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4 Downs: Takeaways from Giants at Commanders

What can we take away from the Giants win over Washington?

New York Giants v Washington Commanders Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images

The New York Giants beat the Washington Commanders 20-12 on Sunday night and are, in all likelihood, headed to the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

It wasn’t a clean game, and it certainly wasn’t a pretty game, but the Giants are now 8-5-1. They still face a tough trio of games to finish the season, and they could still finish 8-8-1 on the season. But for now, the Giants have picked up their first win in the NFC East and avoided yet another 20-20 trip to overtime with Washington in the process.

What can we take away from the Giants’ win over Washington?

First down: Kayvon Thibodeaux

I’ll freely admit, I’m writing this before the first half is over.

I can already tell you that Ed is going to give Kayvon Thibodeaux a “Kudos”. Personally, I can’t say as I’m surprised by his play this game as he took over the first quarter and turned the game around for the Giants. He started with some great play against the run — granted, he was completely unblocked on two of hose run stuffs, but he still had to make the play. Then he had the sack-fumble-recovery-touchdown when the Giants desperately needed a spark from somewhere.

Thibodeaux has been a force in recent weeks and has flashed brightly throughout the season, even though the production hasn’t really been there. If you listen to The Chris and Nick Show, we’ve both consistently told fans to have patience and the production could come. I don’t know what the future holds, but Thibodeaux is quickly developing into a well-rounded foundational player.

Second down: Penalties and fractions of seconds

This has been the story for the Giants all season long. So many of the Giants wins have come down to the bounce of the ball and mistakes by the opposing team, and this game was no different.

In this game, a slight holding penalty wiped out a first down run by Washington, setting up Kayvon Thibodeaux’s sack-fumble-touchdown. Another penalty took a 2-point conversion off the board and the loss of yardage lead to a missed extra point. Yet another Washington penalty took a touchdown off the board at the very end of the game and lead to the game-sealing defensive stand.

Meanwhile, Daniel Jones had a fumble overturned when his elbow touched just before the ball came loose. Washington recovered the ball and would have had excellent field position. Heinicke, meanwhile, had a “down by contact” overturned, likely taking points off the board and giving the ball to the Giants for their final drive.

It is frankly amazing how many of the Giants’ games this year have come down to these types of instances.

Third down: Kudos to the defense

The Giants offense did enough — just enough — to win the game. They scored 13 points, with 160 yards passing and Saquon Barkley averaging just about 3 yards per carry before the final drive. The difference in the game was on the defensive side of the ball.

We already talked about Thibodeaux and his breakout performance, but this was a complete effort from the Giants’ defense. From Dexter Lawrence, Leonard Williams, and Azeez Ojulari providing pressure across the front, to Landon Collins stepping up in his new role as a linebacker. This wasn’t a perfect game by the defense, and the run defense continues to be a problem (though Washington certainly helped with some... questionable decisions to run Curtis Samuel instead of Robinson or Gibson).

But the Giants were able to get ahead of the chains defensively often enough that their pass rush was able to pick up the slack, and that quite literally was the difference in this game. If the Giants even have an average defensive effort, this game likely has a very different outcome.

Fourth down: Turn the page — and quickly

The Giants finally have a win in the NFC East and are in control of their destiny. However, they down’t have much time to savor their victory over Washington.

The Giants have almost the equivalent of a Thursday night game as they prepare for the Minnesota Vikings on Christmas Eve. The Giants still have to make their way back up to East Rutherford and will have to travel to Minneapolis in advance of their Saturday afternoon game — all while a potentially powerful blizzard moves across the midwest this week. The Giants could have just three to prepare for the Vikings. The Giants will likely be at a definite rest disparity with the Vikings, who have a normal week of practice after playing a home game on Saturday in Week 15 as well. That doesn’t give much time to scheme and prepare, nor does it give players much time to recover from a very physical game.

The Giants’ coaching staff has done an incredible job this year, and they’ll have their work cut out for them yet again. Time is flying as 2022 comes to a close, and Christmas Eve is right around the corner.