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Giants-Commanders: 5 plays that helped the Giants win

NFL: Washington Commanders at New York Giants Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants narrowly escaped MetLife Stadium with a 14-7 victory over the Washington Commanders on Sunday. Washington was smothered by the Giants’ defense all game. New York sacked Washington quarterback Sam Howell six times - the Giants entered the game with five sacks on the season.

Tyrod Taylor not only kept the Giants on script, but the offense had seven explosive plays after having only 14 through six games. The Giants gained 356 yards to Washington’s 273; 166 of Washington’s yards were on their final two drives.

Despite a dominating first half, a muffed punt by Sterling Shepard set Washington up for a four yard touchdown rush by Brian Robinson.

The pendulum of momentum swung toward Washington in the second half. New York had several plays in the latter half that attempted to force the pendulum back to the home team, but mistakes prevented the Giants from adding points.

The Giants made this game too interesting for comfort, but found a way to win. The defense prevailed in this matchup, and that’s where we’ll start on this week’s edition of five impactful plays.

Play(s) 1: Under pressure

Sam Howell had been sacked 34 times through six weeks of the season; that led the league by a wide margin. Howell was sacked six times by the Giants, who only had five total sacks heading into the game. Dexter Lawrence, who had zero sacks on the season, was able to do his Sexy Dexy dance twice.

Kayvon Thibodeaux split a sack with Micah McFadden, and both Jason Pinnock and Leonard Williams earned a sack. Unlike Weeks 5 and 6, the Giants dialed up the pressure against Howell, and harassed the quarterback all game. Here are some of those sacks:

Play(s) 2: Explosive offense

Yes, the Giants still need to find ways to score points, but they were able to generate seven explosive plays in this game; heading into Week 7, the Giants had just 14 total explosive plays. An explosive offense that can threaten teams vertically will lead to more points, and it will give the rushing attack, and quick passing game, more space to operate. Here are the three explosive plays that set up Darren Waller’s 15-yard touchdown:

Here is the touchdown to conclude one of the more explosive drives we’ve seen in recent Giants’ memory:

This was Darren Waller’s (12) first touchdown as a Giants. A beautifully placed back-shoulder throw from Taylor. Waller isn’t the only new addition making an impact. Rookie wide receiver Jalin Hyatt (13) had two explosive catches. Here is the first one on the Giants’ second drive that set up a field goal opportunity:

When the Giants were attempting to seal the victory in the fourth quarter, Taylor found Hyatt for his second catch that went for 42 yards:

The play above was before the Saquon Barkley fumble, but it was a huge moment that flipped the field and set New York up for success. Without an explosive element, any offense is limited. If the Giants can maintain this level of explosiveness against a team not named the Commanders, then the ceiling of this offense will take a massive jump.

Play(s) 3: Double B (Banks, Barkley)

With the football near midfield, Deonte Banks (25) intercepted Sam Howell (14) in zone coverage by recognizing the backside deep crossing route, and sinking underneath to undercut. Banks does not receive due credit for his awareness in zone coverage; this precocious trait allowed Banks to understand Washington’s intentions and identify the threat. The interception gave the Giants the football at Washington’s 48-yard line. This is what transpired two plays after Banks’ interception:

Barkley took this Taylor check-down to the house for 32 yards against athletic linebacker Jamin Davis (52). Here’s a cool look from NFL Next Gen:

Play(s) 4: Special teams

The much-maligned Giants’ special teams unit had two - almost - devastating mistakes in this game. Rookie Eric Gray muffed the first punt return attempt of the game; luckily for the Giants recovered. However, Gray’s replacement Sterling Shepard (3) muffed the first punt of the second half after the Giants’ defense forced a three-and-out:

Washington capitalized with the Robinson touchdown. This mistake was one of the any that allowed Washington to stay competitive and in the football game. It had Giants’ fans sounding similar complaints about the special teams unit. New York replaced Shepard with Darius Slayton. However, as disappointing as special teams have been this season, they came up with a huge field goal block, courtesy of Leonard Williams (99).

Washington finally established a rhythm against the Giants’ defense. Howell led an eight play, 81-yard, drive that resulted in zero points, thanks to Williams’ big paw. The Giants responded with a 10-play, 72-yard, that was supposed to be the nail in the coffin of Washington...

Play(s) 5: Fumble, and end of game sequence

Barkley rarely fumbles the football. He only had four career fumbles heading into this game, but defensive lineman Daron Payne (94) ripped the football out of his grasp:

Barkley hyper-extended his elbow early in the game, which could be one reason for the strip. Still, this play allowed Washington to proceed on a 17-play, 85-yard yard drive, down by only seven points. Howell converted a fourth-and-1, and finally worked the football to the Giants’ 7-yard line, where he faced his second fourth down on the drive:

Howell’s pass was behind Jahan Dotson (1), but the Giants escape with the football and 56 seconds on the clock. However, with three kneel downs and a timeout for Washington, the Commanders would receive the football with some time left in the game; well, at least they were supposed to.

On the last kneel down, Daron Payne got injured and couldn’t get off the field. This forced a run off of the clock, and the game was effectively over. The Giants made the game interesting, but escaped with the win.