Similar Teams With Similar Records, Giants and Commanders Play to a Tie
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — When the N.F.L. season began three months ago, few prognosticators had the Giants and the Washington Commanders battling for playoff spots.
Yet before they faced each other Sunday at MetLife Stadium, both teams had seven wins and were in position to make the postseason because of their ball-control offenses and stingy defenses. That gave their matchup extra meaning with five weeks remaining in the regular season.
So it was perhaps fitting that the game between similar teams went to overtime and ended in a 20-20 tie. The result, which left the Giants at 7-4-1 and the Commanders at 7-5-1, further complicated the challenging stretch run for both teams.
After heading into halftime tied at 13, the teams traded touchdowns in the second half and squandered many other chances. In overtime, neither team could score. The game ended when Giants kicker Graham Gano missed a 58-yard field goal that would have won the game.
By tying on the road, the Commanders’ chance of making the playoffs improved to as high as 74 percent, up from 68 percent, according to The Upshot’s playoff simulator. The Giants saw their chances of making the playoffs jump to 73 percent from 64 percent.
The teams are bunched in the competitive N.F.C. East, and the Giants still have two games with the first-place Philadelphia Eagles, who improved to 11-1 by beating Tennessee on Sunday. The Giants and the Commanders also face each other again in two weeks.
“We’ll figure it out,” Giants Coach Brian Daboll said of the muddy result. “There’s a long way to go.”
The players had trouble processing the result. The tie “feels like a loss,” Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke said.
The Giants wore their 1980s uniforms Sunday for what they called a Legacy Game against a longtime rival, and in many ways, the game was a throwback to that decade, before the league was dominated by pass-happy offenses.
Neither team won many style points. Giants running back Saquon Barkley ran for 63 yards — surpassing 1,000 yards for the season — including a 13-yard touchdown in the first half. Quarterback Daniel Jones ran for another 71 yards and scrambled for several first downs. But it was often hard to determine if he did so by design or because he couldn’t find an open receiver.
One of Jones’s runs resulted in a fumble at midfield. It came on the Giants’ first drive of the game, and Washington converted it into a field goal. The Commanders added a touchdown on a 19-yard pass from Heinicke to receiver Terry McLaurin to build a 10-0 lead in the first quarter.
McLaurin finished with eight catches for 105 yards. Heinicke was 27 for 41 for 275 yards passing and two touchdowns.
Jones was more efficient, completing 25 of 31 passes for 200 yards and one touchdown. Other than a 55-yard completion to receiver Darius Slayton, Jones threw mostly screen passes to Barkley and receiver Isaiah Hodgins. Slayton finished with six receptions for 90 yards.
Washington had the ball nearly 13 more minutes than the Giants, but the Giants’ offense grinded away. And when Jones tossed a 6-yard touchdown pass to Hodgins early in the third quarter to give the Giants their first lead, 20-13, the defense seemed to take over.
Defensive end Dexter Lawrence and the edge rushers Kayvon Thibodeaux and Oshane Ximines pressured Heinicke, who was sacked five times. Heinicke hurried several other passes that were incomplete and he lost one fumble.
After the Giants grabbed the lead and with Washington trying to respond, Lawrence dropped Heinicke, forcing a 52-yard field goal attempt that kicker Joey Slye missed wide right.
But Heinicke, who has been dogged by turnovers and sloppy passes, several of which were nearly intercepted Sunday, showed why Washington Coach Ron Rivera has kept him in the starting role since he replaced Carson Wentz.
Needing a touchdown to tie the game with less than three minutes remaining, Rivera elected not to punt on fourth-and-4. Under pressure, Heinicke rolled left and found receiver Curtis Samuel at midfield for a 20-yard gain. Heinicke then found receiver Jahan Dotson, who scampered into the end zone for a 28-yard touchdown.
With the score tied at 20, Jones tried twice to find Slayton downfield without success, forcing the Giants to punt. Heinicke and the Commanders could not score either, so the teams went to overtime.
The Giants won the coin toss but failed to convert a first down. The Commanders took over on their own 33-yard line needing only a field goal to win. Their drive, though, stalled at midfield, giving the Giants a second chance. Jones completed passes to Hodgins, tight end Daniel Bellinger and Barkley. But on third-and-2 past midfield, Jones collided with Barkley and Richie James in the backfield for no gain.
Thibodeaux nearly ended the game on a safety when he sacked Heinicke on the 2-yard line. Washington punted, and the Giants had one last chance with 28 seconds remaining, but Gano’s final kick fell far short of the cross bar.