LANDOVER, Md. — One of the paths to victory for the Giants if they were going to upset the heavily favored Commanders on Sunday at FedEx Field was to create turnovers.
They were going to need to force a couple of them, anyway, to have a chance to win.
And they forced six of them — the most since they forced six against Washington in 2014 at the same stadium that they carried out Sunday’s 31-19 victory to get to 3-8 for the season.
The Giants’ defense forced five — three interceptions and two forced fumbles — and their special teams added another when Nick McCloud separated Washington kick returner Byron Pringle from the ball, recovered by Gervarrius Owens on the opening kickoff of the second half.
The best part about what the defense did to the Commanders and quarterback Sam Howell was the way their stars played.
Kayvon Thibodeaux had a standout game, with two sacks, two tackles for losses and three quarterback hurries.
Defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence was in the face of Howell all game, finishing with a sack, a quarterback hurry and two batted passes.
And linebacker Bobby Okereke, who after last week’s blowout loss at Dallas lamented that he wasn’t making enough impact plays to help the team win, had two forced fumbles and a game-high 14 tackles.
For Thibodeaux, who’s been a lightning rod for criticism despite playing very well, now has 10 sacks and is the first player under defensive coordinator Wink Martindale to reach that number.
“Man, it’s a blessing,’’ Thibodeaux said. “You work your whole life to be in the NFL, you work every day in the NFL to get sacks. That’s why they drafted me. So being able to deliver for my team and get a win, there’s no better feeling in the NFL.
“I learned a lot from Wink, [defensive line] coach Dre Patterson, he’s a real guru when it comes to pass rush.’’
Lawrence was complimentary about Thibodeaux’s milestone, saying, “It’s positive to see, just for him to listen and learn his position more and be a pro’s pro.’’
Giants head coach Brian Daboll praised Thibodeaux and Lawrence for being “pretty consistent throughout the year,’’ adding, “You know what you get out of Dexter. He’s an exceptional player in this league at his position at the top. I thought Kayvon did some [good] stuff. I’m glad we have Kayvon. He’s a true competitor, great teammate and productive player.’’
Okereke praised Thibodeaux for being “pretty dynamic in the passing game,’’ adding, “He really just sparked everything.’’
The game came down to a final drive by Washington, which moved the ball to the Giants 43-yard line in the final seconds while trailing just 24-19. Giants linebacker Isaiah Simmons sealed the victory with a 54-yard pick-six that was aided by Lawrence being in Howell’s face.
“On the sideline, we were just preaching execution and keeping it simple and doing our job,’’ Okereke said.
“Honestly, I’m excited and tired at the same time,’’ Lawrence said. “That was big for us in our growth. This defense is built for a lot of people to make plays.’’
On Sunday, the Giants got a lot of big plays from a lot of different defenders.