The New York Giants’ 23-16 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday was an old-fashioned one built on running the ball and playing good defense. It would have made the Phil Simms-Lawrence Taylor era Giants proud. Let’s get to the ‘Kudos & Wet Willies.’
Kudos to ...
Devontae Booker — OK, I get it now. For months I wondered why the Giants rushed in free agency to sign Booker as the backup for Saquon Barkley. I didn’t see anything that made Booker better than any of the myriad of running backs the Giants could have gotten for less than two years and $5.5 million with $2 million guaranteed.
I see it now.
The more Booker has played with Barkley sitting out with his latest injury, the better he has gotten. He is a tough, decisive runner. He gets north and south. He has enough wiggle and power to get some yardage on his own. He can catch the ball.
Booker end up with 122 all-purpose yards on Sunday, his second straight game with more than 120. He would have had a 100-yard rushing day, except he lost three yards on his final carry. He finished with 21 carries for 99 yards.
He was non-plussed about the losing the 100-yard game, saying “I wasn’t really aware of it.”
The Giants, and skeptical folks like me, are certainly aware of Booker now.
Elijhaa Penny — When Booker went out of the game to have his hop examined (he said post-game that he’s fine), it was left to Penny to carry the running load. He did. Penny ripped up runs of 11 and 12 yards following Xavier McKinney’s second interception, setting up a Graham Gano field goal that provided the Giants with their final margin. Penny finished with 35 yards in seven carries, and got props from Booker.
“He’s a hell of a player. He can do it all. He plays special teams. He plays fullback. He can play running back and he can catch out in the field. He can block,” Booker said. “You’ve got everything in one. That’s unique. Watching him finish out the game like that, it was critical.”
Xavier McKinney — The Giants refused at least one viable offer to trade down in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft, choosing to select McKinney because they thought he would be a difference-making defensive player.
Until Sunday, he had rarely been that. Against the Raiders, though, it was a different story. A 41-yard Pick 6 and a second interception saving a beaten James Bradberry led to 10 second-half points for the Giants in a game they won by seven.
McKinney made the plays that have too often escaped Giants’ defensive backs this season.
Quincy Roche — The Pittsburgh Steelers have to be kicking themselves. They tried to sneak the rookie sixth-round pick through to their practice squad at the end of the preseason, but the Giants claimed the former Temple and Miami pass rusher.
That move is paying dividends. Sunday, it might have been the difference between and losing.
With the Raiders at the Giants’ 13-yard and threatening a game-tying or game-winning score (if they had the gumption to go for a two-point conversion), Roche made the play that ended the game, sacking quarterback Derek Carr and forcing a fumble that Leonard Williams recovered to seal the victory.
With Lorenzo Carter sidelined, Roche has played a season-high 50 snaps in back-to-back games. Whenever Carter comes back, you have to think the Giants are going to make room to continue getting Roche on the field.
Run blocking — The Giants’ offensive game plan was obvious from the beginning. PLay a lot of heavy personnel and try to ground the Las Vegas defense into the MetLife Stadium turf with the running game. It wasn’t flashy. It didn’t result in a ton of points. It was old-fashioned, and it got the job done.
The much-maligned offensive line opened enough holes and got enough push for Booker and Penny to make the plan work. That limited Daniel Jones’ exposure to the Las Vegas pass rush and covered for a wide receiving group with several players appearing to be at less than 100 percent.
Evan Engram — Over the years Engram has missed far too many opportunities, some of them easy ones. Sunday, he made a difficult contested catch for a touchdown on what ended up being the Giants’ longest offensive play of the game. Split wide and matched up 1-on-1 with Las Vegas safety Jonathan Abram, Engram came up with the catch give the Giants their only offensive touchdown of the day. Good for him. And the Giants.
Red zone defense — The Giants bent on defense, but they most certainly did not break. Las Vegas ended up with 403 yards of total offense. The Raiders got into the red zone six times, but came away with just one touchdown. At various times, James Bradberry, Adoree’ Jackson and Logan Ryan all made big plays to help keep the Raiders out of the end zone. Las Vegas went only 4 of 12 on third-down conversions.
Graham Gano — It has become easy to take the Giants’ placekicker for granted. Daniel Carlson’s shank of a 25-yard Las Vegas field-goal attempt was a reminder that we should not do that. Gano went 3 for 3 on Sunday, making kicks of 32, 35 and 38 yards.
Wet Willies to ...
Keion Crossen — Crossen committed his third special teams penalty of the season on Sunday, a 15-yard unnecessary roughness call that negated a nice 12-yard punt return by Pharoh Cooper. He also mystifyingly downed a Riley Dixon punt that would have rolled a few more yards at the Las Vegas 13-yard line. Crossen did force a fumble that Las Vegas recovered, so maybe this should be a “Kwillie.” Crossen has made more mistakes on special teams this season than might have been expected.
Matt Peart’s pass protection — The Giants’ pass protection wasn’t great overall. Jones was sacked twice, hit six times, scrambled four times and forced to move constantly in 26 drop backs. Peart, matched up against Yannick Ngakoue, gave up a sack, three hurries and compiled a 34.7 pass-blocking grade. Ngakoue’s no picnic to block, but that’s a rough day trying to protect Daniel Jones’ blind side. You can argue that Jones held the ball a bit long and needs to protect it better on the strip-sack, but it would be nice if he didn’t get hit to begin with.