2021 NFL season, Week 2: What we learned from Washington’s win over Giants on Thursday night

2021 NFL season, Week 2: What we learned from Washington’s win over Giants on Thursday night

Daniel Jones’ legs and arm kept the New York Giants going on Thursday night, while Taylor Heinicke’s connection to Terry McLaurin countered for the Washington Football Team. As the NFC East rivals went back and forth, it was Heinicke who led Washington down the field with the game on the line and kicker Dustin Hopkins who delivered a 43-yard field goal for a 30-29 win on “Thursday Night Football.”

McLaurin over Bradberry. Washington Football Team wide receiver Terry McLaurin gave Giants cornerback James Bradberry all sorts of problems Thursday, and showed again why he’s one of the best receivers in the game. McLaurin caught 11 passes for 107 yards and a touchdown, and although he beat some zone coverage here and there, a lot of his damage came against the Giants’ Pro Bowl cornerback, who also was flagged for holding McLaurin in the fourth quarter. Late in the game, Bradberry jumped in front of a short route by McLaurin for an interception that could easily have made for redemption, but the Giants were only able to capitalize for a field goal, not a touchdown, and it ultimately cost them. McLaurin is an exceptional route runner, and when pass protection is solid, as it was Thursday, he can get open against anyone.
Not on Jones. Nobody in blue can blame Daniel Jones for this one. The Giants QB played turnover-free football on the road, which is unusual to say the least, and made more than enough plays to win this one. But three huge miscues by teammates foiled one of Jones’ best games as a pro: 1) a drop of a would-be deep TD pass by WR Darius Slayton, 2) a holding call on WR C.J. Board that wiped out a would-be Jones TD run, and 3) a bitterly disappointing offsides call at the end of the game that gave the Washington Football Team a second shot at a game-winning field goal. Despite the loss, Thursday was an encouraging night for Jones — he was well-protected, especially in the second half, and delivered a strong performance.
Barkley settling in. Check another box for the comeback of Giants running back Saquon Barkley in his comeback from a torn ACL. After two weeks, he’s still not the centerpiece of the offense, but he was more involved and more explosive in Week 2. Barkley got 15 touches, four more than he did in the Giants’ opener, and showed a burst of speed on an early run of 41 yards that looked like the Barkley of 2018. It remains to be seen if the Giants’ offensive line can spring him consistently, especially now with the loss of the injured Nick Gates, but Barkley is coming along nicely.
Heinicke comes through. Was Taylor Heinicke as impressive Thursday as he was in a playoff loss to the Buccaneers in January? Given the defense he was facing and the stakes involved, probably not. But the fourth-year backup, stepping in for Ryan Fitzpatrick, looked very good in getting WFT off to a strong start in divisional play. Heinicke connected on 34 of 46 passes for 336 yards, and overcame a late interception to lead a game-winning FG drive. And just when it looked like he wasn’t going to hurt the Giants deep, he hit the Giants for a crucial two-play, 75-yard TD drive in the second half.
Easy money for Gano. Lost in the loss was a five-for-five effort by Giants kicker Graham Gano, who nailed attempts from 23, 47, 52, 55 and 35 yards. It gave him 35 consecutive makes, adding to a franchise record. The Giants offense lost the game in part because it couldn’t punch in touchdowns on a night when it rolled up 412 yards without a turnover, so it’s not great news that Gano was kept so busy. But when tight games come down to three points — as they did Thursday with Washington getting the chance — the Giants have to feel good about Gano’s ability to finish games from long distances.

NFL Research: Daniel Jones’ 95 rushing yards were the highest total by a Giants quarterback in the Super Bowl era.

Next Gen stat of the night: The completion probability of Taylor Heinicke’s late TD pass to Ricky Seals-Jones, thrown to the back of the end zone over coverage from Adoree’ Jackson, was just 13.7%. The air distance on the toss was 40.2 yards, and it was the second-most improbable completion by Washington of the NGS era.

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