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Giants vs. Commanders, Week 13: 4 downs —takeaways from an ugly 20-20 tie

Well, that was frustrating

NFL: Washington Commanders at New York Giants Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

I’m not sure anybody saw the New York Giants and Washington Commanders finishing Week 13 in a 20-20 tie.

Sure, pretty much everyone saw it as a likely low-scoring, run heavy defensive slugfest. And it was probably always going to be a close game, considering both of these teams only ever play close games. But for both teams to trade double-digit leads as well as back-breaking mental mistakes to get the other team back in the game is simply amazing.

And not in a particularly good way, as this game just left an ugly taste in the mouth.

Fortunately — if there is an upside to this mess of a game — the Giants don’t have to wait long for a rematch against Washington.

But what can we take away from the immediate aftermath of the game before we start to turn the page to Week 14 and the Philadelphia Eagles?

First down: Of course the game ended like this...

I felt that this was a “mirror match” coming into this game. These are two very similar teams that feel like palate-swapped versions of the same team. The Ken and Ryu (Street Fighter) of the NFL. But even so, I felt that the Giants’ general discipline this year and Washington’s institutional tendency to fall apart would lead to a New York win.

Both the Giants and Commanders are flawed but scrappy teams who depend on running the ball, playing suffocating defense, and not beating themselves.

At times during the game it looked like opponents’ mistakes were going to lead to a blow-out, only for a lack of discipline to kill a teams’ momentum. First Washington jumped out to a 10-0 lead, then the Giants went on a 20-3 run, only for Washington to tie the game (again) with a pair of big plays down the field.

Both of these teams have been dealing with injuries at key positions and neither one is really built for convincing multi-score wins.

In the end, it’s good that the Giants’ didn’t lose the game, but by the end I’m not sure either team really deserved the win. They’re very evenly matched, both in strengths and weaknesses. But when I picked the Giants to win, both before and during the game, it was because of the discipline with which the Giants played earlier in the year. This game, the two teams seemingly traded game-killing mistakes.

So maybe it’s fitting the game ended as it did. Not good, but fitting. The Giants just can’t ever do anything the easy way, can they?

Second down: The game’s slowing down for Kayvon Thibodeaux

For the second week in a row, rookie edge defender Kayvon Thibodeaux was an absolute menace.

I’m not even talking about Thibodeaux’s sack, which very nearly ended the game with a safety. That was clearly a miscommunication on the Washington offensive line, because I can’t see them just not blocking a player who had been a consistent presence in the backfield even when blocked throughout the game.

Not only does Thibodeaux look fully healthy, with all the explosion, quickness, agility, and speed he showed at Oregon, but he also looks increasingly comfortable at the NFL level. The game looks as though it’s truly slowing down for Thibodeaux and he’s able to play fast as a result. The production might not be there (yet), but he is a complete edge defender who is not only disrupting with his pass rushes, but he’s also becoming a reliable run defender. Given the state of rushing attacks in the NFC East, that’s a great development for the Giants’ defense.

Thibodeaux absolutely looks as though he belongs next Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams. It’s possible that in Thibodeaux and Ojulari the Giants might have a bookend similar to Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora back in the day.

Wink Martindale wants to call the defense from the back forward, but he has a very good foundation along the defensive front.

Third down: The Giants need to figure out their interior offensive line

I have to admit, I searched for a while to figure out what I wanted to write in this section. At first I wanted to steal a bit of Ed’s thunder and give the Giants’ coaching staff a “Kudos”. At least I was going to while the Giants were dominating the game and looked as though they were going to run away with the game.

But considering the mental mistakes that cost the Giants opportunities to win — like Feliciano’s taunting penalty or Richie James running into Saquon Barkley on that zone-read play — I can’t give props to the staff that had 10 days to get the team ready.

Then I thought I might address the Giants’ offense in this game and why it was so frustrating. I’ve already seen plenty of frustration bubbling up among fans, but I realized I’d need (much) more than a single subsection to sort through why the Giants’ offense looked like it did.

But during the post-game livestream with Nick, I decided that I do need to address one aspect of it: The Giants’ interior offensive line.

The Giants’ defensive front played well, but so did Washington’s. A big part of the Giants’ struggles this game, and their offensive struggles this year, comes down to their interior offensive line. I’m not going to say that the iOL is an anchor or blame them for everything wrong with the offense. Football is just way too complicated for that, and they’ve had good play as well as poor.

That said, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the Giants need to continue to build their interior offensive line. Jon Feliciano will probably lose his starting job at center to Nick Gates at some point, and Mark Glowinski has become a disappointment as the “steady vet” acquisition.

Da’Ron Payne is having every bit as good a break-out season as Dexter Lawrence and he’s been wrecking games all year long. That’s a tough ask for Feliciano and Glowinski, but pressure up the middle has been a consistent problem all season.

Considering the Giants have the Eagles next week and a rematch with Washington the week after, they don’t have much time to figure something out. Hopefully they’ll get Ben Bredeson and Joshua Ezeudu back healthy sooner rather than later.

Fourth down: See ya again in two weeks

It’s a massive quirk of the schedule this year that the Giants will play both of their games against the Commanders twice in three weeks — and Washington will see the Giants on either side around their (very late) bye.

The Giants are looking forward to a game against the Philadelphia Eagles, while the Commanders’ players are looking forward to rest and the coaching staff looking back on this game.

I can’t speak to how often divisional games happen this close together, but it can’t be very often. Normally the NFL likes to space these games out with half in the first part of the season and half in the home-stretch.

It will be absolutely fascinating to see how these two teams adapt to this game and add wrinkles based on the game-tape. It will also be interesting to see how changes in the injury report (most notably the expected return of Chase Young) impacts the game plans.