LANDOVER, Md. — Two goal line stands earned the Giants their first division win of the season, 20-12 over the Washington Commanders at FedEx Field on Sunday night, and inched them closer to their first playoff berth since 2016.
A Darnay Holmes pass breakup with 48 seconds remaining on a Taylor Heinicke pass intended for Curtis Samuel in the end zone was the deciding play.
Holmes was draped all over Samuel, but no flag was thrown. That followed a Dexter Lawrence strip sack of Heinicke in the red zone on the previous drive.
The Giants’ win bumped them to 8-5-1 on the season and increased their playoff berth probability from 46% to 87%, per FiveThirtyEight.com. They secured their first NFC East victory of the season. The Commanders fell to (7-6-1).
The Giants might need only one more win in their final three games to clinch a postseason berth, since the Detroit Lions (7-7) or Seattle Seahawks (7-7) would have to win out to be better than a 9-7-1 final Giants record.
Heinicke tried to hand the Giants the game with 1:08 to play, throwing a pass directly to corner Nick McCloud in the end zone. But McCloud dropped the pass intended for Commanders receiver Jahan Doston.
Kayvon Thibodeaux, who got hurt on the game’s final play, capped a huge night by stopping a Heinicke scramble at the 1-yard line earlier on the final drive.
Washington back Brian Robinson Jr. appeared to score the possible game-tying touchdown, but Terry McLaurin was penalized for illegal formation, nullifying the score.
Washington had charged back from an 11-point second half deficit with a 19-yard Taylor Heinicke touchdown pass to Jahan Dotson in the third quarter and missed the extra point.
The teams split field goals. And with the Giants up 17-12 midway through the fourth quarter, Heinicke hit a 61-yard bomb to wideout Jahan Dotson down to the Giants’ 30-yard line to set up what looked like a possible go-ahead touchdown.
But Lawrence strip-sacked Heinicke in the red zone, and Brian Daboll successfully challenged the play to secure a Leonard Williams fumble recovery. Then Saquon Barkley ran hard to set up Graham Gano’s second 50-yard field goal of the evening for the 20-12 lead with 1:55 to play before the wild finish.
The Giants have three regular season games remaining: Christmas Eve at the Minnesota Vikings, a Week 17 home finale against the Indianapolis Colts, and a Week 18 rematch at the Philadelphia Eagles.
Philly likely will have the NFC’s No. 1 seed clinched by then and could be resting some starters.
The Giants rode a huge second quarter to a 14-3 halftime lead headlined by some of their biggest names.
Thibodeaux, playing like a man possessed, strip-sacked Heinicke and returned the fumble one yard for his first NFL touchdown and a 7-3 lead with 13:10 left in the second quarter.
The No. 5 overall pick had sacked Heinicke in overtime of the teams’ 20-20 two weeks prior but hadn’t knocked the ball out. So he finished the job Sunday.
It wasn’t just the sack, though.
With 10 minutes left in the second quarter, Thibodeaux already had seven tackles, including six solo and three for a loss, plus a QB hit, the sack, forced fumble, recovery and TD.
Jones and the offense then piggybacked on the defense’s score with an 18-play, 97-yard touchdown drive that ate up eight minutes and 35 seconds of game clock.
Jones completed 10-of-12 passes on the drive for 91 yards, completing passes to five different receivers. That included three receptions each for Richie James and Isaiah Hodgins.
The money play was Jones’ 11-yard completion to James on 4th and 9 from the Commanders’ 35-yard line just before the two-minute warning.
Saquon Barkley capped the drive off with a 3-yard touchdown run out of the Wildcat with Jones sweeping behind him with some effective misdirection. And that 14-3 lead at 1:43 of the second quarter held until half.
It marked the Giants’ first double-digit halftime lead since Week 17 of the 2020 season against the Dallas Cowboys, per ESPN Stats and Info. That ended a streak of 30 games without one, the second longest in the NFL behind only the Jets’ 32.
INJURIES AND INACTIVES
Corners Adoree Jackson (knee) and Rodarius Williams, wide receiver David Sills, linebacker Tae Crowder, and guards Shane Lemieux (toe) and Jack Anderson were inactive for Sunday’s game. Lemieux didn’t even make the trip. Williams and Crowder both are in Daboll’s doghouse after complaining about playing time on Twitter … The NBC broadcast reported at halftime that Giants tight end Nick Vannett had gone to the locker room for X-rays. Vannett still played some snaps in the second half … Corner Darnay Holmes got hurt on a third-down run stop in the third quarter. His left arm was hanging limp as he labored off the field, and he went into the medical tent. But he returned in the fourth. Corner Fabian Moreau also was in the medical tent in the first half but stayed in … Thibodeaux seemingly got poked in the eye on the final defensive play of the game and was being tended to by trainers.