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Giants-Commanders ‘Kudos & Wet Willies’ review: Disappointing tie is tough to grade

Let’s get to our traditional review

NFL: Washington Commanders at New York Giants Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants’ 20-20 tie on Sunday with the Washington Commanders was, and still is, a difficult game to assess. It also makes this one of the more difficult ‘Kudos & Wet Willies’ reviews in recent memory.

Let’s get to it.

Kudos to ...

Azeez Ojulari — What a return to action for the second-year edge defender! Playing in only his third game of the season, Ojulari had a strip sack of Taylor Heinicke and ultimately recovered the fumble in the third quarter, a play that helped the Giants grab the lead in the third quarter. He had a pair of quarterback hits, and Pro Football Focus initially credited him with an excellent 16.7 percent pressure rate. Welcome back, Azeez!

Kayvon Thibodeaux — An overtime sack that was nearly a game-winning safety and three pressures for Thibodeaux, who continues to play forcefully.

Isaiah Hodgins — Hodgins caught his first NFL touchdown pass, a 6-yarder, to give the Giants a 20-13 lead in the third quarter. He ended up with five receptions in six targets for 44 yards, including dragging Washington defenders for a first down on a third-and-10 catch near the end of the first half. In four games since joining the Giants as a waiver claim, Hodgins has 13 receptions for 145 yards (11.2 yards per catch) and a TD. Not bad.

Dexter Lawrence — Nine tackles, one for loss, and a pair of quarterback hits while playing 77 of 85 defensive snaps. Lawrence continued to play at an All-Pro level.

Wet Willies to ...

Jon Feliciano — While Feliciano is writing a check to the league this week for his “playing two teams” comment he can ponder the fact that his silly flex is the biggest the Giants did not win on Sunday.

As I wrote after the game, an eighth-year NFL player has got to know better than to go charging into (through?) a crowd of Washington players to flex after a huge play that put the Giants in position to to take a two-score lead late in the fourth quarter.

Feliciano gave the officials a chance to throw a flag, and that’s what happened. That’s on him.

Fabian Moreau — The veteran cornerback missed a tackle in the open field that allowed Washington’s Terry McLaurin to waltz in for a first-quarter touchdown. He committed a holding penalty that negated a third-and-7 stop in the second quarter and led to a Commanders’ field goal. Two costly plays that cost the Giants points.

Zyon Gilbert — I hate to do this, and maybe it’s harsh, but needing a touchdown to tie the game the Commanders victimized the rookie slot cornerback at the end of regulation.

Gilbert was a surprise starter for the Giants, making his NFL debut in the slot with Darnay Holmes (shoulder) inactive. He played well for the most part, but when Washington needed a game-tying touchdown late in the final quarter they picked on the rookie.

After Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke completed a 20-yard pass on fourth-and-4, he picked on Gilbert on back-to-back plays. First, Curtis Samuel beat Gilbert for a 25-yard catch. Then, McLaurin beat Gilbert for the game-tying score.

Mark Glowinski — The veteran right guard couldn’t handle Washington’s Da’Ron Payne. Payne finished with two sacks, two quarterback hits and two tackles for loss. In fairness, Glowinski did show up on the injury report Saturday with a back injury. Still, he seemed overmatched.

The overall offense — After the Giants’ third-quarter touchdown that gave them a 20-13 lead, here are the team’s final six possessions, not counting the end of regulation kneel down:

Missed 58-yard field goal

One good drive, one score in six opportunities probably would have turned a tie into a victory. Heinicke isn’t a great quarterback, and Washington didn’t exactly do a lot to earn anything but a loss on Sunday. The Giants’ offense, though, came up short.

Saquon Barkley (18 carries, 63 yards) averaged only 3.5 yards per carry. The Feliciano play, the Slayton miss, the botched third-and-3 in overtime all cost the Giants opportunities.

The Giants have issues in the interior of their offensive line and don’t have enough explosive play makers at wide receiver, but I am left to wonder where the creativity has gone. The Giants seem to be playing vanilla, low-risk offense. I am sure that’s on purpose, and what Daboll and Mike Kafka feel is best with the personnel they have. I just keep waiting for, and wanting, something more.

Brian Daboll’s decision to punt on fourth-and-3 from the Washington has been hotly debated. At least one analytics site did not like the decision.

I had no problem with the decision. Considering the way the offense was playing, and the reality that failing to convert would put Washington within striking distance of victory, I was fine with the punt.

Daboll put the onus on the defense to get the ball back with a final chance to win the game, and it nearly worked.

Kwillies to ...

Daniel Jones — I thought Jones was excellent on Sunday. The Giants only asked him to throw the ball down the field a couple of times, but he did what he was asked to do quite well. With a little more help from his friends, things could have been different for the Giants.

Jones’ only ‘incompletion’ of the first half was a spike. He finished 25 of 31 for 200 yards and a touchdown. He ran for 71 yards. In a tie game, though, every mistake is critical. Jones’ fumble on the Giants’ first possession ending up gifting the Commanders three crucial points, and knocks him down from a ‘Kudos’ to a ‘Kwillie.’

Darius Slayton — I’m looking at the score, looking at the fourth-quarter play Slayton did not make and holding him to the same standard I am holding Jones. As much as he did Sunday, and he did a lot, he failed to make a play that could have turned a tie into a victory. Slayton has to get knocked down for that.

Slayton had six catches for 90 yards, including a 55-yarder. that set up the Giants’ first touchdown. He failed, though, to make a catch with 1:45 remaining that could have put the Giants in position to win.

There is much debate about whether the missed deep shot from Jones to Slayton was a poor throw, a drop by Slayton, or some combination of both. My take from the press box, six floors above field level at MetLife Stadium with an overhead view, is that this miss was clearly on Slayton.

This appeared to be a bust by the Washington secondary. Jones tried to lead him down the field with the throw. Yes, the throw was behind him — where, the way I saw the play, it needed to be. If Jones puts it in front — toward the middle of the field — Commanders safety Darrick Forrest is coming to a) deliver a crushing hit and b) perhaps intercept the ball.

Slayton admitted he chose to stop and leap rather trying to run through the catch. He ended up choosing wrong, and couldn’t haul the ball in even though he got two hands on it.

Jamie Gillan — Consistency seems to elude the Giants’ punter. He bombed punts of 59, 56 and 51 yards on Sunday. He had three punts downed inside the 20-yard line. He had an excellent 42.6 yards per punt net average. In overtime, though, Gillan shanked a 31-yard punt that set Washington up at its 33-yard line. The defense bailed Gillan and the Giants out by stopping the Commanders just a few yards shy of being able to attempt a game-winning field goal.