It wound up being for naught, but the New York Giants closed out their season by defeating the rival Dallas Cowboys 23-19. By winning, the Giants put themselves in line to win the NFC East and go to the playoffs if the Washington Football Team lost to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday Night Football. Washington eventually won that game, thanks to Eagles coach Doug Pederson inexplicably benching quarterback Jalen Hurts for third-stringer Nate Sudfeld for the fourth quarter. Regardless of Philadelphia’s disgraceful display costing them a postseason berth, New York can at least hold their heads high knowing they took care of their own business on Sunday.
Big Blue’s victory over Dallas followed a similar script to pretty much all of their wins this season. Their offense managed to score in the high-teens to mid-twenties, and they relied on their defense to close out the game while clinging to a narrow lead. This game was truly one of two halves, as the Giants scored all three of their touchdowns in the first half, and allowed the Cowboys to nearly complete a comeback in the second half.
The Giants started the game off brilliantly, putting together a seemingly effortless six-play, 78-yard drive capped by a 23-yard touchdown run on an end-around by Sterling Shepard. On New York’s next possession, a botched handoff to Wayne Gallman led to a fumble, which set up a Dallas field goal that put the visitors on the board. The two teams traded punts over the next six possessions.
With just under 10 minutes left in the second quarter, Big Blue executed another six-play touchdown drive, this time aided by a Jourdan Lewis personal foul penalty and finished off by a 10-yard pass to Shepard. Dallas responded with another field goal, but on the Giants next possession, Daniel Jones threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Dante Pettis to put New York up by two majors. The Cowboys kicked a 57-yard field goal with time expiring, giving New York a 20-9 lead heading into halftime.
The second half is when Dallas’ offense found some rhythm, and New York made multiple costly mistakes. After the Cowboys’ opened the half by going three-and-out, Jones threw a pass that went through the hands of Evan Engram, bounced off his helmet, and ricocheted right to Chidobe Awuzie for an interception. Dallas took advantage of their free possession with a 10-play, 62 yard touchdown drive capped by a one-yard Ezekial Elliott plunge.
On their next possession, the Cowboys embarked on a 13-play, 62-yard drive that led to another field goal after stalling in the red zone. That cut New York’s lead down to just 20-19, but Dallas was held scoreless for the rest of the way. After the teams traded punts, the Giants kicked a 50-yard field goal to stretch their lead to four. New York only put themselves in field-goal range with a controversial 10-yard reception by Pettis that set them up at Dallas’ 32-yard line. Replays clearly showed the ball hitting the turf before Pettis secured it, but mysteriously, Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy didn’t challenge the call on the field of a catch.
Now needing a touchdown to win it, Dallas used up 17 plays and over five minutes to get into the red zone, but Andy Dalton threw an interception to Xavier McKinney in the endzone that effectively ended the game. The big play in New York’s defensive stand was a 10-yard sack of Dalton by Leonard Williams on a first-and-goal from the seven-yard line.
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Big Blue still had one more scare to give their fans. Gallman fumbled the ball while just trying to kill clock with under a minute left. Thankfully, it was ruled that Gallman himself recovered the ball upon review. The Giants kneeled out the rest of the game to finish off their 2020 season with a 6-10 record.
Here are your Week 17 “Podium/Sodium Players”, i.e., three Giants players fans want to reward for their play, and three they’re feeling salty about.
Gold Medal: WR Sterling Shepard
Shepard had his second consecutive gold-medal performance, catching eight passes for 112 yards and a touchdown. He even tacked on two carries for 24 yards and a touchdown. Shepard got open for Jones all game, as his production made up nearly half of the Giants’ passing attack. It was a fitting season finale for the fifth-year pro, who’s been New York’s most reliable receiver all year. In a position group that will require a makeover this offseason, Shepard has proven himself to be a keeper.
Silver Medal: DL Leonard Williams
In this game, much like for most of the season, Williams was a force to be reckoned with. He registered seven total tackles and five solo, including three important sacks. As mentioned above, his sack of Dalton with less than two minutes left was critical in preserving Big Blue’s lead. Sunday’s performance was a capper on Williams’ All-Pro-caliber year. He’s in line to sign a lucrative contract as a free agent this offseason.
Bronze Medal: QB Daniel Jones
Overall, it was a difficult year for the Giants’ second-year quarterback. His game on Sunday, though, was certainly one to build upon for next season. Jones finished 17 for 25 for 229 yards and two touchdowns. His one interception wasn’t at all his fault, as a perfectly thrown pass bounced off Engram’s facemask. Jones finally looked healthy again after pulling his hamstring in Week 12, as offensive coordinator Jason Garrett called multiple designed runs for him. His touchdown pass to Pettis was a high-level throw that showed off his arm-talent and accuracy. After his two interception game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 8, Jones played much cleaner, more efficient football.
Salty: RB Wayne Gallman
Gallman ran the ball well on Sunday, going for 65 yards on just 11 carries. But the Giants first turnover was a direct result of him not properly securing a handoff. His fourth quarter fumble gave Giants fans an undue heart attack. A turnover there would’ve given Dallas the ball back with another chance to win the game. Fortunately, he was able to recover the loose ball. It’s hard to criticize Gallman too harshly as he did average 5.9 yards per carry, but his poor ball security caused some unnecessary headaches.
Saltier: WR Darius Slayton
Sunday saw another underwhelming game from Slayton, whose production tailed off dramatically in the second half of the season. He had just two catches for 22 yards, and failed to corral a deep ball in the second quarter. Slayton needs to be big-play threat in this offense, but he’s made very few of those recently. His poor play down the stretch will likely earn him a demotion for next year.
Saltiest: TE Evan Engram
Engram may have just completed the most frustrating season ever for a Giants player. If so, then Sunday’s game would’ve been a fitting conclusion. The tight end only had two catches for 17 yards. Worse than that, though, were his three unconscionable drops, including one that led directly to an interception. His drop in the third quarter would’ve turned a first-and-25 into a second-and-short. Instead the Giants punted on that possession. Engram’s speed and athleticism make him a tempting player to keep, but he’s just proven to be far too mistake-prone.