At the end of the third quarter, with the New York Giants clinging to a 14-12 lead over the Washington Commanders and neither team playing anything that resembled winning football, long-time friend and D.C. sportswriter Rick Snider sent me an e-mail. Yes, e-mail. Not a text or a DM. Anyway, it read:
“This is the stupidest game.”
Yes. Yes it was.
The Giants gave up nine sacks, most-ever by the franchise in a game it ultimately won. They had 0 rushing yards at halftime and didn’t have a positive running play until Saquon Barkley went 36 yards on the final play of the fourth quarter.
Even up 24-12, the Giants appeared more than willing to keep the Commanders in the game. Maybe even to let them win it.
Two penalties, a neutral zone infraction on Jihad Ward on fourth-and-1 and roughing the passer on Kayvon Thibodeaux, helped Washington go 75 yards in 12 plays to pull within five points, 24-19, with 2:16 to play.
The Giants then went three-and-out in 19 seconds and gave the ball back to the Commanders with 1:49 to play.
The last mistake, though, belonged to Washington quarterback Sam Howell, a pick-six that Isaiah Simmons took 54 yards for a game-clinching touchdown.
Yes, I know some of you hoped the Giants wouldn’t win another game. Yes, I know some of you are bummed that the Giants dropped from the No. 2 overall pick to No. 5 in the 2024 NFL Draft.
Don’t tell me, or the Giants, that there isn’t a benefit to winning.
Just look at Saquon Barkley and Tommy DeVito coming off the field:
Just listen to coach Brian Daboll, and look at the wry smile on his face:
"Winning's good. Losing's not."— Giants Videos (@SNYGiants) November 19, 2023
- Brian Daboll pic.twitter.com/PJlQcXknUI
Yes, winning is good. Losing is not.
Whatever the Giants’ draft position turns out to be is what it turns out to be. If you haven’t seen enough drafts to understand by now that a higher pick doesn’t guarantee you a better player I don’t know what to tell you.
Before I go on, though, I have to mention that this might have been a perfect ending for a game between two bad teams at what might be the NFL’s worst stadium:
The Giants might have had to go home stinky. And Sunday’s game certainly wasn’t pretty. Winning is always better than losing, though. Players are putting their bodies on the line every time they step on the field. Livelihoods are constantly on the line.
“I don’t question our pride,” said Daboll. “I’m just happy for the players, the coaches, because they do the right stuff during the week. They practice, they prepare, they study extra, there’s extra meetings going on, they come in with a positive attitude when it’s not always easy to come in with a positive attitude.
“That’s why you do this is to try to win one game each week.”
“Just playing hard. It’s a divisional opponent, so we all knew what was on the line,” said Kayvon Thibodeaux. “It’s a game that mattered. I’m happy we got the win.”
A lot of good things happened for the Giants on Sunday.
- The Giants didn’t always play well, but they played hard throughout. They showed fight — literally (I see you, Cor’Dale Flott). Those worries about coach Brian Daboll losing the locker room will be quieted — at least for a while. Frustrations have mounted as the Giants have lost game after game. For now, players — and coaches — can exhale.
The other reality remains that the Giants are one of the NFL’s youngest teams. Many of the players on the field Sunday are going to be with the team next season and beyond. Winning games matters for them. Not accepting losing matters.
- DeVito went from nice story to a guy who showed he has to be given serious consideration as a No. 2 quarterback in 2024. DeVito caused some of the nine sacks he took with his own indecision, but he threw three touchdown passes and never turned the ball over.
Daboll said DeVito “has got a little juice about him.”
- In his second year, Kayvon Thibodeaux continued his rise toward becoming one of the game’s most dominant edge defenders. He had two sacks, giving him 10.5 on the season, two tackles for loss, three quarterback hits and a pass defensed.
Daboll seemed surprised to hear that Thibodeaux takes heat from the outside for not being productive enough:
"I'm glad we have Kayvon. He's a true competitor, a great teammate, a productive player for us, and I'm happy he's on our team."— Giants Videos (@SNYGiants) November 19, 2023
- Brian Daboll pic.twitter.com/pJtiHyr0bu
Maybe it’s time for that to stop.
- With the combination of Barkley’s brilliance, some big throws by DeVito, some excellent play calls by Mike Kafka (like sneaking tight end Daniel Bellinger out of the backfield for a 26-yard pass play and some excellent individual efforts the Giants found a way to create eight explosive plays of 21 yards or more.
- The Giants managed to turn those six Washington turnovers into 24 points. Complementary football works. How about that?
- Dexter Lawrence continued to show that he is one of the most dominant defensive linemen in the game.
Sunday was a good day for the Giants, and a good day to be a Giants fan. They won, which is what they are supposed to try to do.
Enjoy it. Worry about the draft when we see how the season unfolds.