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Cover 3: What we learned from Week 9 win

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The Giants.com crew reacts to the team's 23-20 victory over Washington in Week 9:

John Schmeelk: A lead is a beautiful thing to play with. It's why the Giants were able to hold on and beat Washington on Sunday. The Giants never trailed in the game and led by 10 after the first quarter, which allowed them to play the way they did to secure the win.

Washington was complicit in the Giants' ability to get an early lead. They fumbled on two of the first six times they handled the football, which allowed the Giants to start their first two possessions in the red zone. The Giants scored their first 10 points on those possessions. Washington was in catch-up mode once the Daniel Jones-Evan Engram 16-yard touchdown connection gave the Giants a 20-3 lead in the second quarter.

Washington finished the game running it only nine times versus 39 pass attempts. They became one dimensional and more predictable. Once a defense knows their opponent has to pass, it opens their playbook to use a variety of coverages and blitzes that are designed to force mistakes by the offense.

Alex Smith's first fourth-quarter interception came on a safety blitz by Logan Ryan, which forced him to scramble and throw off his back foot high to his intended target. The ball was batted in the air and to Jabrill Peppers. Smith's second interception came against a defense installed on Saturday, after defensive coordinator Patrick Graham went to Joe Judge with the new play.

The Giants, on the other hand, were able to remain balanced throughout the game. They ran 35 times and passed 34 times. They rarely had to expose their quarterback to long dropbacks in second- and third-and-long situations that can lead to fumbles or an interception.

Garrett was able to stick to a game plan that helped limit the impact of the Washington pass rush. They still finished with five sacks, but if the Giants had to enter "must-pass" mode it would have been worse.

Washington's first two turnovers were the result of poor ball security, but the last three were impacted by the fact they were trailing by 17 points in the second quarter. These are the kind of games the Giants are designed to win. They will struggle to win games where they have to overcome big deficits and expose their inexperienced offensive line. They were able to prevent a comeback due to a pair of game-changing defensive plays, which they have not been able to make in past games. They will try to follow with a similar performance against the Eagles on Sunday.

View photos from the Week 9 matchup between the Giants and Washington at FedExField.

Dan Salomone: It's not just lip service with Joe Judge when he says every roster spot is important and expected to produce. The victory over Washington, which completed the season sweep of the NFC East rival, was a perfect example of that. Here are examples of what he means:

  • Undrafted rookie Austin Mack led the team in receiving yards, including a 50-yard reception (longest for Giants this season).
  • Seven offensive linemen played snaps on offense: Nick Gates (77), Kevin Zeitler (77), Shane Lemieux (74), Andrew Thomas (68), Cameron Fleming (64), Matt Peart (24), Chad Slade (3).
  • Eleven players had at least one target (10 caught at least one pass).
  • Madre Harper, who played no snaps on defense, recovered a muffed punt.
  • Judge "definitely noticed" tight end Kaden Smith, who played 41 snaps and delivered key blocks.
  • Six defensive backs played more than 20 snaps on defense.
  • Newcomer Alfred Morris backed up Wayne Gallman and produced 67 yards on just nine carries.

"Look, we count on everybody on our roster to make production for us," Judge said. "Everyone on our team is part of the plan every week."

Lance Medow: When it comes to the NFL, turnover differential is by far the best indicator of whether a team wins or loses a game - and that absolutely has been the case for the Giants. This game at Washington was the third time this season New York won the turnover battle and it's no coincidence that they won two of those three games. They were +5 at FedEx Field, playing their first clean game of the season. It also was the first game the Giants didn't have any turnovers since Week 16 last season – also a victory at Washington.

The Giants had at least one turnover in each of their first eight games and multiple giveaways in five of those contests. It's no surprise the team posted a 1-7 record, influenced by a -5 turnover ratio.. Collecting takeaways is just the first step. What you do with those opportunistic plays is just as critical. The Giants scored 10 points off Washington's first two turnovers (a pair of fumbles) and none off the three interceptions. But Alex Smith's first interception came at the end of the first half with less than a minute to go and his third pick sealed the victory for the Giants late in the fourth quarter.

Although points off turnovers are important, you also can't overlook their timing. The Giants forced two turnovers on each of Washington's last two possessions – decisive in that their offense only needed a field goal to tie the game.

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