Heading into the Sunday Night Football game, Washington was in a strong position, controlling its own destiny. A win would cement the team solidly in the 6th seed position for the playoffs, while a loss to the division rival Giants, who entered the game with an identical 7-5-1 record would make the road to the playoffs a bit rockier.
Season averages for team stats
Washington entered the game, as it has every one since mid-November last year, without DE Chase Young, who continues to not be ready to play following a severe ACL injury last season. The most significant inactive player besides Young was probably 2nd year cornerback Benjamin St-Juste, who missed his 3rd consecutive game due to injury. Washington’s offensive line depth was tested with two centers on injured reserve, and backup guard Saahdiq Charles unavailable due to concussion symptoms which developed mid-week. Rookie guard Chris Paul was active for the game, and Wes Martin was elevated from the practice squad to provide depth to the position group.
For the first time since the Bears game in Week 6, Carson Wentz was healthy and active. He backed up Taylor Heinicke for the first time since the Commanders traded for him in the offseason, so the rookie QB was inactive for the first time since Week 7.
Before SNF ever kicked off, the Seattle Seahawks lost and the Detroit Lions won, giving them identical 7-7 records, and putting both of them a half game behind the loser of the Giants-Commanders game, and effectively 2 games behind the winner.
With Dallas losing on the road to the Jaguars to fall to 10-5, the door also remained open for the Commanders, with a win on Sunday night, to remain in solid contention for 2nd place in the NFC East division and the #5 seed in the NFC playoffs.
In short, while not quite a playoff game with win-and-in implications, this was a huge game in the 2022 season.
Tailgate vibes at FedEx Field are strong despite the ice cold temperatures. It feels like important football is getting played tonight.— Grant Paulsen (@granthpaulsen) December 18, 2022
The Giants won the coin toss and deferred, so the Commanders got the ball at the 25 yard line to start the game wearing all-burgundy uniforms for the first time this season.
Heinicke ran out of the tunnel w his left hand up— JP Finlay (@JPFinlayNBCS) December 19, 2022
Brian Robinson got the first two touches — one run, one pass — to pick up the initial first down of the game, setting the team up at midfield. Heinicke got his overthrow of Logan Thomas out of the way early, missing him at the 30-yard line on a 1st down play. Terry McLaurin got 4 yards on a 3rd & 5, and Ron Rivera decided to go for it on 4th & 1; Brian Robinson extended the drive with a bruising 5 yard run.
On 3rd & 9 from the 31, Heinicke took a sack to stall the drive at the 35-yard-line. In a move that was not popular with the crowd, Tress Way came on to punt.
Ron Rivera is punting from the 34 yard-I ... don't understand this.— Grant Paulsen (@granthpaulsen) December 19, 2022
Some confusion about punt or kick. Gotta try a FG from the 34.— JP Finlay (@JPFinlayNBCS) December 19, 2022
I'm not sure when the last time I saw a team punt from inside the 35 was.— Grant Paulsen (@granthpaulsen) December 19, 2022
You don't see it often. https://t.co/Ub3hPBsvGz
Instead of fair-catching the ball, the Giants return man brought the ball back to the 30-yard line, meaning a change of field position of only about 5 yards.
The Giants earned only 3 yards on one play, and punted to top off a 3 & out drive. Dax Milne, playing his first game since Week 11, made a fair catch, and Washington set up for the second offensive drive of the game at the Commanders’ 30-yard-line.
Hogs defense flying to the ball. Great series— JP Finlay (@JPFinlayNBCS) December 19, 2022
The Giants improved that starting field position by jumping offsides on 1st down. On the ensuing snap, Brian Robinson made 15 yards as the hard center of a giant burgundy scrum.
After 3 more runs (Heinicke, Robinson, Gibson) the Commanders had 1st & 10 on the Giants 25-yard-line. Two plays later, facing 3rd & 12, Washington got a delay of game penalty followed by a false start to make it 3rd & 22. A quick pass to Curtis Samuel got the ball to the 23 yard line where, this time, Ron Rivera elected to kick the 41-yard field goal to take a 3-0 lead.
I would have punted instead of kicking the field goal.— Chad Ryan (@ChadwikoTWW) December 19, 2022
Consistency is key.
At this point, Washington had run 18 plays (11 rushes for 51 yards) and earned 6 first downs; NY had managed just a 3 & out.
With 2:51 remaining in the first quarter, the Giants started their 2nd offensive drive of the game. Two runs by Saquon Barkley got the G-men their initial first down of the game.
The 2nd quarter opened with the Commanders leading 3-0, and the Giants facing a 3rd & 6 at their own 40 yard line. Good pressure by Montez Sweat and coverage by Bobby McCain forced the punt.
Dax Milne fielded the punt cleanly at the 18 yard line, where the Commanders negated a big run for a 1st down with a holding call.
On the following play, with Taylor Heinicke standing on the 1-yard-line, Giant’s pass rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux, who had already had a monster of a 1st quarter, knocked the ball out of the quarterback’s hand, picked up the loose ball, and stepped into the end zone for a touchdown.
The irony of that Giants' defensive TD.— Grant Paulsen (@granthpaulsen) December 19, 2022
It was Thibodeaux who came around the edge and tagged Heinicke from behind at the end of the game on his own goal line. He held on to the ball last time. Not this time.
With 13 minutes left in the first half, Washington trailed 7-3 against the Giants, who had mustered only 27 yards of offense, but came up with the huge defensive scoring play.
Antonio Gibson returned the kickoff to the 32 yard line, where the offense set up for its 4th drive of the game. Robinson got the drive off to a good start with a 13-yard gain. Former Washington player Landon Collins got the stop on 2nd down.
The Commanders managed one more first down, but back-to-back incompletions against tight coverage forced a Tress Way punt that was downed by the Commanders at the 3 yard line thanks to an incredible effort by Cam Sims, who stopped the ball at the 1-foot line before he let go of the ball and fell into the end zone.
The Giants got a pass to tight end Vannett who picked up the needed first down at the Giants 20-yard line. Barkley got 10 yards on the next play, and then was stuffed for a 5-yard loss by Jon Allen. After a limited gain, the Giants had 3rd & 9 at the 31 yard line, where Jones threw a pass under heavy pressure for the first down.
A few more passes, and a run, and NY had 1st & 10 at the Washington 36-yard line. An incompletion, a false start, and a short completion brought up 3rd & 9 at Washington’s 35-yard line. Under heavy pressure from James Smith-Williams, Jones threw the ball away.
Both coaches reluctant to kick FG on one side of the field. Wind must be swirling. Wasnt pregame bc I was down there.— JP Finlay (@JPFinlayNBCS) December 19, 2022
Facing 4th & 9, the Giants, with 2:23 left in the half, kept the offense on the field, and converted the first down with a 10-yard reception by Richie James to go to the 2-minute-warning with a 1st down at the Washington 24-yard-line.
The Giants just converted a 4th-and-9 to keep a drive alive that has already spanned 8:18 on the clock.— Grant Paulsen (@granthpaulsen) December 19, 2022
Daniel Jones has been sharper than a knife on this series and he just threw a dime into a tiny window to move the sticks there.
This Commanders defense feels like it did earlier in the season.— Chad Ryan (@ChadwikoTWW) December 19, 2022
Soft coverages and a lack of pass rush.#HTTC
The next play — a reception by TE Hodges on a laser-like pass from Daniel Jones — got the ball to the 5 yard line where it was now 1st & goal with 1:51 left in the half.
Daniel Jones would be a Hall of Fame QB if he got to play Washington every week— Cody (@CodyShook_) December 19, 2022
The Giants had driven the length of the field, and completed the18-play, 97-yard drive with a direct snap to Saquon Barkley who scooted into the end zone untouched to put his team ahead 14-3.
After a first quarter in which the Commanders controlled the clock and compiled stats while taking a 3-0 lead, the Giants dominated the second quarter with a huge defensive score and a crisp offensive drive to take a 2-score lead with about 100 ticks left on the clock.
The Giants just went on an 18-play drive that gained 102 yards. Spanned nine game minutes.— Grant Paulsen (@granthpaulsen) December 19, 2022
(Didn't know that was possible but they got the ball at the 3 and overcame a penalty in the process of going the length of the field).
Washington started their final drive of the half at their own 21-yard line with a sense of urgency. They managed to get one first down but couldn’t get across midfield and had to punt again facing a 4th & 5 with 25 seconds left in the half.
The Giants, leading 14-3, took a knee and went to the locker room having outplayed Washington in the first 30 minutes.
Saquon Barkley was held to 13 yards on 7 carries and Daniel Jones rushed 3 times for just 6 yards. Washington had the higher time of possession at 16:34. If I’d known ahead of time that these would be the halftime stats, I would have anticipated that Washington would have controlled the game flow and the scoreboard.
The difference makers were Kayvon Thibodeaux on defense, who dominated the Commanders offensive line for the entire half, and Daniel Jones on offense, whose passing was extremely sharp, especially on the long scoring drive.
Taylor Heinicke's got to give the Commanders more int he second half.— Grant Paulsen (@granthpaulsen) December 19, 2022
He's 0/3 on throws beyond 10 yards.
He's -4.2% CPOE.
Just 7/13 for 55 yards.
Washington’s run game looked good, but the inability to score more than 3 points combined with the huge turnover meant that the burgundy & gold was getting beaten badly as the teams retook the field after halftime, with the Giants offense getting the ball.
The Giants set up for business at the 25 yard line. They managed to get one first down, but were forced to punt from their own 42-yard line; Washington took over on their 8-yard line following another Dax Milne fair catch.
Taylor Heinicke started the Commanders’ 6th offensive drive by throwing to Terry McLaurin for an 18-yard catch and run. Another pass to Terry and a sweep by Dyami Brown added two more first downs and put the Commanders at the Giants 45 yard line.
A pre-snap penalty moved them back to midfield. Another catch & run by Terry McLaurin for 20 yards erased that mistake, and established McLaurin as one of the few player in franchise history to have 3 consecutive 1,000 yard seasons.
An offense that looked listless in the first half looked creative and explosive; the exclamation point was put on the drive by Jahan Dotson, who caught a 19-yard touchdown pass — his 6th of the season — to add 6 points.
Commanders just came out of halftime and immediately marched 91 yards for a TD.— Grant Paulsen (@granthpaulsen) December 19, 2022
Taylor Heinicke was 5/5 for 81 yards and a dime for a TD on the drive. He was accurate and the Giants had now answers. The 20-yard TD throw was perfect. He needed that drive really badly.
Washington went for the 2-point conversion, which was initially successful, but erased by Jahan Dotson’s 2nd offensive pass interference call this month. It was a terrible call, as detailed by Chris Collinsworth on the CBS broadcast.
Crowd at FedEx is now chanting "BULL-SHIT, BULL-SHIT!"— Nicki Jhabvala (@NickiJhabvala) December 19, 2022
Joey Slye came on the field for the PAT, but missed wide right. The score was 14-9 in favor of the Giants.
On the Giants ensuing possession, it appeared for a moment as if Daniel Jones had fumbled, but he was correctly ruled down by contact, and the drive continued.
Danny Johnson just rag-dolled Daniel Jones.— Chad Ryan (@ChadwikoTWW) December 19, 2022
The ball popped out and was recovered by Washington. Refs are reviewing it.
Ball started coming out as Jones hit the ground so honestly this call could go either way.
Call on field was a fumble.#HTTC pic.twitter.com/GlKso2kkgu
The Giants managed to get across midfield, but a holding call put them back, and they ended up with a 3rd & 15 at the Washington 42. A good scramble by Jones put them in field goal range, and Graham Gano hit the 5-yarder to make the score 17-9.
We might pre-emptively need to setup a GoFundMe for Ron Rivera, because he is furious and is liable to say some shit that gets him fined in his post-game press conference.— Chad Ryan (@ChadwikoTWW) December 19, 2022
So let's help him get his money's worth.
Washington took over at their own 25 yard line, trailing by 8 points with about 3 minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter.
After a nice run by Brian Robinson, the Commanders ran a flea flicker on 2nd down; the Giants weren’t fooled and the pass fell incomplete. Landon Collins made the 3rd down tackle to force a punt on 4th & 1.
One thing that hasn't worked tonight? Curtis Samuel getting carries out of the RB spot.— Grant Paulsen (@granthpaulsen) December 19, 2022
He's got 4 rushes for 0 yards and was just stopped a yard shy of the sticks on a big third down.
Team MVP Tress Way kicked a 65-yard punt that rolled to a stop at the Giants 1-yard line.
It was time for the defense to step up and make a stop. After a run and an incompletion, the Giants faced 3rd & 5 at their own 6 yard line. An incomplete pass forced the punt. At this point the Commanders were 0-6 on 3rd down and the Giants were 1-7.
The Giants punter boomed a huge 56 -yard punt. Dax Milne had a short return and lost the ball, but was correctly ruled down by contact at the Commanders 42-yard line.
Milne's knee is down before the ball came out.— Chad Ryan (@ChadwikoTWW) December 19, 2022
Boy, that looked like it hurt though.
(Also, the Giants blatantly held one of the Commanders rushers on the punt at the LOS and there was no call).#HTTC pic.twitter.com/SZ5FMSIX61
Commanders take over at their own 44 down by one score. Tress Way's punt completely changed the game.— Grant Paulsen (@granthpaulsen) December 19, 2022
Now Washington needs to make it mean something.
Washington ran one play for 4 yards to end the quarter. As the teams entered the final stanza, the Giants led by 8 points, and the Commanders had a 2nd & 6 at the Washington 46-yard line.
On the first play of the quarter, Brian Robinson appeared to be stopped for a loss; instead, he broke a play that resulted in a 3rd & 1. On the 3rd down play, Heinicke kept the ball on a naked bootleg, running for 15 yards and a 1st down at the Giants 34 yard line.
Gibson fumbled the football on 2nd down, but it bounced right back to him. Facing 3rd & 9, the Giants blitzed and hit Taylor Heinicke, forcing an incompletion and bringing Joey Slye out for a 51 yard field goal attempt that started out to the right and took a sharp curve to split the uprights. The Commanders added the 3 points to make the score 17-12.
With his two field goals tonight, Joey Slye is now 22/25 on the season.— Grant Paulsen (@granthpaulsen) December 19, 2022
He's connected from 41 and 51. He's now 4/5 from 50+ on the season.
The Giants took over at their own 25 yard line with 12:51 left in the game.
After one first-down, the Giants faced 3rd & 6 at their own 48 yard line. Another good pass from Daniel Jones, who had all day to scan the field, gave the Giants a 1st down on Washington’s side of the midfield stripe.
Two plays later, it was 3rd & 8. An incomplete pass defended by Darrick Forrest forced a punt from the Commanders 42-yard line.
Milne made a fair catch at the Washington 9-yard line with just over 9 minutes remaining in the game. The Giants last three drives comprised 3 punts and a field goal.
It was time for Washington’s offense to get to work. They wasted no time. On 1st down, Heinicke hit Jahan Dotson on a 61 yard pass play to the Giants 30 yard line.
That play was followed up by a Brian Robinson 19-yard run to the New York 11 yard line.
On 3rd & 4 from the 5, Taylor Heinicke was sacked for a 4 yard loss.
After Brian Dobell threw the red challenge flag, the review changed the call on the field — Heinicke fumbled and the Giants recovered. This was a huge play in the game.
With 6:06 remaining in the game, the Giants started another drive from their own 14-yard line. Three Saquon Barkley runs using the duo blocks that the Falcons used effectively against Washington’s defense put the ball across midfield. A run by Daniel Jones added a 4th 1st down at the Commanders 35 yard line with under 3 minutes left in the game.
Washington finally got a stop on 3rd down at the 2 minute warning, bringing out New York’s field goal unit for a 50-yard attempt that would make it 20-12. For a moment, I didn’t think he had enough distance, but he did, and the Giants took the 8-point lead.
Washington took over with one final chance to tie the game on a weekend when there had been a lot of overtime machups.
Antonio Gibson returned the ball to the 43-yard line. Taylor Heinicke had the ball and one timeout; his team needed a touchdown and a 2-point conversion to tie the game.
On first down, Curtis Samuel caught a ball on the sideline for 27 yards, settting up the offense at the Giants’ 30 yard line. Dotson caught a pass at the 10-yard-line to set up 1st & goal with 1:13 left.
The next play was busted - the snap was high; Heinicke threw a pass that hit the DB in the hands in the end zone, but the interception-that-should-have-been was dropped.
On the next play, Heinicke scrambled to the right and I had visions of another pylon dive. Instead, he took a big hit at the 1-yard line to set up 3rd & goal with 63 second left in the game.
On the following play, Brian Robinson went in for the touchdown, but the play was negated by an illegal formation penalty (Terry McLaurin was not on the line of scrimmage), pushing the offense back to the 6 yard line.
Terry McLaurin looks at the ref asking if he’s good - ref points back at McLaurin as of to indicate he’s good. McLaurin then gives a thumbs up to ref to acknowledge it. This “penalty” took a Brian Robinson TD off the board. Via @SNFonNBC pic.twitter.com/B86N6nsJsS— Matthew Berry (@MatthewBerryTMR) December 19, 2022
Heinicke threw the ball away under intense pressure, bringing up 4th & goal from the 6 year line.
Heinicke had all day to scan the end zone; with his feet on the 20-yard line, he threw the ball to Curtis Samuel, but the pass was broken up to give the Giants the critical win
Incomplete on 4th down, and Washington's season just got really, really complicated. pic.twitter.com/AxsWLoGGZC— Chad Ryan (@ChadwikoTWW) December 19, 2022
No call for DPI on the last play of the game.— Chad Ryan (@ChadwikoTWW) December 19, 2022
The officiating was frankly criminal tonight. pic.twitter.com/vS4ahdTndO
He held him the whole F’N play and they didn’t call that. This is why people say sports are rigged and they will call the calls for who they want to win it’s the WWE at the end of the day. pic.twitter.com/OGbG3iue7n— Zac (@DCzWall) December 19, 2022
Ron Rivera, in his post-game press conference, appeared unimpressed with the officiating in the final goal-to-go series.
The Commanders got a chance to run two plays inside the six yard-line to score what could've been a game-tying TD.— Grant Paulsen (@granthpaulsen) December 19, 2022
Refs sucked. Also can’t score 12 points in the biggest game of the year, goodnight— Nick Akridge (@PFF_NickAkridge) December 19, 2022