Kayvon Thibodeaux was prepared for the national stage just like he promised, Daniel Jones shined under the lights to end his career-long skid in night games and the New York Giants beat the Washington Commanders 20-12 on Sunday to bolster their playoff chances and hurt those of a rival.
After declaring, “Prime time likes me,” Thibodeaux was a force rushing the passer and busting into the backfield early and often. He stripped Taylor Heinicke of the ball, recovered it to score a touchdown and finished with three tackles for loss among his game-high 12 before being helped off the field with 48 seconds left.
Jones, 0-9 in his first nine prime-time games for the Giants (8-5-1) who had lost 11 in a row in these situations, threaded throws through tight windows in beating the Commanders (7-6-1) with his arm rather than running all over Washington as he did in many of their previous meetings. He was 21 of 32 for 160 yards and engineered an 18-play touchdown drive in the second quarter that started at the 3 and lasted 8:35.
Saquon Barkley finished that drive with a 3-yard run into the end zone on a direct snap. Held to 39 yards on 12 carries in the first 3 1/2 quarters, Barkley more than doubled his total on the drive that ended with a field goal from Graham Gano and finished with 87 yards.
New York’s defense stopped Washington on a goal-to-go situation in the final minutes, with Darnay Holmes making the final pass breakup on a play that arguably could have been called pass interference. That sealed the victory and ended a four-game winless streak.
The Giants strengthened their hold on the second of three NFC wild-card spots behind the division rival Dallas Cowboys and now have the tiebreaker over Washington. That’s especially important because these teams played to a 20-all tie two weeks ago.
The loss, just the Commanders’ second in nine games, puts them in a tougher spot but keeps them in a playoff position, half a game up on Seattle and Detroit.
Heinicke fumbled again at the New York 9-yard line with six minutes left in the fourth quarter on a play correctly challenged by Giants coach Brian Daboll. He was 17 of 29 for 249 yards passing with a touchdown throw to Jahan Dotson.
Terry McLaurin made six catches for 70 yards, eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark for a third consecutive season and becoming Washington’s first player to do that since Henry Ellard from 1994-96. McLaurin took a costly illegal formation penalty on Washington’s final drive that pushed the ball back from the 1 to the 6-yard line.
One of Jones’ best throws was also a very valuable catch for receiver Richie James. Their 10-yard completion on third down during the 18-play drive was James’ 40th catch of the season and cashed the $100,000 incentive in his contract for reaching that mark.
Giants: RT Evan Neal remained in the game after having his left foot/ankle looked at on the bench early. … DT Leonard Williams returned after missing last week’s game with a neck injury.
Commanders: CB Benjamin St-Juste missed a third consecutive game with an ankle injury.
Giants: Visit the Minnesota Vikings on Saturday.
Commanders: Visit the San Francisco 49ers on Saturday.
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