Washington got the division win on Thursday night at home against the Giants to go to 1-1 on the season and 1-0 inside the NFC East. It was a win that they definitely needed, but this game should never have been the nail-biter it turned out to be.
There were things about what Washington did that I liked. For example, Antonio Gibson averaged 5.3 yards per carry, and the coaches put J.D. McKissic back into the game plan, which paid off with his 56 yard pass reception on Washington’s 4th quarter 2-play touchdown drive.
Speaking of that drive, Ricky Seal-Jones — a player that I never really thought would make the 53-man roster — made a great catch (his first ever in burgundy & gold) to score on a great pass by Taylor Heinicke. It was the type of play that big time players make in difficult moments.
Overall, Heinicke threw 46 passes, completing 74% for 336 yards and 2 TDs. His one interception was at a bad spot on the field and at a bad point in the game, but was more of a great defensive play by Bradberry than a bad throw by No. 4.
Fortunately, Jason Garrett, Saquon Barkley and the Washington defense bailed the young quarterback out on the Giants offensive drive that followed the game’s only turnover. Offensive coordinator Garrett called three straight runs up the middle, with Barkley looking like his only goal was to get to the ground without dropping the ball. The Giants kicked a field goal to take a 2-point lead, but the drive took only 16 seconds off the clock, leaving Washington 2 full minutes to drive down the field for a field goal and the win. For the first time ever, I imagine Washington fans will be pleased with how Ron Rivera used his 2nd half timeouts in a game.
Defensively, Jonathan Allen picked up his 2nd & 3rd sacks of the season, putting him on track for 2 dozen sacks this season if he can keep up this blistering pace.
Washington didn’t control the game, and they got plenty of help from the Giants and from the game officials.
Dustin Hopkins missed the game-winning kick from 48-yards, but got a “do over” because of an offside penalty on Dex Lawrence, who was lined up over center. I re-watched that play at full speed and slow motion, and I don’t think Lawrence moved before the ball did.
But that wasn’t the first time the Giants and refs affected the scoreboard to favor Washington. Daniel Jones, in the middle of the second quarter, absolutely suckered the WFT defense on a zone read when he kept the ball and scampered 58 yards into the end zone, only to have the TD nullified by a marginal holding call against a Giants receiver downfield.
The most direct help that the New York team gave to Washington came in the form of a sure TD pass to Darius Slayton at the goal line that he couldn’t pull in. There wasn’t a defender within 20 yards on the play.
Having touchdowns turned into field goals hurt the Giants and helped Washington.
Back-to-back false start penalties by the Giants with 5:36 left in the game may not have cost the G-men points, but they killed any opportunity to earn a first down and kill some clock.
In all, the Giants were responsible for 11 accepted penalties for 81 yards, largely nullifying a strong performance by Daniel Jones.
But Washington was penalized 9 times for 80 yards as well. That’s a level of undisciplined play that can’t continue if the Football Team expects to beat better teams than the Giants.
Also, against Daniel Jones, Washington’s defense wasn’t able to force a turnover.
And they allowed Danny Dimes to throw for 249 yards, rush for 96 yards (10.6 yards per carry), and account for 2 touchdowns — one passing and one rushing.
Washington’s defense — touted for the past several months as possibly the NFL’s best — barely looked better against the Giants than they had on Sunday against the Chargers. They gave up 21 first downs — 4 by penalty. They let the Giants put up 391 yards and 29 points. The Giants scored on 7 offensive drives, and were forced to punt just 3 times.
It was disturbing to feel so ice-in-the-veins confident that Graham Gano would make every kick, including the 55-yarder to take the lead, but feel myself doubting that Hopkins would hit the game-winning 48-yard kick.
After the Chargers game, I felt like Washington had the chance to get back on track by beating the Giants, but what I imagined was a game where Daniel Jones was sacked repeatedly, gave up multiple turnovers, and a game which the Giants lost by two scores. When Washington went to the locker room at halftime leading 14-10, I expected that to be the closest the Giants would be for the remainder of the game as the burgundy & gold took over in the second half.
This squeaker, a win in a game where the Giants had points taken off the board by sloppy play and touchy penalties, and a game in which Daniel Jones looked comfortable for the entire second half, is not at all what I had in mind.
Don’t get me wrong, a win is a win, and is better than the alternative. I’d always rather win ugly than lose pretty, but Washington has now played two games and Taylor Heinicke and Terry McLaurin have carried the team while the defense, outside of stud Jon Allen, has looked stunningly average (or maybe worse). That’s not who this team is supposed do be.
Washington has to travel to Buffalo in Week 3. They also have the Saints, Chiefs, Packers, Broncos and Buccaneers all on the schedule between now and the Week 9 bye. I don’t expect them to win all of those games under any circumstances, but if the defense can’t figure things out and if the team can’t clean up the penalties, then I don’t see how Washington can beat any of those teams. To have a successful season, the team needs to get a win or two against those six tough teams, and then win most of their games (especially the divisional matchups) in the 2nd half of the season.
So, happy victory Friday, but the team needs to use the long week between now and Sunday’s game in Buffalo to figure out how to get more out of the talent they have on the defensive side of the ball in order to — dare I say it? — give some help to Taylor Heinicke and Terry McLaurin, who, so far, have had to carry the team.