Sunday’s 41-35 overtime vicory was more exciting than any matchup between 3-11 teams has any right being. The teams traded gut-punches early and Washington came back from two-score deficits twice send the game to overtime. Ultimately, the Giants rode career days from Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones to their fourth win of the season.
In a game in which neither defense could be trusted to get a stop when they needed to, it was fairly obvious that the team who won the coin toss would be coming away with the win, and that’s what the Giants did. So, what did we learn as the Giants survived to beat Washington for the second time this year?
Say goodbye to Chase Young
For all intents and purposes, the Giants are now out of the running for Ohio State EDGE Chase Young.
There is still a path to Young and the second-overall pick, but it is a narrow one that involves the Detroit Lions winning tonight, while Miami and Washington both next week. For those theory-crafting a way back into the driver’s seat for the best player in the draft, that would involve Miami beating the Patriots and Washington beating Dallas in Week 17.
But in all likelihood, the Giants’ wins over Miami and Washington will have them picking fourth or fifth in April’s draft, and it is incredibly unlikely that Young will fall to them. That means that, despite how badly their defense needs an ace pass rusher to set up the rest of their defenders, they will have to be looking at other positions.
The Giants lost right tackle Mike Remmers to a concussion. Wide receiver Darius Slayton played limited snaps due to a knee injury. Washington quarterback Dwayne Haskins was carted off the field with an ankle injury, and OT Morgan Moses hobbled off the field with a leg injury.
Division rivalry or not, nobody wants to see players injured on the field.
Saquon Barkley is good ... Washington’s run defense and tackling are very not-good.
We can’t take anything away from Saquon Barkley’s performance. He had himself an excellent game, and Pat Shurmur finally seemed realize that he is allowed to get creative in how he uses a running back. Barkley showed the twitchy athleticism, stop-start quickness, short-area agility, and explosiveness we have come to expect from him.
We also saw the Giants make frequent use of jet motion to add misdirection to their plays, as well as a willingness to move Barkley out to a receiver position. It was something we have been clamoring for since last year, and getting Barkley the ball in space had the effect we all expected.
Barkley also took advantage of some truly awful defense from Washington. Washington’s defense (if it can be called that) featured undisciplined play at the line of scrimmage — bad gap discipline and poor communication — and atrocious tackling.
Any young players looking for tips on how to play the run should use Washington’s game as teaching tape — tape on how not to play the run.
Barkley did exactly what we should expect from a player of his caliber. He took what the defense gave him and took advantage of a poor defense, and absolutely shredded it. His final stat-line was an incredible 22-189-1 on the ground and 4/4 for 90 yards and a TD in the air.
The Giants’ protected Daniel Jones, and it paid off
Saquon Barkley was, easily, the best player on the field today and that made life very easy for Daniel Jones. Barkley’s combined 279 yards and 2 TDs on 26 touches would have been a good performance for some offenses.
The Giants also took advantage of Washington’s young, injured, and porous pass defense to rack up yards through the air. Washington’s pass defense ranked 12th overall coming in to this game, but that ranking is deceptive. They were still giving up more than 7.5 yards per pass and a completion rate of nearly 70 percent. They weren’t getting hit for many passing yards because teams have been running on them (they had faced the fourth-most rushing attempts of any defense in the NFL coming in to this week).
The Giants weren’t afraid to throw the ball, airing it out 42 times, and Jones followed Barkley’s lead and took advantage of that bad defense with a very impressive line of 66 percent completion for 352 yards and 5 touchdowns.
The one thing Washington has going for them on defense is their pass rush. They fielded one of the top pass rushing defensive fronts in the NFL this year, and that should always be a concern for the Giants. But a combination of misdirection from the Giants — in the form of jet motion just before the snap — and quick one- or two-read passing concepts to get the ball out of Jones’ hand quickly kept the pass rush from applying too much pressure.
Jobs might have gotten saved, but James Bettcher’s shouldn’t have been
The Giants’ offensive outburst against Washington might have saved the jobs on the Giants’ coaching staff and in their front office.
And even if John Mara and Steve Tisch’s very honest conversation after next week’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles results in the decision to retain both Pat Shurmur and Dave Gettleman, it should not result in James Bettcher’s job being saved.
I called out Washington’s defense twice already, and now I have to call out the Giants’ defense. If they were playing a team that was league-average on both sides of the ball, this game would have turned out very differently. If they were playing a team with the courage to play for the win instead of overtime, it could have played out very differently.
Credit where it is due, the Giants’ run defense was very good, giving up just 80 total yards (and a pair of touchdown) over the course of the game. Their pass defense, however, hemorrhaged yardage to Washington’s quarterbacks. Dwayne Haskins had completed 12 of 15 passes for 133 yards and two touchdowns when he left the game with an ankle injury. Case Keenum, who had last attempted more than 20 passes on October 13 (13 of 25 for 166 yards and teo touchdowns) completed 16 of 22 passes for 158 yards and a touchdown (he also had one of the rushing touchdowns). All told, the Giants’ pass defense gave up 28 of 37 passes (75.7 percent completion) for 281 yards and 3 touchdowns, and 35 total points. Before this week, Washington had averaged 62 percent completion for 167.7 yards and 15.4 points per game.
It all came to a head on Washington’s last drive of the game. A spectacular punt by Riley Dixon and some great hustle from Cody Core pinned Washington on their 1-yard line down 7 points 6:28 to play. That should have been game-over right there. Instead, the Giants gave up a 32-yard gain on third-and-9 and Washington ultimately escaped the coffin to engineer an 18-play, 99-yard scoring drive to tie the game with :29 seconds remaining. As mentioned above, the Giants might never have had the chance to win the game in over-time if Washington’s interim head coach Bill Callahan had opted to try for the 2-point conversion. The way the Giants’ defense had been playing, it might have been a high-percentage call to do so.