Winning a game and then heading into the bye guarantees positive vibes for more than a week. In a season devoid of any, or many feel-good moments, the Giants will take what they fashioned Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
They hung tough all day and did not wilt when the Raiders kept coming for them. For a team that has failed so often at sealing the deal, the Giants’ 23-16 victory allows them to go into their break feeling better about themselves than a losing team has a right to feel.
The Giants are now 3-6. The Raiders fell to 5-3.
The end came when rookie Quincy Roche hit Derek Carr from behind to force a fumble, with the Raiders on the Giants’ 13-yard line. The fumble was recovered by Leonard Williams with 37 seconds remaining, giving the Giants one more stop in the red zone on a day full of them.
If there ever was a game to struggle, it was this one for Xavier McKinney, the second year safety. He was on the field only one day for practice this week, after a false-positive for COVID-19 and had to stay away from the team as per the protocols. McKinney did not struggle. He soared, giving the Giants points with a pick-six interception of Carr early in the third quarter and steered his team to victory with a second interception, this one with 5:12 remaining, as Carr looked deep to Zay Jones, who was covered by James Bradberry. Carr never saw McKinney roaming over to make the play.
McKinney’s second pick came with the Giants clinging to a 20-16 lead. With Devontae Booker (99 yards on 21 carries) out with a hip injury, the Giants were left without any halfbacks. Fullback Eli Penny had runs of 11 and 12 yards to get the Giants in range for Graham Gano’s 38-yard field goal for a seven-point lead with 3:21 to go.
The Raiders had a chance to tie things up. They moved to the Giants’ 13 before the sack and the turnover by Carr gave the Giants a rare close-call victory.
Daniel Jones finished 15 of 20 for only 110 yards.
It was a strange first half for Jones. He did not throw an incompletion — he went 9-for-9 for 79 yards — but he lost a fumble and could not generate much scoring punch, even though the offense was balanced by the best running production from Booker all season.
It was 13-10 early in the third quarter when McKinney jumped in front of Hunter Renfrow for an interception of Carr that McKinney took 41 yards down the right sideline for a touchdown that put the Giants ahead 17-13. They were the first points produced on defense this season.
After the Raiders closed to within 17-16, Jones misfired on his first pass of the third quarter but then hit sliding Kenny Golladay for 14 yards. A roughing-the-passer penalty on cornerback Nate Hobbs for smacking Jones in the face helped the Giants get in range for Gano’s second field goal to increase the lead to 20-16.
It looked as if the Raiders would take the lead or at least get closer when they advanced 70 yards but no further when safety Logan Ryan dropped Josh Jacobs with a strong tackle short of a first down. Then, shockingly, Daniel Carlson missed a 25-yard field goal attempt with 9:28 remaining.
For the first time this season, the Giants made it into the end zone in the first quarter of a home game. The points came on the end of a crisp 75-yard drive that featured Booker on the ground and Jones going 3-for-3, including a well-placed ball down the right sideline to tight end Evan Engram, who out-leaped safety Johnathan Abram to complete a 30-yard scoring hookup for a 7-0 Giants lead.
The promising start gave way to a sobering opening series for the Giants’ defense, which provided no impediment to the Raiders. They marched 73 yards and pulled even on Carr’s flip to Renfrow, who beat Bradberry to the goal line.
The attempt to get Kadarius Toney into the action failed in the first half. He lined up in the Wildcat on third-and-2, fooling no one and was dropped by Carl Nassib for a 2-yard loss. The call later came in for Toney on a double-pass, but after he saw Hobbs closing fast and decided to keep the ball for a 6-yard loss. Toney finally caught his first pass of the game, a nine-yard gain to pick up a first down, late in the third quarter.
Jones was hit from behind by Yannick Ngakoue, who beat left tackle Matt Peart, for a sack and forced fumble that gave the Raiders possession on the Giants’ 30-yard line. The damage was limited to a field goal when Carr could not hit tight end Darren Waller, with Bradberry in coverage.
It took until nearly seven minutes into the second quarter for Jones to target one of his wide receivers. Golladay returned after missing the past three games with a knee injury. The offense remained without running back Saquon Barkley and receiver Sterling Shepard.
Golladay picked up 14 yards on a slant, Booker ran for 20 yards but Jones failed to get out of the pocket fast enough to avoid a sack by Ngakoue and Gano’s 35-yard field goal made it 10-10. Carr in the final minute of the first half sailed a throw to Waller, running free in the end zone, and the Raiders had to settle for a Carlson field goal to go ahead 13-10 at halftime.
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