Sunday morning’s batch of testing.

McKinney was not the only one who overcame the hullabaloo over the testing, which resulted in dozens of false positives on rapid tests that had to be cleared up through PCR testing. The Giants’ entire schedule for the week was thrown into chaos, with practices adjusted and meetings moved to a virtual format.

"There were a lot of floating pieces this week," Judge said.

Ultimately, rookie running back Gary Brightwell and running backs coach Burton Burns were the only members of the team who missed the game.

McKinney, however, may have been the player hit the hardest by the tumult. He was sent to isolation after his rapid test came back positive on Wednesday and was not cleared to practice with the team until Friday.

"At first I thought I wasn’t going to be able to play because I didn’t know what the rules were," said McKinney, who said he is unvaccinated. "It was a longer week for me because I was in between ‘Am I going to be up?’ and "Am I not going to be up?’ It was hard to balance that."

"You could see the frustration level throughout the week," Judge said. "He’s in a Zoom meeting and the team is on the field practicing and he’s not able to be active or involved . . . Obviously, when he got cleared, that was big for us as a team."

They certainly needed him.

McKinney’s first interception came early in the third quarter when he stepped in front of Derek Carr’s pass intended for Hunter Renfrow and returned it 41 yards for a touchdown that gave the Giants a 17-13 lead. It was the first defensive touchdown scored by the Giants this season.

The Giants were holding tight to a 20-16 lead in the fourth quarter when McKinney came from his single-high position and snagged Carr’s deep attempt for Zay Jones. Cornerback James Bradberry was covering Jones on a double route and lost him after the first move.

"[McKinney] saved my life," Bradberry said.

That gave the Giants the ball at midfield and set up a 38-yard field goal by Graham Gano that made it 23-16 with 3:21 left.

The Giants’ defense had one more big takeaway to produce before they could celebrate fully. The Raiders drove to the Giants’ 13, threatening to score a touchdown that, depending on their strategy, would have either tied or given them a chance to win the game. That’s when rookie linebacker Quincy Roche sacked Carr and forced a fumble that was recovered by Leonard Williams with 31 seconds remaining to seal the win.

The win improved the Giants to 3-6 as they head into their bye week. Amazingly, it is their best record through nine games since 2016. The Raiders fell to 5-3.

While McKinney took care of things on defense, former Raiders running back Devontae Booker handled the offense. He ran for 99 yards on 21 carries and was over 100 on his next-to-last carry before he was pushed back for a loss of 3 and left the game with a hip injury.

Daniel Jones completed 15 of 20 passes for 115 yards. He fumbled once while being sacked, which led to a Raiders field goal, but had a tough 8-yard run in the fourth quarter and finished with 18 rushing yards.

The Giants’ only offensive touchdown of the game came on their first drive. Jones hit Evan Engram for a 30-yard touchdown to go up 7-0.

"It’s big for us to get this one, a complete team win and something we can build off of," Jones said.

To do it going into the bye week is significant. To do it coming off such a bizarre week may have been more important and telling.

"We just didn’t blink," Engram said. "We did everything we were asked to do, did everything and had to jump through all the [hoops] and all that stuff and we didn’t blink . . . We handled it the best way we could and continued to get the work done."

Given how it all ended up, McKinney was asked if he would try to come up with an excuse to not practice again when the Giants return to prepare for their Nov. 22 game against the Buccaneers in Tampa.

"Nah," he said with a smile. "It’s too big of a risk."

Ferris wouldn’t think so.

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