Wins and losses in football are team efforts for sure. It takes the offense, defense, and special teams all doing their job to come away with a victory. But there are always a few key plays that directly influence the outcome of a game.
As the Giants delivered a heartbreaking 30-29 loss this week against the Washington Football Team, let's look at the five most backbreaking plays that doomed their Week 2 effort.
4th-and-1, NYG 39, 14:18, Q2 (Washington gets a first down that leads to a touchdown.)
This was an early pivotal fourth downplay. Washington was in that strange area on the field where you are probably out of field goal range yet too close to think about punting.
You could envision them punting it away and playing the field position game with their defense, but Washington head coach Ron Rivera, known in league circles as "Riverboat Ron" for his gambling tendencies in games, decided to go for it.
Meanwhile, the strength of the Giants' defensive line is their ability to stop the run. They have powerful athletic defensive linemen capable of changing the line of scrimmage.
On the previous play, they were able to stop running back Antonio Gibson from picking up a first down on a shotgun run. So it stood to reason that they had to feel confident in their ability to make another stop, especially since it was still early in the game, and the defense had only run 14 plays (seven on that drive) to that point.
Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence got the penetration, but nose guard Danny Shelton wasn't able to hold the line or push the center back. That allowed quarterback Taylor Heinicke to tuck in behind the center and get just enough for the first down to keep the drive alive en route to a touchdown.
2nd-and-2, NYG 42, 6:08, Q2. (Giants touchdown run nullified by holding penalty; drive results in a field goal.)
After back-to-back punts by both teams, this was an opportunity for the Giants to take back the lead and flip the game's momentum.
Second down and short opens up the entire playbook. The Giants' zone read caught Washington defensive back Landon Collins trying to attack Saquon Barkley, and Daniel Jones pulled the ball out and darted down the left sideline with Collins in pursuit.
Meanwhile, receiver C.J. Board was downfield blocking cornerback William Jackson Jr. As Jones ran by them, Jackson turned to chase Jones, but Board held Jackson’s jersey.
It is a move that probably helped Jones score because Jackson needed to chase a full-speed Jones down and the hold delayed him. So Instead of going into halftime tied 14-14 or possibly even up 14-7, the Giants went into halftime down 14-10 after dominating most of the first half.
1st-and-10, WAS 33, 11:07, Q3 (Missed block leads to a six-yard loss.)
Fresh from halftime, the Giants were driving down the field. They were able to pick up a first down due to a holding penalty on Landon Collins. Now in Washington territory and working on their eighth play of the drive, the Giants not only had a chance to retake the lead if they score a touchdown, but also kill more of the clock with a long drive.
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But the play calling left something to be desired. They ran a toss sweep to the left. Tight end Kaden Smith makes an excellent down block on Washington Smith-Williams. Left tackle Andrew Thomas and left guard Ben Bredeson pulled around the block.
Thomas was supposed to kick out the first defender outside Smith’s block (outside linebacker Jon Bostic) but he whiffed. Bostic hit Barkley in the backfield for a six-yard loss.
That put the offense in long second and third downs. Although they made completions, they could not pick up the first down and had to settle on a game-tying field goal.
1st-and-10, WAS-43. 6:25, Q4 (Dropped touchdown pass by the Giants.)
Up 26-20 with a little over six minutes to play, defensive coordinators are probably in this scenario that an offense will run the ball to burn some clock. After three straight runs that netted a first down and put the offense across the 50-yard line, a defense is almost 100% confident that a run is coming.
That is why taking a deep shot here made so much sense. It was a great concept out of a spread 2x2 shotgun set. There was no play action. They sent tight end Kyle Rudolph, lined up in the right slot on a deep curl, and the left slot, Sterling Shepard on a deep out.
The outside receiver to the left, Kenny Golladay ran a fade, and opposite of him was Darius Slayton, who had a post. Washington has two high safeties, so the fade/out to the left side occupied the safety on the left.
The safety on the right jumped the curl by Rudolph, and it left Slayton running free on the post. Jones did a great job of leading him and dropped a perfectly thrown ball in his hands, but Slayton could not come up with the grab.
At that point in the game, a touchdown would be a crushing blow to the Washington Football team. The Giants would have probably gone for two, so they had the opportunity to be up by anywhere between 12 and 14 points.
Five plays later, thanks in part to back-to-back false start penalties, the Giants kicked another field goal and only held a nine-point lead.
3rd-and-4, NYG 30, 0:05, Q4. (Off-side on the Giants defense gives Washington a second chance for the walk-off, game-winning field goal.)
Washington scored a touchdown, and the Giants added another field goal after Giants cornerback James Bradberry intercepted a pass. Washington drove the ball down the field, but the Giants defense was able to bend but not break.
As the clock continued to wind down, Washington spiked the ball with five seconds remaining in the game to set up a 48-yard field goal. Coming into this game, there were questions about kicker Dustin Hopkins and if he could be relied on in the clutch. So it was not a surprise when he missed the kick.
What was surprising was seeing a flag indicating an offsides penalty on the Giants. A replay clearly showed that Dexter Lawrence jumped offsides. This gave Hopkins, who was 2-2 on the day so far, another opportunity to win the game, and he nailed it.
There was a lot to like about the Giants in this game, but nobody will be happy with the outcome. This is a game the Giants should have won, and they can not afford to let these types of wins get away.
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