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Giants 26, Raiders 16: 5 things we learned

Takeaways from the Giants’ third win

Las Vegas Raiders v New York Giants Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images

The New York Giants will go into their Week 10 bye on a high note despite their 3-6 record. That’s because they pulled out a hard-fought victory on Sunday against the favored Las Vegas Raiders.

It wasn’t a pretty game and feels like it would have been a muddy, sloppy mess of a game if it had been played before turf fields. But the Giants managed to hang around, forcing — and capitalizing on — enough mistakes to eke out their third win.

A 3-6 record isn’t great, particularly when your next opponent is the reigning Super Bowl champion, but it’s definitely better than a 2-7 record and going into your bye week with a loss.

So what can we take away from the Giants’ win over the Raiders?

Win ugly

The Giants’ blueprint for victory seems to be pretty well established after the first nine games of the season: Win ugly.

When the Giants come up against the Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, Kansas City Chiefs, and now the Raiders, they didn’t play pretty games. The Giants fought and hung around, capitalizing on mistakes, miscues, and turnovers. This isn’t a team that can go out and win a game against a team that wins against teams playing complete games. The Giants still need help from an opposing team. Whether its Sean Payton making inexplicably bad play calls, or Derek Carr not seeing (or over-throwing) an open Darren Waller and a kicker missing a chip-shot field goal, the Giants needed mistakes upon which to capitalize.

Credit to them for capitalizing on those mistakes and doing enough to win games against the Saints and Raiders.

We’ve seen the Giants get blown out against the Broncos, Cowboys, and Rams. Those teams played complete games and the Giants just couldn’t keep up.

But against Washington, Atlanta, New Orleans, Kansas City, and Las Vegas, the Giants were able to hang around and the games stayed close. Whether it was the play of their own defense forcing mistakes, the opposing team playing sloppy football, or a combination of factors, the Giants were able to claw out wins against New Orleans and Las Vegas that they probably shouldn’t have.

They won ugly.

Red zone defense comes up big

The Giants scored all of 16 offensive points, and even with Xavier McKinney’s defensive touchdown, they still only scored 23 points. While that was enough to win today, that’s still less than 19 teams average on a week-to-week basis.

The Giants’ offensive play calling was ... creative (that’s the most diplomatic I can be), but the Giants really struggled to find consistent traction outside of a couple drives. Even worse, they continue to struggle to find their way into the end zone.

The Raiders made six separate trips to the red zone over the course of the game. And while they scored pretty effortlessly on their first red zone possession, they were forced to settle for field goals on the next four — the shortest of which was badly missed.

Whether it was Carr not connecting with Waller or the Giants’ defense making plays to knock the ball away, every time the Raiders threatened, they couldn’t finish their drive. All told, the Raiders left an incredible 19 points on the field — and that’s not even counting the fumble which ended their final possession. Had they finished in the end zone the first five times they got close, and scored 35 points instead of 16, they’re likely handing the ball off rather than desperately looking for a touchdown.

But the Raiders didn’t finish their drives. And considering the Giants didn’t play any better on offense, it was the play of the Giants’ defense inside the 20 that was the difference in the game.

Elijhaa Penny appreciation thread

The Giants were without Saquon Barkley again this week, and Devontae Booker left the game in the fourth quarter following a hard shot. That left the Giants with just a pair of fullbacks and their quarterback as backfield options. That should mean that your team’s running game is about to sputter to a stop.

Fortunately, the Giants were willing to experiment with fullback Elijhaa Penny as a ball carrier in the preseason this year. The Giants brought in a bevy of running backs, adding Corey Clement, Alfred Morris, Taquan Mizzell, and rookie Gary Brightwell to Booker, Barkley, and Sandro Platzgummer. But they also gave Penny the opportunity to earn a bigger role in the offense, and he was quietly impressive. We’ve known for a while that Penny can be an effective receiving fullback, but he showed good vision and burst through the line of scrimmage as a runner in the preseason.

All the other reserve running backs, save Booker and Brightwell, were released by the start of the season — with Brightwell largely being a special teams player. The Giants had the confidence to skimp on their running back depth chart because they knew Penny could tote the rock if needed.

That’s what he did today.

With Booker on the sideline, Penny picked up 35 yards on 5 runs for an average of 7.0 yards per carry. That might not sound like much, but his big 11- and 12-yard runs on the Giants’ final offensive drive put the Giants in position for Graham Gano to kick a 38-yard field goal to put the Giants up by 7.

Winning might have been more than a bit harder if those were the typical 1 or 2-yard runs we normally see from fullbacks.

Thank you, Pittsburgh

I still don’t know what the Pittsburgh Steelers were thinking when they waived Quincy Roche. Hell, I’m not sure what the NFL was thinking when they let him drop all the way to the end of the sixth round (but that’s another rant).

Whatever the reason — likely the Steelers were trying to pull a fast one and out-clever the rest of the NFL to get Roche to their practice squad — the Giants got themselves a player on the waiver wire.

I was vocal in my liking of Roche more than a year ago and believed his skill set would translate nicely to Patrick Graham’s defense — we ultimately put a third-round grade on him in our 2021 Consensus Big Board.

Roche has flashed since getting on the field at the end of October, and might just have won the game for the Giants this week. While the Giants were up by a touchdown at the end of the game, they didn’t have the win sealed away. The Raiders were (once again) in the red zone and moving the ball well on their last-ditch drive. They could have picked up a touchdown and kicked the extra point to force overtime — at which point anything can happen — or potentially won outright with a 2-point conversion.

Fortunately, we didn’t have to find out as Roche got the first sack of his career, forcing a fumble (the Giants’ third takeaway) and ending the game.

So yeah, to whoever in Pittsburgh had the bright idea to try and stash him on the practice squad: “Thank you.”

Bonus: It’s still weird hearing “Vegas”

This has absolutely nothing to do with the outcome of the game, but I just had to comment on how weird it is to hear the announce team consistently say “Vegas” and not be talking about oddsmakers. Just about every time the announce team talked about “Vegas”, I was expecting to hear some sort of stat or fantasy football reference, and it consistently took a beat to register that they’re talking about something the Raiders just did on the field.

I know franchise decisions about where they play are often (heavily) influenced by what cities will give them enough cash for shiny stadiums. That being said “Las Vegas Raiders” still just sounds weird (and wrong) to my ear. Could we please move the Chargers back to San Diego and the Raiders to Los Angeles or back to Oakland? Probably not, but a guy can try, right?