LANDOVER, Md. — Pride prevented the Giants from sliding any further into the NFL’s abyss.
Wink Martindale’s defense forced five Washington turnovers and scored a touchdown, a 54-yard Isaiah Simmons pick-six to ice the game with 16 seconds to play. The Giants forced six Commanders giveaways overall.
And rookie quarterback Tommy DeVito threw three touchdown passes, including two to Saquon Barkley, in a badly-needed 31-19 win at FedEx Field. It marks DeVito’s first career NFL victory.
Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll can at least breathe at their Thanksgiving dinner tables after snapping a three-game losing streak, even though the Giants allowed an insane nine sacks to Washington’s defense.
It is the Giants’ first win in franchise history when allowing eight or more sacks in a game.
The Giants (3-8) were teetering on the verge of collapse with only one win in their previous eight games. They had just been embarrassed by the Las Vegas Raiders (30-6) and Dallas Cowboys (49-17) in back-to-back road disasters.
Players were complaining about coaches and yelling at them on the sideline. There were even nervous moments at the end of this win over Washington (4-7), as there often are.
A Sam Howell touchdown pass to Jahan Dotson with 2:16 remaining put the Giants on their heels. DeVito’s offense gave the ball right back. And Washington was moving the ball until Howell tossed his third interception under pressure to Simmons, the preseason trade acquisition from Arizona.
But the Giants earned this win, sweeping this head-to-head NFC East season series and forcing six turnovers for the first time since 2014, also at Washington.
The offense scored 17 of its 24 points off Washington turnovers. And although victories push the Giants further away from the No. 1 overall pick in April’s NFL Draft, that is not the concern of the players on this roster.
They are looking for a reason to keep believing. There weren’t many left prior to Sunday.
DeVito’s biggest throw of the day was his third touchdown pass of the day: a 5-yard throw to Barkley for a 21-12 lead with 13:32 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Giants forced three of Washington’s five turnovers in the second half.
Nick McCloud and Dane Belton forced a Byron Pringle on the opening kickoff of the half recovered by rookie Gervarrius Owens.
Bobby Okereke punched out a fumble by Washington back Chris Rodriquez Jr. recovered by Micah McFadden at Washington’s 35 with 42 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Giants, who had zero rushing yards to that point, got 37 on two carries for Barkley on the ensuing drive. Then a smart play-call and 26-yard completion to Daniel Bellinger set up Barkley’s second score of the day.
Darnay Holmes then picked off Howell after Jason Pinnock and Dexter Lawrence hit the Commanders QB as he threw. That set up a 36-yard Randy Bullock field goal for a 24-12 lead with 6:48 to play in the fourth.
The Giants led, 14-9, at halftime. It was their first lead at the half since their first meeting with Washington one month ago.
More importantly, it was a welcome change from the 24-0 and 28-0 halftime deficits they’d faced the last two weeks in blowout losses to the Raiders and Cowboys, respectively.
The Giants defense, coming off its worst game of the season against Dallas, started fast and forced turnovers on Washington’s first two possessions.
Corner Nick McCloud intercepted a deep Howell pass on the Giants’ 13-yard line. Then corner Cor’Dale Flott forced a Logan Thomas fumble recovered by safety Xavier McKinney at Washington’s 45.
McKinney’s recovery set up the first Giants touchdown in any first quarter of a game this season.
DeVito put some vodka sauce on a 24-yard wheel route touchdown pass to Saquon Barkley in the back right corner of the end zone for a 7-0 lead with 6:29 remaining in the first quarter.
DeVito completed six of his first seven passes for 87 yards in the first quarter, including three passes of 21 or more yards.
But he was also sacked five times in the first quarter, frequently as he held the ball too long. The Commanders became the first defense since 2006 to record five sacks of an opponent in the first quarter of a game.
Martindale’s defense held the fort, though.
Kayvon Thibodeaux had a big first half and game (two sacks, five tackles). He hit Howell in the red zone to force an incompletion and a 23-yard Joey Slye field goal to make it 7-3 Giants with 2:12 remaining in the first quarter.
Jamie Gillan and Darnay Holmes made a good punt-and-cover special teams play to steady the field position. And A’Shawn Robinson stopped a third-down run for a Washington three-and-out early in the second quarter.
DeVito failed to convert a 4th and 2 at Washington’s 34-yard line. But the defense forced another punt and set up the Giants’ second scoring drive.
DeVito proceeded to complete 3-of-4 passes for 58 yards on the ensuing possession, capped by a 40-yard TD pass to a wide-open Darius Slayton. That put Daboll’s team up 14-3 with 5:50 remaining in the half.
And although DeVito was sacked a sixth time before halftime, he trotted into the locker room with a respectable 14-of-19 passing for 189 yards and two TDs.
He managed that even though the Giants had eight carries for zero yards on the ground, including six rushes for -2 yards for Barkley (he had three catches for 52 yards and a TD).
Howell and running back Brian Robinson Jr. did tack on Washington’s first touchdown before halftime: an 8-yard Howell TD run with 1:32 to play. Slye missed the extra point to make the score 14-9.
And Giants corner Cor’Dale Flott and Washington receiver Curtis Samuel were ejected for throwing punches after Howell’s touchdown, during a melee caused by a legal McKinney hit on Howell as he fought for the end zone.
The defense’s fight set the tone for the entire afternoon, though. The Giants played with pride and got the result because of it.