LANDOVER, Md. – Perhaps the best statement one could make about Tommy DeVito's NFL debut three weeks ago was that it was unpromising. The Giants' rookie quarterback played 50 snaps in relief of injured veteran Tyrod Taylor. He threw only seven mostly short passes for minus-1 yard.
Critics and skeptics claimed his meager numbers were due to coach Brian Daboll's reluctance – even fear – to let the untested third-stringer put the ball in the air absent dire circumstances.
Well, we can bury that notion. DeVito made his second start Sunday, and it was an unqualified success. Despite taking nine sacks and 11 hits, DeVito hung in to throw for 246 yards and three touchdowns without an interception to lead the Giants to a 31-19 victory against the Washington Commanders in FedExField.
"I said during the week he's improving," Daboll said. "Doing a lot of good things, did some stuff we'll correct and gave us a chance."
How did the Giants get this performance out of DeVito just three weeks after his shaky baptism?
"The Jet game was different," Daboll said. "We were playing it a certain way. Look, he's made progress. (Quarterbacks coach) Shea (Tierney) is an exceptional quarterback coach. Tommy's put the work in, but it takes all 11 guys out there on the field and he's had some production. I think he's improved. We've still got a ways to go here, but he's got the right mindset. I think the players have confidence in him, particularly because he's the third quarterback going in and he's got a little juice about him. But we'll go back and learn from stuff that we could do better and try to put another one together."
One of those things to do better is avoiding sacks.
"He's a tough guy," Daboll said. "Again, when you have that many sacks and they weren't all on the offensive line, I'll tell you that right now."
DeVito completed 18 of 26 passes, including two touchdowns to Saquon Barkley and one to Darius Slayton. His 137.7 passer rating was the highest by a Giants quarterback since Daniel Jones' 153.3 vs. Houston on Nov. 13, 2022. Jones also had eight incompletions (on 24 attempts) and threw a touchdown pass to Slayton.
The victory ended the Giants' three-game losing streak and improved their record to 3-8 – 2-0 vs. Washington and 1-8 vs. everyone else.
"It means a lot," DeVito said of his first victory. "It means a lot to a sports team, right? Not the season we wanted as far as it is to come back in, week after week and just continuing just to work and study and practice hard. After the last couple weeks of not getting the result we wanted, just to have that feeling in this game , we're going to enjoy it. We're gonna celebrate it, but we know what it takes. We have what it takes, so Monday we're gonna be back to the drawing board and then on to next week (when they face New England)."
DeVito and the offense were supported by a defense and special teams unit that combined for six takeaways, the Giants' highest total in more than nine years. Nick McCloud, Darnay Holmes and Isaiah Simmons all intercepted Sam Howell passes. Simmons returned his 54 yards for a game-clinching touchdown with 16 seconds remaining. Micah McFadden, Xavier McKinney and Gervarrius Owens recovered fumbles.
Kayvon Thibodeaux had two of the Giants' four sacks, raising his team-leading total to 10.5. Bobby Okereke forced two fumbles and led the team with a season-high 14 tackles (six solo).
"This defense is built for a lot of people to make plays," said defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence, who had a sack among his four solo tackles. "When you see that, it builds confidence. Not just that one player making plays, it's different guys making plays and building their confidence as well."
The Giants forced turnovers on each of Washington's first two possessions and DeVito and the offense capitalized after the second one when he found Barkley for a 24-yard touchdown pass.
"It's a route that you guys saw all (training) camp and I was able to get one-on-one (coverage)," Barkley said. "I knew that they were chipping me as I was coming off free release and so I lined up a little wider and I was able to get one-on-one. Tommy did a really good job of holding off the safety and give me a great ball."
In the second quarter, DeVito stepped up in the pocket and threw to his left to a wide open Slayton, who caught the Giants' longest aerial touchdown of the season.
In the second half, the Giants held a slim 14-12 lead when Okereke forced a fumble by Chris Rodriguez that McKinney recovered at the Giants' 32. On the next snap – the final play of the third quarter – Barkley ran 32 yards around left end. Prior to that run, he had minus-2 yards on six carries. After the quarter break, DeVito found tight end Daniel Bellinger for a 26-yard gain.
"As soon as they gave me the wristband number and I looked at it, saw was what it was, I was like 'Yeah, we've had that one drawn up for a little while,'" DeVito said. "You can wait and pull the trigger in the right moment and there it was. Perfect execution by everybody else on it and it's a good play."
Three plays later, Barkley's 5-yard touchdown reception increased the lead to nine points.
"It's fun," DeVito said. "When things are going right, the game is going right and it's a lot of fun, because it feels like you're just enjoying playing the game of football like when you were a kid. It's easy to get away from that when things aren't going good. Great play calls by (offensive coordinator Mike Kafka). Great execution by everybody and you know, the offense, defense and special teams held their own and some had a tremendous day."
As did DeVito, who is the first Giants quarterback since at least 1950 with five touchdown passes in his first two starts.
DeVito wasn't aware nor did he particularly care about the milestone. But his coaches and teammates have noticed his rapid improvement and fearless play.
"I thought in the first quarter he came out and was pretty dynamic in the passing game, and that really sparked everything," Okereke said.
"Happy for him, man," Barkley said. "He comes in with the right mentality. He's a confident dude from Jersey, so excited and happy for that. He got his first win as a starter.
"I definitely think he's proving people wrong. We know what he's capable of doing. It's NFL, it's the National Football League, you don't get here by accident. He's a great player and he's stepping up and making a lot of plays for us."
Frankly, few people expected that when Daniel Jones and Tyrod Taylor went down with injuries and the Giants turned to DeVito.
"I was asked a fair amount of questions about bringing in some older guys and thought this guy was a good, young player to work with," Daboll said. "Again, he's played in two and a half games, so there's a lot of work that needs to be done. But he certainly has put the work in. When he was out on the look team at practice, you could see some of his instinctiveness even though he was a show team quarterback in terms of throwing the ball on time, anticipation. And so, thought he'd be a good player to work with. There's a lot of things he did good and a lot of things we can help him improve on.
"(It was) a team win and certainly proud of Tommy. That's a tough position to play, and he's got a really good mindset. Now, we'll have to go back and fix things like we normally do, whether it's a win or a loss. But I'm proud of him for all the work that he does put into it. He puts a lot of work into it."
On Sunday, DeVito proved that it's paying off.
View photos from the Giants' Week 11 matchup against the Washington Commanders.