It’s no exaggeration to say that the New York Giants’ 23-16 upset victory over the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 9 could have gone very differently without safety Xavier McKinney.
The NFL also thinks McKinney deserves recognition as the league announced Wednesday that he has been named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance against the Raiders.
The Giants’ defense recorded three turnovers in Sunday’s win and McKinney was responsible for two. The second-year safety recorded two interceptions, including a pick six, in the second half. Just 1:32 into the third quarter, McKinney intercepted Derek Carr’s pass intended for Hunter Renfrow and returned it 41 yards down the sideline for a touchdown. It was the first touchdown of McKinney’s career and the Giants’ first defensive touchdown of the season.
McKinney’s second interception of the game came when the Giants were leading 20-16 with 5:12 remaining in the fourth quarter. This takeaway allowed Graham Gano to convert a 38-yard kick to stretch the lead to seven points. It was McKinney’s team-leading fourth interception, one more than cornerback James Bradberry.
Sunday marked the second game this season in which McKinney recorded two interceptions - the first came against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 6. McKinney is the first Giants player with a pair of two-interception games since Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in 2016.
McKinney was the No. 36 overall pick for the Giants out of Alabama in the 2020 NFL Draft. After playing in just nine games in his rookie season due to injury, the young safety appears to be finding his stride in New York.