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12 “things I think” after Giants defeat Washington, 23-20

The Giants barely hung on to beat Washington, and now they have a chance to become a factor in the NFC East

New York Giants v Washington Football Team Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

It took five takeaways, including two interceptions over the final 2:27, but the New York Giants escape with a 23-20 victory over the Washington Football Team Sunday. Here are some of the “things I think” as the Giants improve to 2-7.

I think the Giants finally finished a game

It wasn’t easy. It was messy. It was probably closer than it should have been. In the end, though, the Giants made enough plays to win a game that looked like it was slipping away early in the fourth quarter.

The Giants got two critical interceptions in the game’s closing minutes to stymie Washington. Daniel Jones also made a nice play, managing to hold onto the ball on a crushing blind side sack right before the two-minute warning.

“For us the whole message was finish,” coach Joe Judge said. “That’s the thing you could constantly hear our players saying over and over and over. We talked about it at halftime (leading 20-3). We talked about that before the game, at halftime, throughout the game on the sideline. We have to finish the game ... you count on players like Logan (Ryan) and Blake (Martinez) to make some plays for you down the stretch, and they came through for us.”

I think Cinderella’s slipper didn’t quite fit

After Kyle Allen left the game with his unfortunate ankle injury I spent the rest of the game expecting Alex Smith to cap his amazing comeback from an injury that nearly cost him his leg by leading Washington to a come-from-behind victory.

When Washington closed within 23-20 on a 68-yard catch-and-run (and terrible tackle effort by Isaac Yiadom) by Terry McLaurin with 10:35 to play, I was sure of it.

Alas, it wasn’t to be for Smith and the Football Team. The Giants picked Smith off twice in the game’s closing moments to escape with a harrowing victory that probably shouldn’t have been as close as it was.

Joe Judge did the right thing with Golden Tate

You can’t just talk the talk of toughness and team-first. You have to walk the walk. New York Giants coach Joe Judge has done just that by leaving disgruntled wide receiver Golden Tate home for Sunday’s game against the Washington Football Team.

Tate is not Odell Beckham Jr. He is, though, arguably the most accomplished player on the Giants’ roster — 11 NFL seasons, 682 career receptions, three 1,00-yard receiving seasons. It would have been nice to have him on the field Sunday afternoon. When building a program and establishing your credibility, which Judge is still doing as a rookie head coach, how you handle a challenge from a quality veteran player is going to reverberate throughout the organization.

Judge has made it clear that a “me first” attitude, which Tate clearly displayed with his “throw me the ball” antics on Monday, is not going to be how the Giants do business while he is the head coach.

I absolutely think Judge did the right thing, and I think it bodes well for his future as the Giants’ head coach.

I think the Giants believe

The Giants are 2-7 and have no business being in a playoff race. Yet, they play in the NFC East where the division-leading Philadelphia Eagles are 3-4-1. Guess who the Giants host next week at MetLife Stadium? The Eagles.

“I’ve been on teams where we’ve had one win and you could feel the energy of the team start to drop, but that doesn’t happen here,” Leonard Williams said. “Everything right there in front of us still. Guys are not putting their head down. You can really feel the energy. … It just seems like everyone’s on top of their s—t right now.”

I think the Giants need to beat the Eagles

It’s all well and good that the Giants beat Washington — again. They have beaten the Football Team all four times Daniel Jones has started against them. Still, Jones has only one other victory — against Tampa Bay in his first game last season.

If the Giants are ever going to get people on the outside to truly believe they are making progress, if they are ever going to get anyone to believe they truly have a chance in the woeful NFC East, they need a victory over the division-leading Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.

“Throw the record away, it’s irrelevant. It’s going to be a big game for us no matter who we play, but especially Philadelphia coming in. The record’s completely irrelevant in this game,” Judge said. “We’re just trying to go 1-0 every week. I’m not posting in front of my team what the record is for the season. To be completely honest with you, right now that’s the last thing we should care about. We have to worry about day by day and week by week making constant improvement as a team and moving in the right direction. I see that.”

I’m glad the Giants kept Engram, Tomlinson

Judge said after the trade deadline that the Giants believed they had “foundational pieces” they wanted to build with rather than trade away. Reports on Sunday that the Giants turned away offers for tight end Evan Engram and defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson, the first- and second-round picks by the Giants in 2017, is evidence of that.

I am glad the Giants are keeping both players. It was easy after Engram dropped that critical pass a few weeks ago to scream “TRADE HIM.” The job of coaches and general managers, though, depends on being able to take the emotion out of an equation and evaluate it on merit.

Engram wasn’t perfect Sunday. He had two bad drops, one that nearly turned into an interception and one in the fourth quarter that probably cost the Giants at least three points. He did, though, have a terrific 16-yard touchdown catch.

The Giants need more play making weapons. They don’t need to be jettisoning a potential play maker like Engram who should be entering the prime of his career, even if they haven’t figured out how to get the most production from him.

Trading away Tomlinson would punch a big hole in the strength of the Giants’ defense, and would have deprived them of a young and seemingly still improving captain. The trick with Tomlinson, a pending free agent, is going to be keeping him. Seems like the Giants are going to try, and I approve of that decision.

I think NFC East football is, well ...

Look for yourself.

I don’t think I need to say a whole lot about all of that.

I think the Kyle Allen injury was unfortunate

I don’t, though, believe for a second that this leg whip by Jabrill Peppers was a dirty play. Yes, the 15-yard penalty was deserved. I don’t, though, see malicious intent from Peppers. It’s just a result of how he was was cut-blocked on the blitz.

“You never want that to happen. We all have a pact in this league. Guys have come from different circumstances, guys have worked hard to get here, so you never want to see a guy go down like that,” Peppers said. “I prayed for him, I apologized to him. I definitely didn’t intend for that to happen. I’m trying to play hard and make a play for my team. I’m still praying for him, and I wish him a speedy recovery.

“Everything happened so fast. I tried to bullrush the running back, but he got under me a little bit. I tried to spin out of it, it was a weird play. I didn’t intentionally try to leg whip him or whatever the penalty was. I was trying to play hard and get him on the ground.”

I think Alfred Morris came to play

Some have wondered why the Giants are using a roster spot on 31-year-old Alfred Morris, who played on one game last year and was out of the league until the Giants added him to their practice squad a few weeks ago.

Well, Morris shut some people up on Sunday. He ran 9 times for 67 yards. He had runs of 20, 19 and 11 yards. He showed a little burst and a lot of power, running over some Washington defenders.

“This was a game that meant something to him,” said Judge of Morris, a sixth-round pick by Washington in 2012. “He came in and gave us some really good production.”

There’s a little gas left in old Alfred’s tank after all.

I think Logan Ryan deserved this

After the week he had, losing a child and nearly losing his wife to an ectopic pregnancy that was only caught in time due to the heads up work of a Giants assistant trainer, Logan Ryan deserved to be the player who ended up sealing the Giants’ victory.

“It was an extremely emotional week,” Ryan said. “That game was definitely for my wife (Ashley), definitely for my family. I had her name written on my cleats. Just extremely grateful.”

Ryan said his wife is back in New Jersey and that he would not have played unless he knew she was OK.

“That’s ball’s for her,” Ryan said. “She told me to bring one home for her, so I was able to do that.”

I think Patrick Graham must be a wizard

In the Giants’ first victory of the season, Graham called a defense on the game’s deciding two-point conversion that the Giants had installed on Friday. It worked as the Giants forced an incompletion and won the game.

This week, Graham did even better. He convinced Joe Judge to let him add a wrinkle to the defense on Saturday morning. Turns out that wrinkle, a call the Giants never practiced, is the one the Giants used on the game-ending interception by Ryan.

“We talked Saturday morning. He thought it was something that could help. Obviously it was,” Judge said. “Logan was a featured player on that defense and he was able to come away with the play pretty much how Pat designed it.”

Ryan lauded Graham for trusting him, saying not only had it just been installed Saturday but that he had messed it up when it was called earlier in the game, leading to a long completion.

“I told Pat, I said, hey, that’s on me, call it again and I’ll be there, I’ll make it right,” Ryan said. “He called it again ... I’m very fortunate Pat trusts me enough to run my play, to call my play and call my number. That’s what I believe I’m here to do.”

I think Daniel Jones made two critical plays

Yes, Jones fumbled the ball a couple of times — once recovering it and once having it go out of bounds. He made two plays, though, that were critical to the outcome of the game that maybe, just maybe, showed improvement in ball security.

On third down from the Washington 20-yard line in the first quarter, Jones threw a pass out the back of the end zone that allowed Graham Gano to kick a 38-yard field goal.

In the fourth quarter, protecting a 23-20 lead, Jones was slammed from the back side by Washington’s Kamren Curl. He managed to hold onto the ball, allowing the Giants punt rather than turning the ball over in their own territory and setting up Washington for a tying or go-ahead score.

“Those are big plays in the game and I’ve got to do a good job holding onto the ball,” Jones said.