The Washington Football hosted the New York Giants in primetime and came away with a last-second dramatic 30-29 win. Here are five takeaways from the victory.
1. The defense brought more pressure.
Daniel Jones faced pressure throughout the night with six quarterback hits and four sacks. Montez Sweat had one of the most pivotal plays of the first half, as he brought down Jones for a six-yard loss and pushed the Giants out of field goal range. And even when the rush didn't hit home, it still managed to alter Jones' passes, most notably when Allen forced an incompletion intended for Kenny Golladay in the second quarter.
Speaking of Allen, the fifth-year defensive tackle had a standout night against the Giants with a pair of sacks and six tackles. Allen already has three sacks on the season, which is more than he had in all of 2020.
2. An improved showing from the offense.
Thursday's game was Taylor Heinicke’s first regular season start since the 2018 season. The former Old Dominion quarterback said he's come a long way in the past years; he and the offense were much improved from the anemic showing it put out against the Chargers.
It did take a little bit for the offense to get churning. Like in Week 1, its first two drives ended in punts. But while the unit had to settle for field goals for most of that matchup, it found paydirt early facing a 7-0 deficit. Heinicke drove the offense 90 yards downfield, capping off the 13-play series with an 11-yard strike to Terry McLaurin.
Two drives later, this time trailing 10-7, the offense marched down the field on a 12-play, 84-yard drive with J.D. McKissic getting a clear path to the end zone on a two-yard score. With 21 second left in the first half, Washington held a 14-10 lead.
Washington finished the game with 407 total yards -- much better than the 259 it put up against the Chargers.
3. Some positive signs on defense, but lots of room for improvement.
Washington gave up 424 yards to Justin Herbert and the Chargers, which ranked near the bottom in the league on Sunday. The defense played better against the Giants, but problems still loomed over the unit.
There were times when the defense looked as dominant as people expected it to be this year. After the Giants' opening drive, which ended in a six-yard touchdown run by Jones, New York only managed 38 yards on its next 11 minutes. That provided enough time for Washington's offense to get rolling and on the scoreboard. And when the defense needed a stop after Heinicke's fourth-quarter interception, it forced a field goal to keep victory within reach.
Big plays, however, were an issue throughout the night. Jones didn't run often, but it usually resulted in a chunk of yardage, the worst of which being the 46-yard romp that was originally ruled a touchdown but was called back because of a holding penalty.
The secondary also had rough stretches with Jones completing 22-of-32 passes for 249 yards. One of the most damning plays came in the third quarter with Washington clinging to a 14-13 lead. Jones found Darius Slayton for a 33-yard touchdown pass, ending a 65-yard drive.
So, there's still room for improvement, but it is a step in the right direction.
4. Up and down...and up again.
The last five minutes were the most turbulent emotional roller coaster of the entire night.
It first looked like Washington was about to seal the game for good. All Heinicke and Washington needed was two plays and 17 seconds to move 75 yards downfield. Heinicke hit McKissic for a 56-yard catch-and-run with Ricky Seals-Jones completing a toe-tapping 19-yard score one play later to that a 27-26 lead.
Then, after the defense forced a punt, it looked like Washington stuck a dagger in its hopes for victory. Heinicke threw an interception at Washington's 25-yard line, which the Giants used to go back up by two points. There was a chance with two minutes left and a timeout, but it was a slim one.
Two minutes later, it looked like those hopes were dashed, as Dustin Hopkins’ kick was wide right as time expired. But the Giant committed a neutral zone infraction, giving Hopkins one last shot to make the kick. This time, Hopkins nailed the 43-yarder, giving Washington the one-point victory.
It wasn't pretty, Young said after the game, and there's a lot to work on, but Washington ultimately came away with the win. There will be time to dissect the film, but for now, the win is all that matters.
5. A critical division win.
Jones was undefeated against Washington heading into Thursday's game. The streak has been broken, and it couldn't come at a better time for the team.
Washington is now 1-1 heading into a stretch of the season that features the likes of the Buffalo Bills, Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs. But even more importantly, Washington is now 1-0 in the NFC East, giving it an early division lead. It might not seem significant right now with most of the division games coming at the end of the year, but seeing that the NFC East is often one of the most competitive in the league, having the leg up could be useful when every matchup carries even more significance.