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5 things we learned in Week 15: Primetime Kayvon

KAYVON-THIBODEAUX-5THINGS

The Giants traveled south to take on the Washington Commanders at FedExField on Sunday Night Football.

In their first Sunday night game in two years, the Giants picked up a big 20-12 victory over their division rival to bring their record to 8-5-1 on the season. The win leaves the Giants in the No. 6 seed in the NFC playoffs with three games remaining.

"Enjoy this one here on the way home, and then get ready to go play another team," coach Brian Daboll said after the game. "That's what you got to be. I just don't believe in riding roller coasters in this league. I did when I was younger a little bit – I rode it. It doesn't do anybody any good because the only thing you can control is what's right in front of you. So, the outcome of last week or two weeks ago really has no bearing on what you need to do for the upcoming week, just like this really will have no bearing on what we do need to next week."

The Giants have a short week as they face off against the Minnesota Vikings (11-3) on Christmas Eve Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Here are five things we learned in the Week 15 victory.

1. Giants pick up crucial win

Daboll and the Giants picked up their biggest win of the season Sunday night with their 20-12 victory over the Commanders. The Giants received solid performances from all three sides of the ball. The offense put together its most impressive drive of the season when they went 97 yards on 18 plays, resulting in a three-yard touchdown run by Saquon Barkley. The defense forced two pivotal turnovers, including a defensive touchdown. Meanwhile, Graham Gano drilled both of his field goal attempts from 50 yards out while Jamie Gillan pinned the Commanders inside their own 20-yard line on three different occasions.

"Tough, hard-fought game on the road," Daboll told the media. "It's a division team that (we) obviously played a few weeks ago. Just made a few more plays than they did. Thought we protected the ball well. And then some critical plays there at the end that we made, and I'm proud of the guys and the way that they competed. So, it was a good win."

With the win, the Giants own sole possession of the sixth seed in the NFC with just three games remaining. The Commanders (7-6-1) hold the seventh seed, while the Seattle Seahawks and Detroit Lions, both 7-7, are currently on the outside looking in.

View photos from the Giants' 20-12 win over the Washington Commanders.

2. Primetime Kayvon

When asked earlier in the week if he enjoyed playing in primetime, Kayvon Thibodeaux responded "Primetime likes me." Well, the rookie outside linebacker backed that claim up with the best game of his young professional career Sunday night.

Thibodeaux was a force in the run game early racking up three tackles for loss on Washington's first drive. But the highlight of the game came early in the second quarter when the 22-year-old sacked Taylor Heinicke near the Commanders' goal line and forced the ball out of the quarterback's hands. Thibodeaux then scooped the ball up and ran into the end zone for his first NFL touchdown.

"I think he's consistently improved throughout the year, and obviously I've said this before, I'm glad we drafted him," said Daboll. "I'm glad he's part of the team. I think he's gotten better each week. He's a big part of our defense...

"He gave us, obviously, a lot of juice. That play he made down there when they were backed up kind of changed the tide a little bit (in) the early part of the game. He's a very talented player, and he played like it."

Thibodeaux finished the game with a game-high 12 total tackles (nine solo), one sack, three tackles for loss and the touchdown. The 12 tackles were also a new season-high for the rookie.

3. Saquon's clutch runs

Saquon Barkley looked back to his normal self in the Sunday night win. The fifth-year running back carried the ball 18 times for 87 yards, good for an average of 4.8 yards per carry. It's his first time averaging over 4.0 yards per attempt since the Week 10 win over the Houston Texans when he ran for 152 yards on 35 carries (4.3 avg.). Barkley also played a big role in the passing game with five receptions, matching Darius Slayton for the most on the team.

Barkley seemed to save his best for when the game mattered most. After the offense took over with around six minutes remaining thanks to a defensive turnover, Barkley gashed the Commanders on runs of 12, 15 and 14 yards to quickly bring the ball into Washington's side of the field. The star running back had 48 yards on that final drive, which also helped take over four minutes off the clock.

The 25-year-old totaled 120 yards on 23 touches.

4. Defense comes up big

Throughout this game, the Giants defense came up with a couple of big stops. It started on the first drive of the night, where the Commanders got the ball to the Giants' 32-yard line on nine plays. The defense made a few stops to eventually force a punt, and the unit never looked back.

Thibodeaux's strip-sack touchdown was the defensive highlight of the game, but the unit had two significant stops in the fourth quarter, too. With the Commanders inside the Giants' 10-yard line, Dexter Lawrence and Azeez Ojulari sacked Heinicke, and while the ball came out, the refs originally ruled him down. A Daboll challenge led to the call being overturned, and the Giants were able to turn that fumble into three points a few minutes later.

But the defense wasn't done. After Washington got the ball back with 1:47 left on the clock, Heinicke was able to move the ball back down inside the Giants' 10-yard line with about a minute remaining. The defense held firm on two consecutive plays from the six-yard line to force a turnover on downs and seal the victory.

"It was awesome," said Daboll about the team's goal line stand at the end of the game. "Great play by (Nick) McCloud. (We) got some pressure. I mean, they did a great job. I'd say the whole team did a really great job from the coaches to the players, executing. Players fought – competed hard. The coaches – I thought the coordinators did a really great job of calling the game the way we needed to call it. And again, I talked about this last week, it's four or five plays that it comes down to. And our guys, give them credit, they made those plays."

Washington was held to just one conversion on 10 third down attempts.

5. DJ puts together solid performance

Daniel Jones was able to put together a solid performance against the Commanders in primetime, marking the first career victory under the lights. Jones completed 21 of 32 passes for 160 yards. While he did not throw a touchdown, he did not turn the ball over.

The fourth-year quarterback led the Giants on their most impressive drive of the season. Starting with the ball on their own three-yard line, the offense took 8:35 off the clock by driving 97 yards on 18 plays for a touchdown. While Barkley would be the one to eventually punch the ball into the end zone, it was Jones that came up with a huge play earlier in the drive to make the score possible. The Giants were faced with a fourth and 9 on the Commanders' 35-yard line, and instead of attempting a long field goal, Daboll decided to leave the offense on the field. Jones was able to connect with Richie James for 11 yards on a first down.

"I have confidence in Daniel," the head coach said about his decision to go for it on fourth down. "I have since I've been here. I mean, each game is different. Decision-making processes are different. We talk about those things on Wednesday and Thursday. I'd say we spend a lot of time, meeting time. So, when we get to the game, I can live with those decisions because we've studied them. We've discussed them. It's what we believe in to do for that particular game. And if they work, it's a great call. And if they don't, they don't. But I can live with the process of how we try to come to those conclusions each week because of the time spent."

Jones also did damage with his legs in this one. Taking away his three kneel downs, the signal-caller rushed the ball seven times for 38 yards for an average of 5.4 yards per carry.

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