The Giants have a creed on defense: "Tipped balls and overthrows, we've got to have those."
They were hard to come by in the first half of the season, but B.J. Goodson grabbed two interceptions coming out of the bye week in the team's 27-23 victory over the 49ers on Monday night at Levi's Stadium. The third-year linebacker called them "effort plays" and said it was all about trusting the scheme while being in the right place at the right time.
It also helps to play near Janoris Jenkins, who had the assist on the first one. The cornerback tipped a Nick Mullens pass intended for Kendrick Bourne, and Goodson caught the ball going the other way for his first career interception. Because of advantageous field position for the Giants after Riley Dixon's punt, the 49ers were pinned inside their own 20-yard line and Goodson gave the ball back to the offense at the 12. Three plays later, Eli Manning found Odell Beckham Jr. for their first of two touchdown connections on the night. Goodson's second interception came on the first play of the first quarter, catching it off the hands of wide receiver Marquise Goodwin near midfield.
"It's definitely game-changing and we definitely need them," said Goodson, whose defense had just four interceptions heading into the game. "Everybody was amped. I'm just happy I was able to help the team get the W."
More important than the turnovers, the defense was able to close out the game after Manning capped the go-ahead drive with a three-yard touchdown pass to Sterling Shepard. With a four-point lead and 53 seconds on the clock, the Giants needed one more stop, something they were unable to do in the first half of the season. After using their final timeout to avoid a 10-second runoff following a false start penalty, the 49ers had a final chance from the Giants 21 with one second remaining. Mullens sailed the ball over Bourne's head through the back of the end zone, and the Giants won for the second time this year.
"We knew they had only one timeout and so we played those odds right," Goodson said. "Once [they] got that penalty, they had to burn that timeout and we knew we had them right where we want them."
Goodson joined some elite company on Monday night, becoming only the seventh Giants linebacker with multiple interceptions in a game since 1960. Jessie Armstead (1997), Jerry Hillebrand (1963), Brian Kelley (1982), Gary Reasons (1990), Kelvin Sheppard (2017), and Brad Van Pelt (once in 1976 and again in 1980) were the others with two each.
It also comes in a season where Goodson has seen his snap percentage range from 86.8 percent in Week 8 vs. Washington to 15.7 in Week 4 vs. New Orleans. Part of the fluctuation is due to packages required for any given opposing offense, but coach Pat Shurmur said after the game that along the way he has gained an appreciation for Goodson, a former fourth-round pick.
"I thought he did a good job, made a lot of plays," Shurmur said. "He had the one little stretch where he got knocked out of the game and came back in. He's tough. I'm really fond of him. He's a tough guy, and he's a football player. There's a place on our team for guys like that."