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5 Things We Learned

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5 Things We Learned: Defense shines again

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Following two consecutive road matchups against the AFC East, the New York Giants returned to MetLife Stadium to take on the Washington Commanders in Week 7.

Sunday's outing was the second NFC East matchup for both teams, as the Giants fell to the Cowboys in the season opener while the Commanders lost to the Eagles in Week 4.

The Giants snapped their offensive scoring drought with two scores in the first half and the defense continued its strong play as of late. Add it all up, and Big Blue emerged with a 14-7 victory.

"I've said this before, it's an up and down league," head coach Brian Daboll said after the game. "It's a humbling league, but if you can stay consistent with your approach. You make slight adjustments and your belief in the players. It's not for everybody, you gotta be able to do that. It's not gonna be perfect all the time and there's definitely gonna be some struggles and again, one week has nothing to do with the next week. So, whether we lost a close game to the Bills, we won this close game tonight, it really has no bearing on what we do next week to keep a consistent attitude, to work with great intention. That's what's important to get ready for a game that's gonna be difficult every week regardless of who you play and focus on your job and putting the team first. Again, it's not always easy, but that's what the job requires."

Here are five things we learned:

1. Giants get back into the win column

The Giants had gone over three consecutive games without scoring an offensive touchdown, but that changed on Sunday. The unit was able to punch it into the end zone twice in the first half to jump out to a 14-0 lead, which the defense was able to protect.

"Made some good plays," Daboll said about the offense finishing in the red zone. "I thought (quarterback) Tyrod (Taylor) made a heck of a play. (tight end) (Darren) Waller made a great adjustment on the route on that third down and I thought Tyrod did a great job with his feet. His timing in the passing game to get that ball to Saquon on the check down...

"We left stuff out there. No question about it. We left stuff out on the field. We left points out on the field, like you said, the missed field goal, the fumble in the red zone, but I'll take the result."

Speaking of the defense, Wink Martindale's unit enjoyed yet another strong performance against the Commanders. For the third time in the last four weeks, the Giants held their opponent to under 300 yards of total offense. The defense also made it three consecutive games with an interception while more than doubling their sack total on the year, but more on that later.

"They were great, and they haven't and we haven't given them a lot to celebrate about," Daboll said about the fans on Sunday. "They were loud on that fourth-down play, they were loud, and I've encountered a lot of great ones and our job is to provide a good product and certainly we left things out on the field today. So, it wasn't perfect. It was a good team win. There's a lot of guys that have worked hard and contributed and I'd say the fans were a huge part of it. I certainly appreciate them."

View photos from the Giants' Week 7 matchup against the Washington Commanders.

2. Defense continues strong play

The Giants had held two of their previous three opponents under 300 yards of total offense while forcing five total turnovers in the last two weeks. They kept it going on Sunday with a strong overall performance from all three levels of the defense, which included limiting the Commanders to just one third-down conversion on 15 attempts.

The Giants had just five sacks on the year going into this game, which were the fewest in the league. They more than doubled their season total on Sunday as the pass rush picked up six sacks of Commanders quarterback Sam Howell. Defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence picked up his first two sacks of the season to go with four quarterback hits, while his linemate Leonard Williams recorded a sack, two quarterback hits and a blocked field goal. Outside linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux registered 1.5 sacks, while safety Jason Pinnock (one) and inside linebacker Micah McFadden (0.5) joined the party as well.

"I thought we did a lot of good things, got after the quarterback, put up a fourth-down stop at the end of the game," Brian Daboll said after the game. "They played a good complementary game, had a couple of turnovers which hurt us. Guys were ready to play, the coaching staffs on all three sides did a good job and we made the plays we needed to make. It was a little bit closer than it needed to be, but this is NFL."

"Coaching," Thibodeaux said on the reason behind the successful pass rush Sunday. "I give it to Wink. Wink was calling it up, Wink was doing everything and "yeah, yeah, Dabs, I know," but Wink was calling a great play and a great game, and everything was working."

Cornerback Deonte Banks has had a solid start to his NFL career, and it continued on Sunday with his first career interception. Banks also finished second on the team with seven total tackles (five solo). Leading the tackle department for the Giants was none other than linebacker Bobby Okereke, who finished with 11 total tackles for the second consecutive week. He has now had double-digit tackles in four straight games (42 total).

"It was joy," Banks said about his feelings after the defense came up with the final stop. "Trying to win. That's really what we want to do in this league is just win, no matter how bad or how good it is, just win the game."

Howell completed just 22 of 42 passes (52.4 percent) with no touchdowns and one interception, finishing with a 60.5 passer rating. The Giants held the Commanders to just 76 yards on the ground and had a total of six pass breakups, including two from safety Xavier McKinney. The defense has now allowed a total of 21 points over the last two weeks.

3. Tyrod leads offense

Tyrod Taylor started his second consecutive game at quarterback for the Giants as Daniel Jones was ruled out 90 minutes before kickoff due to a neck injury. The veteran was a steady hand for the offense and put together a strong performance in Week 7. Taylor completed 18 of 29 passes for 279 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, good for a passer rating of 116.9. Taylor also contributed 25 yards on the ground.

"It felt good," Taylor said about the win. "I mean anytime you can win at home always is big, especially just the way our season has been going. Not being on the winning side of things, we've done some good things throughout the season, but haven't been able to put a full game together and today I think was a true testament to us playing complementary football. Defense, special teams creating plays as well as us doing some things on offense."

Taylor was nearly perfect on both of the Giants' touchdown drives. Starting on their own 12-yard line, Taylor began the drive with back-to-back 22-yard passes to Wan'Dale Robinson and Darius Slayton. The 34-year-old then completed a 13-yard pass to Darren Waller before taking a carry 20 yards to get the ball inside Washington's 10-yard line. After a few plays and a holding penalty set the Giants up with third-and-goal from the 15, he hit Waller in the end zone for a touchdown. The second scoring drive saw Taylor connect with Waller for a 16-yard gain, and on the very next play, he found Saquon Barkley, who took it 32 yards into the end zone.

"Tyrod had a good game, played well, took care of the ball, made good decisions, threw the ball where it was supposed to be thrown," the head coach said after the win.

4. Playmakers shine

With all of the injuries across the offense, the Giants needed their playmakers to step up against the Commanders, and step up they did. Darren Waller had his breakout game as a Giant, catching his first touchdown of the season and finishing with a game-high seven receptions for 98 yards. Only one pass thrown in Waller's direction was not completed.

Saquon Barkley has a long history of strong play against Washington throughout his NFL career. The sixth-year back kept it going in Week 7, finishing with 118 total yards from scrimmage (77 rushing, 41 receiving) and a 32-yard touchdown reception. However, Barkley did lose a fumble in the fourth quarter, just the second lost fumble of his career. However, the defense came up with a big stop on Washington's final drive to make the turnover a moot point.

"Tyrod did a really good job of hitting me on the move," the running back said about his touchdown catch. "I was able to make a guy miss and find a way to get into the endzone. On the red zone fumble, I have to be better. Simple as that; I have to be better and do a better job of protecting the ball. I've been better at protecting the ball throughout my career, but in that moment, that's a key moment, and you have to find a way to come up with points there. I let my team down, but the defense had my back."

The other offensive playmaker to play a big role in Sunday's win was Jalin Hyatt. Head coach Brian Daboll said earlier in the week that the rookie needed to play, and when given an opportunity, Hyatt came through. The 22-year-old caught just two passes, but both were big, explosive plays going for 42 and 33 yards. His 75 receiving yards finished as the second-most on the team.

"One of the fastest guys on the field, if not the fastest at any given point," Taylor said about the rookie wide receiver. "So, you get a chance to get him one-on-one down the field, our conversation with him is I'm going to give you a chance. It's either you or nobody and we've seen that even right before the half, gave him a chance down there one-on-one with the safety and he broke up that pass, but obviously we were able to connect on two deep balls down on their sideline."

5. Injury updates

The Giants entered this matchup shorthanded with five starters inactive, including four on the offensive side of the ball. Offensive linemen Andrew Thomas (hamstring), Evan Neal (ankle) and John Michael Schmitz (shoulder) were all ruled out, in addition to backup swing tackle Matt Peart (shoulder).

Starting quarterback Daniel Jones was also ruled out for the second consecutive week due to the neck injury suffered at the end of the Week 5 loss in Miami. Jones practiced on a limited basis throughout the week, but was unable to get cleared for contact in time for Sunday.

On the defensive side of the ball, starting cornerback Adoree' Jackson was also inactive after being listed as questionable on the final injury report. Jackson suffered a neck injury during last week's loss to the Bills and was limited in practice throughout the week. Tre Hawkins III started at cornerback in place of Jackson.

The Giants lost two players during Sunday's win, both from the backfield. Rookie running back Eric Gray left the game in the first half with a calf injury and was listed as questionable to return. The 23-year-old did not return. Later, running back Gary Brightwell suffered a hamstring injury and was ruled out for the remainder of the game.

Giants.com highlights some standouts from the team's Week 7 win over the Commanders.

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