The Giants have lost games this season, but not like this.
Well, they actually did not lose a game on Sunday. It only felt like they did.
When Graham Gano’s desperation 58-yard field-goal attempt fell far short, the Giants walked off the field at MetLife Stadium with a bizarre and unfulfilling 20-20 tie with the Commanders. The Giants once trailed 10-0 in the first quarter and took a 20-13 lead on Daniel Jones’ 6-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah Hodgins with 11:34 remaining in the third quarter. The Giants could not manage to find another point the rest of the way and that ineffectiveness — and at times ineptitude — on offense is what cost them a chance to enhance their playoff aspirations.
The Giants (7-4-1) halted their losing streak at two games and made sure the Commanders (7-5-1) stayed in last place in the NFC East. So there’s that.
Jones completed 25 of 31 passes for 200 yards and was the Giants’ leading rusher with 71 yards. Saquon Barkley scored a rushing touchdown in the second quarter but could not get untracked, rushing 18 times for 63 yards.
Neither team scored on its first possession in overtime. The Giants took over on their 14-yard line with 4:04 to go and finally got moving. A reception and run by Barkley produced a first down and back-to-back catches for Hodgins got the Giants near midfield. But an ugly third down play — Jones ran into Barkley and Richie James in the backfield — forced the Giants to punt the ball away with 1:36 remaining.
The Giants nearly won it with a safety when Kayvon Thibodeaux sacked Taylor Heinicke at the Washington 2-yard line.
Unable to put the hammer down on offense, the Giants put too much pressure on a defense playing with a depleted secondary. They could not hold onto the 20-13 lead they were clinging to. The Commanders put together a 90-yard drive, getting Taylor Heinicke completions of 20 yards to Curtis Samuel (on fourth down), 10 yards to Jahan Dotson and 25 yards to Samuel. When practice squad call-up Zyon Gilbert could not cover or tackle Dotson across the middle, Dotson scored on a 28-yard catch-and-run to tie the game at 20 with 1:45 left.
What followed was a curious sequence of play-calling from the Giants. They had the ball on their 25 with plenty of time to mount a winning field-goal drive. On first down, Jones went deep for Darius Slayton on the left side, but Slayton could not come away with a leaping grab. On second down, Jones again went deep for Slayton down the right sideline, looking for a pass-interference penalty on cornerback Danny Jackson that was not called. Jones’ third-down pass intended for Hodgins was almost intercepted and the Giants had to withstand a flurry of passes from Heinicke before forcing overtime.
There was also some strange decision-making on offense in the first half. Playing it conservatively, Jones completed his first 10 passes before a spike to stop the clock in the closing seconds before Graham Gano’s 27-yard field goal pulled the Giants even at 13 at halftime. It was a good place for the Giants to be, considering they trailed 10-0 before the first quarter was complete.
The Giants started fast in the second half. On the third snap on defense, Azeez Ojulari — playing his first game since Week 4 — rushed wide to sack Heinicke and cause a fumble that ultimately was recovered by Ojulari on the Washington 20-yard line. The turnover handed the offense such desirable field position that it was easy pickings for Jones to find Hodgins, who beat cornerback Christian Holmes in the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown catch. The Giants had their first lead, 20-13. It did not last.