Giants come up with huge plays to finally get first win

If only the Giants could play the Washington Football Team every week.

Rookie linebacker Tae Crowder’s 43-yard return of a fumble for a tie-breaking touchdown and Dexter Lawrence sniffing out a two-point conversion attempt in the fourth quarter were the key plays in a 20-19 win Sunday that put to bed fears of the Giants finishing with just the NFL’s third-ever 0-16 record.

The victory was Joe Judge’s first as head coach of the Giants.

Beating Washington has been the one constant during a four-year malaise inflicting the Giants, who have earned five of their NFL-low 13 wins since 2017 at the expense of their fellow NFC East bottom-feeder.

Playing as a favorite for the first and maybe only time this season, the Giants (1-5) jumped out to a 10-point lead but were precariously positioned with less than four minutes to go. But Washington quarterback Kyle Allen was strip-sacked by Kyler Fackrell, and Crowder — the last pick of the 2020 NFL Draft — scooped and scored.

Allen responded by leading a 75-yard touchdown drive, but Washington (1-5) attempted to win the game outright by going for two. Allen rolled to his left but, under pressure by Lawrence, found no targets, and the Giants sealed the win with an onside kick recovery.

The fumble recovery and conversion stop were the second and third huge plays of the game by the Giants defense, which helped increase a 3-0 first-quarter lead. James Bradberry continued his Pro Bowl-caliber season and set up great field position by intercepting Allen, his former Carolina Panthers teammate.

Daniel Jones snapped a four-game streak without a touchdown pass — the longest for the Giants since 1981 — with a 23-yard teardrop to his favorite target on third-and-6. All three of Jones’ touchdown passes this season have gone to Darius Slayton, who couldn’t slow his head of steam before banging his already injured foot against the sideline padding.

Rotating rookies Andrew Thomas and Matt Peart at left tackle, the Giants scored on each of their first three possessions, with a Gano 20-yard chip shot capping off a 73-yard drive that included two runs for 58 yards by Jones. The 49-yarder was the Giants’ longest since Saquon Barkley’s 68-yard touchdown run in the 2019 season finale.

The game turned late in the first half when the Giants appeared to be regaining possession at their 1-yard line, protecting a 13-3 lead. But a penalty for running into the punter against Austin Johnson convinced Rivera to pull his punt team and gamble on fourth-and-4.

The reward was a 15-yard completion and, five plays later, a touchdown catch by Logan Thomas. It was the fifth time in six games that the Giants defense has allowed a touchdown drive covering at least 70 yards in the final two minutes of the first half.

The Giants came away with zero points on two drives into field-goal range in the third quarter.

A loss by Devonta Freeman on third-and-1 from Washington’s 37-yard line led to an intentional delay of game penalty and a punt that wound up gaining just 19 yards of field position. It was the second ultra-conservative fourth-down decision by the Giants, who kicked a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line earlier.

The seemingly weekly devastating mistake by Jones came late in the third, when he didn’t throw the ball far enough out the back of the end zone on first-and-goal from the 7-yard line. Kendall Fuller’s diving interception was upheld on replay review, leaving Jones with at least one turnover in 18 of his 19 career games.

Giants receiver C.J. Board left the field on a cart in the third quarter after his neck was immobilized, his face mask removed and he was lifted onto a backboard. Board was hit around the shoulder by Deshazor Everett and dropped a pass as he crumbled to the turf. Teammate Nick Gates was first on the scene and immediately waved for the trainers.

Board underwent X-rays at the stadium and was diagnosed with a concussion and sprained neck before he was taken to the hospital.

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