Here are five plays that led to the New York Giants 23-20 win over the Washington Football Team on Sunday.
Play 1: Pick City
The Giants defense and special teams have created15 turnovers this season, which ranks third in the league only behind the Buccaneers and the Steelers. To stay humble, 7 of them came against the Washington Football Team, but this stat is still impressive when considering the lack of talent at the EDGE position. The Giants are rolling Jabaal Sheard, Trent Harris, a couple converted rookie linebackers, the traditional linebackers, and Leonard Williams to fill the void on the edge next to an inflexible Kyler Fackrell.
The Blake Martinez interception was a very important play. The Football Team received the ball after the Evan Engram touchdown, and they were aggressively driving down the field to put points on the board and lessen the margin of the Giants’ 20-3 lead. With 58 seconds left in the half on the Giants’ 18-yard line, Smith goes to throw to J.D. McKissic who falls, backwards and the ball goes right to Martinez. Lucky, yes, but still a good play by Martinez to read Smith, react to the route, attack downfield, and then secure the low interception to go into halftime with the 20-3 lead.
The first Giants’ interception with just more two minutes to go was a collective effort by the defense. New York disguises their pre-snap intentions and brings a four-man pressure package, with the covering defenders spot dropping to the sticks on the third and 10. The Giants had 10 pressures in this game, while Washington had 18, but this was one of the plays with pressure. Leonard Williams, Logan Ryan, and Trent Harris all get after Smith on a stunt, which forced the quarterback out of the pocket. While rolling right, Smith tries to find McKissic again, but overthrows the ball right into the arms of Jabrill Peppers. The pressure up front forced the bad throw and the covering defenders were in position to make a play on the ball. Solid overall defense, but the game wasn’t over yet.
New York went three-and-out on offense to give the football right back to Washington. On their second play, Logan Ryan is waiting on the weak side hash and Alex Smith doesn’t account for him on what looks like a post/curl or a deep dig from Terry McLaurin. This was a great way for the defense to close out an opponent on the road.
Play 2: Fumble Township
Washington does a good job releasing Antonio Gibson from the boundary into the field side flat against Fackrell on their first play from scrimmage. The rookie running back is able to easily gain the edge, pick up a first down, plus some more chunk yards before Logan Ryan and Blake Martinez combine on the hit. When Ryan comes in on Gibson, he forces the ball to squeeze out of his grasp and that’s when the circus music is cued. It was an absolute mad scramble for the football and Peppers was the player to eventually recover the pigskin. This led to a field goal by Graham Gano. The Football Team was giving the Giants opportunities to put points on the board with their sloppy, undisciplined play.
The Giants hit an offensive pothole early in the first quarter. Jones was sacked on a flea flicker attempt that did not come close to working and then Evan Engram dropped a pass. This led to a fourth and 9 punt from the Giants’ 36-yard line. Isaiah Wright (83) muffs the ball that he may have lost in the sun, and three Giants converge on the live football. Madre Harper was the first Big Blue member to secure the ball on the ground. This mistake by Washington led to the 2-yard Wayne Gallman touchdown, which put the Giants up 10-3 early in the first quarter.
Play 3: Slot vertical to Engram
Engram continues to be an enigma. His upside is so apparent, but the drops continue to plague the tight end. He had two drops in this game, one hit him square in the front and the other almost led to an interception, but he finished the day with 5 catches for 48 yards and this touchdown above. A lot of Giants’ fans have been critical of Engram’s lack of usage downfield, and it was nice to see offensive coordinator Jason Garrett implement a play design in the red zone to attack the defense in this manner. Engram lines up as a tight end to the boundary and releases outside and up at the numbers. He uses a subtle push off once he breaks upfield to get inside leverage on his covering defender and then beats the middle of the field safety to the end zone, where Jones puts a solid pass out in front of Engram. If anyone needed a big play like this one, it was certainly Engram. He secured the catch to help the Giants propel to a 20-3 lead with about two minutes left in the first half.
Play 4: Sack Time
The Giants only had two sacks in this game but they were drive killers, albeit Washington still got a field goal after one of the sacks. The sack on second and 9 put the Football Team into a third and 24, which led to a punt. Washington lined up tight, so defensive coordinator Patrick Graham brought Isaac Yiadom as the fifth man, and he who was unaccounted for by the protection. Yiadom does a good job getting ahold of Smith while Dalvin Tomlinson cleans the sack up. Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams both do a good job winning on the left side of the offensive line as well.
This second and 6 was the eighth play of Washington’s drive and now they were almost in the Giants’ red zone, but Leonard Williams came up big splitting a double team and sacking Alex Smith. Williams splits the guard and center, with the latter player hesitating because of the presence of Lawrence, and then Williams finishes the sack with his length, bend, and relentlessness. Giants’ fans were calling for a big Williams year, and they’re receiving it in terms of statistics. According to Pro Football Focus, Williams has 26 pressures, 5 sacks, and 15 hurries this season as the primary pass rusher for the team. He’s the 15th-ranked overall defensive lineman, and the sixth-ranked in terms of run defense.
Play 5: Defensive lapse
This play was a reason the Football Team was able to scratch back into this game. New York brings the slot blitz from the other side but can’t locate Smith, who finds McLaurin down the field. The talented second-year wide receiver breaks the tackle of Yiadom, who went for the football, and then just outruns the rest of the Giants. There are four Giants in the area: Yiadom, David Mayo, Trent Harris, and Ryan. The last one on the list takes a bad angle and cannot recover. It’s kind of crazy to think that this one of only a few blown plays that went for long touchdowns against this Giants defense. By this time last season, there were several per game, let alone in the entire season; it’s a testament to Patrick Graham and some of these key free agent acquisitions.
The Giants controlled the line of scrimmage, jumped out to an early lead, were opportunistic, and found ways to win against the Football Team. The Eagles sit at the top of the division at 3-4-1 and get to come off their bye and face New York at MetLife Stadium. The Giants are still a young team, led by a young head coach and a second-year quarterback that makes mistakes. They’re still growing as a unit, and their defense is playing far better than most expected. Daniel Jones not recording a turnover is an encouraging sign, as is the 5 forced turnovers by the defense and special teams. The 2020 outlook for the Giants will be a lot more interesting if they find a way to defeat the Eagles coming off a bye. As we unfortunately know, wins against Philadelphia have only been in notional situations in the last few seasons, so the Giants will have to limit their mistakes, and take full advantage of their opponents mishaps; even to a higher degree than what they did against Washington.