There was a moment — a few of them, actually — when the impossible seemed possible and maybe even probable.
The Giants were holding onto a 24-19 lead late in the fourth quarter after they could not end the game with their offense on the field. Sound familiar?
The Commanders had the ball and were moving it on a Giants defense that might have been running on fumes. Sound familiar?
Washington crossed midfield, time was winding down but the Giants had nothing secured in the final minute. Could this happen? Could the Giants lose a game in which they owned a 5-0 advantage in turnovers?
Yes, you read that correctly.
The Giants had two interceptions and three fumble recoveries in the first 59 minutes and all that decisive and rare giveaway-takeaway disparity produced was a five-point edge.
Earlier this season, the Giants lost in Buffalo even though they owned a 3-0 margin in turnovers. This — a plus-five turnover advantage — would have been an even more catastrophic and historic defeat.
It did not happen, though, as turnover No. 6, an interception that Isaiah Simmons turned into a pick six, allowed the Giants to seal the deal and secure what became a deceptive 31-19 victory at FedEx Field.
Here is a look inside the game:
You have to wonder: Where is Tommy DeVito a year from today? Is he the backup quarterback for the Giants? He is once again a practice squad/game day call-up emergency quarterback for the Giants? Is he with another team? Is he out of the league?
In the span of four games, DeVito went from an unknown (outside of New Jersey) punch-line when he made his NFL debut in the rain and was not trusted to throw the ball in the rain in a dispiriting loss to the Jets to an off-the-bench replacement in Las Vegas after Daniel Jones was lost for the season to a first-half disaster in a blowout loss in Dallas to the catalyst to a victory in Landover, Md.
This is already way, way more than anyone could have predicted for an undrafted rookie from Cedar Grove who lives with his parents and talks about his mom’s chicken cutlets.
What was a novelty act to get a losing team through a few story cycles is now — what?
DeVito will start at least one more game, with Tyrod Taylor on injured reserve. The Giants could have a new quarterback in 2024 via a high pick in the NFL Draft. Jones will be back following surgery to repair a torn ACL. Taylor’s contract expires after this season.
DeVito is playing his way into consideration for something and that is quite an unexpected development.
Something for the Giants to be thankful for this Thanksgiving season: the Washington franchise.
The Giants have all sorts of trouble competing within the NFC East with the Cowboys and Eagles but they have all sorts of success whenever they tangle with the Commanders. The Giants are 8-2-1 in their last 11 games against their only division punching bag.
“I don’t know what it is about the Giants,’’ Commanders wide receiver Jahan Dotson said. “We don’t come to play when we play them.’’
This was some of the finest work we have seen from offensive coordinator Mike Kafka. There were play designs that led to big plays and made life easier for DeVito.
On the 40-yard touchdown connection with Darius Slayton in the second quarter, Slayton ran free — wide, wide open — helped by a play-action sell-job by DeVito and a complete defensive bust by the Commanders.
Kafka’s best moment came on the first play of the fourth quarter, with the Giants leading 14-12 and bogged down on offense. DeVito faked a handoff to Saquon Barkley and then faked an end-around to Wan’Dale Robinson. All that motion left the Commanders a step behind and out of the confusion, tight end Daniel Bellinger popped free. DeVito made the easy throw, Bellinger had room to run and the result was a 26-yard gain to the Washington six-yard line. Two plays later, Barkley scored on a five-yard reception.
“Thought Kafka called a good game and some wide open guys,’’ coach Brian Daboll said.
Thanks to the closing seconds interception return for a touchdown, the final margin was 12 points. That is, remarkably, the second-highest victory margin in Daboll’s two seasons as the head coach.
The Giants mauled the Colts, 38-10, on New Year’s Day last season. Other than that, winning has been a close-call adventure for Daboll’s Giants.
They won by a dozen points despite getting out-gained in total yards (403-292), really out-gained in rushing yards (174-91) and first downs (29-13). How is that? Those five turnovers forced on defense.
The six total takeaways — there was a recovered fumble on special teams — were the most by the Giants in a game in more than nine years. They had six takeaways on Sept. 25, 2014 against — wait for it — Washington in an easy 35-14 victory.
DeVito is the first Giants quarterback with at least five touchdown passes in his first two NFL starts since 1950. DeVito has six touchdowns passes and three interceptions in his four appearances.
One more on DeVito: On third downs, he completed 7-of-8 passes for 113 yards and two touchdowns for a perfect passer rating of 158.3. That is something.
This comes as no surprise: This is the first time the Giants ever won a game after allowing nine sacks.
The Giants previously gave up 11 sacks to the Seahawks and eight sacks to the Raiders. They lost both of those games.
Saquon Barkley always considers himself an offensive weapon because of his abilities as a pass-catcher. He has a team-leading four touchdown receptions this season, matching the career-high he set as a rookie in 2018. He has only one rushing touchdown this season.
Before this, the last time Barkley had two touchdown catches in a game? His fifth game in the NFL, when he had two scoring receptions against the Panthers on balls thrown by Eli Manning.
Take a look at the NFL leaders in sacks and you do not have to scan too far down the list to find Kayvon Thibodeaux’ name.
His 10.5 sacks ties him with Maxx Crosby for fifth in the league, one-half sack more than Micah Parsons of the Cowboys. The players ahead of Thibodeaux are Myles Garrett (13), Danielle Hunter (12), T.J. Watt (11.5) and Khalil Mack (11).
This is the first time a player coached by defensive coordinator Wink Martindale has reached double-digits in sacks. That is no accident. Martindale’s pressure-packed, blitzing system does not feature one specific pass rusher and Thibodeaux is asked to do much more than go get the quarterback.
Thibodeaux is only in his second season and sometimes it is difficult to remember how young he is. He turns 23 on Dec. 15.