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Film Review: Analyzing key plays, snap counts from NFC East win

DEXTER-LAWRENCE

The Giants held on with a pair of goal line stands to beat the Washington Commanders, 20-12, on Sunday night, giving them their first division win and putting them in the driver's seat to make it into the playoffs. The three teams closest behind the Giants will have to make up two games in the standings with only three games remaining to pass them in the playoff picture.

1. Much like many of their wins earlier in the season, the Giants' victory came down to them making crucial plays at critical junctures that overcame being outgained by 99 yards over the course of the night. The most important number is plus-2, their advantage in turnover differential.

On Washington's next to last drive, it took only four plays to move the ball from their own 9 to the Giants 5, highlighted by Jahan Dotson's 61-yard catch. On 3rd-and-4 from the Giants 5, Dexter Lawrence punched out the ball out from Taylor Heinicke and it was recovered by Leonard Williams.

This is a coverage sack. Heinicke looks right after receiving the snap, where Logan Thomas and Dotson run a pair of slants, but they are shut down by Micah McFadden, Jaylon Smith and Jason Pinnock, who play zone coverage. Pass rushes by Azeez Ojulari and Williams force Heinicke to step up in the pocket, which gives Lawrence the angle to disengage from his block and get to Heinicke.

The Giants' first takeaway was also their first score of the game. The Giants only rush two in front of a zone defense, taking away Heinicke's first look to the right of the defense. It gives Kayvon Thibodeaux time to beat left tackles Charles Leno Jr. with a two-handed power push; he comes up with a strip-sack of Heinicke, gets up and recovers the ball for a touchdown.

Thibodeaux sacked Heinicke late in the game in the Giants' first matchup with Washington but failed to knock away the ball away from the quarterback. On this opportunity he makes it a point to go after the football with his right arm.

2, It was not Thibodeaux's only impact play in the game. Here's a set of big-time plays from the rookie, starting with a chase down of Curtis Samuel from behind on a handoff. On the second play, he doesn't fall for a fake pitch to Antonio Gibson and tackles Samuel behind the line for a 3-yard loss that would lead to a punt. On the third play (also in the first quarter), Thibodeaux plays the read-option perfectly and hits Brian Robinson for a 2-yard loss. These plays helped hold Washington to three points despite gaining 88 yards on its two first-quarter drives.

Thibodeaux had two more big plays in the fourth quarter. He set the edge perfectly on the outside run by Curtis Samuel to hold him to a yard on Washington's next to last drive. It was critical to get the stop after the two previous Commanders plays gained 80 yards and got the ball to the 11. The second play came on Washington's final drive. After dropping back in coverage, he keeps his eye on the quarterback and meets Heinicke at the 1.

Thibodeaux finished the game with 12 tackles, a sack, three tackles for loss, a forced fumble, fumble recovery and touchdown. It has been 15 years since a rookie achieved that combination of statistical feats in a single game.

3. The Giants made sure Terry McLaurin was not going to beat them on the final two defensive plays of the game. Julian Love is waiting for McLaurun who run a slant into what's designed as a natural rub route to the left of the formation to take away Heinicke's first option and give Ojulari time to flush him out of the pocket. On the final play of the game, McLaurin is doubled again on a similar route, forcing Heinicke to go to Curtis Samuel - he's covered tightly by Darnay Holmes, who forces the incomplete pass.

There's a few other key defensive plays to feature. The first comes on 3rd-and-9 from the Giants 33 in the fourth quarter. Wink Martindale's pre-snap alignments confuses Washington's pass protection and frees up Jason Pinnock as a free rusher to the quarterback, forcing an incompletion and a field goal. The second play came on a 3rd-and-6 in the second quarter. Against Cover-1 (single-high safety with man-to-man), Pinnock comes down from his center field position to knock away the ball from Samuel on a deep over route to force the incompletion.

Finally, on a critical 3rd-and-3 in the third quarter, Landon Collins reads the hand-off and steps up to tackle Curtis Samuel for a 2-yard gain that forces a punt.

4. There are two drives by the offense worth noting. The Giants took over after Dexter Lawrence's strip-sack with a five-point lead and 6:06 remaining. Saquon Barkley runs three straight times for 12, 15, and 14 yards. The first was a trap play with the second two identical inside zone plays that started with duo (double-team) blocks on Washington's two defensive tackles.

The runs helped set up Graham Gano's second field goal, which gave the Giants an eight-point lead.

The Giants' lone touchdown drive was an 18-play, 97-yard drive that ate up 8:35 on the clock. The drive featured only three plays that went for more than 10 yards, highlighted by 3rd-and-9 and 4th-and-9 conversions. On 3rd-and-9, Jones faced down three pass rushers closing in and took a big hit, but not until after he got the pass to Richie James, who found a hole in Washington's zone defense. On 4th-and-9, Jones stood in a strong pocket threw an accurate bullet to James, who beat McCain in the slot. Jones had to be timely with the pass, since veteran cornerback Kendall Fuller came off his man to help late on James.

The Giants had only one other drive go for more than 50 yards in the game.

5. Ben Bredeson played 67% of the snaps at left guard, while Nick Gates played 33% of the snaps. Bredeson was the guard on the field for their two drives that went for more than 50 yards. Daniel Bellinger was on the field for 98% of the snaps, while Saquon Barkley played 86% of the snaps. The wide receiver snaps were dominated by Darius Slayton (94%), Isaiah Hodgins (89%), and Richie James (79%).

On defense, Julian Love and Fabian Moureau were the only two defenders that played 100% of the defensive snaps, and Nick McCloud played 73%. Darnay Holmes logged 67% of the snaps and Cordale Flott played 30%. Jason Pinnock played 92% of the snaps. Kayvon Thibodeaux logged 79% of the snaps, while Azeez Ojulari played 81%. Jaylon Smith once again led all inside linebackers with 78% of the snaps and Micah McFadden was on the field for 49% of the snaps. Leonard Williams logged 84% of the snaps, while Dexter Lawrence played 73% of the snaps. Landon Collins played 43% of the snaps, which was eight more than Tony Jefferson.

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

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