LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — Well after completing his longest pass of the season and avoiding the mistakes that have cost the New York Giants games, Daniel Jones faced one final challenge to preserve his first game of 2020 without a turnover.
Jones absorbed contact on a blindside sack, held on to the ball, and Logan Ryan intercepted Alex Smith not long after to seal a 23-20 victory against Washington. After coach Joe Judge stressed to his players to “finish” following several blown leads, the Giants finally did so Sunday and pick up their second win, Jones didn’t throw an interception or lose a fumble and the defense forced five turnovers.
“That’s been a focus of mine: I obviously know the importance of holding on to the ball,” Jones said. “We were able to protect it today, and that was a big advantage for us.”
Jones was 23 of 34 for 212 yards, including a 50-yard connection with Austin Mack and a touchdown pass to Evan Engram to build a 17-point halftime lead. The Giants (2-7) attempted to run to run things out in the second half and survived a couple of touchdown drives led by Alex Smith, who replaced injured Washington quarterback Kyle Allen.
Smith connected with Terry McLaurin on a 68-yard score, his first TD pass in 728 days, to cut New York’s lead to 23-20 in the fourth quarter. But Smith threw two interceptions in the final 2:18 to end the threat for Washington (2-6). Both Giants wins are against Washington.
“It just happened that we’ve come ready to play against Washington these four times and been able to get wins,” said Jones, who’s 4-0 against Washington and 1-16 against the rest of the NFL as a starter. “We’ll look to build off it.”
Before things got hairy for the Giants, Wayne Gallman rushed for a touchdown, and Graham Gano made three field goals to extend his streak to 18 in a row.
Allen injured his left ankle late in the first quarter, forcing Smith into just his second NFL game since gruesomely breaking his right leg in November 2018. Allen’s left leg bent the wrong way on a sack by Jabrill Peppers, who was flagged for unnecessary roughness, and there was an air cast on it as he was carted off.
Smith was 24 of 32 for 325 yards, the TD and three interceptions.
“We had a chance without those (last) two,” said Smith, whom Rivera named the starter for Washington’s next game with Allen out. “The second one is the one that really hurts. I felt like we were rolling, really had them on the heels.”
Ryan dedicated the game to his wife, Ashley, who went to the emergency room this week in Florida with abdominal pain on the advice of a Giants trainer and had surgery to stop the bleeding caused by an ectopic pregnancy. Ryan wrote her name on his cleats and said Ashley was resting well at home.
“That ball is for her,” Ryan said. “She told me to bring one home for her, so I was able to do that.”
Despite picture-perfect, dry conditions, it looked early on like the ball was covered in grease — or just that this was an NFC East game.
Antonio Gibson fumbled after a 20-yard reception on Washington’s first offensive play, and the ball slipped through several players’ fingers before New York recovered 26 yards downfield. Jones’ 50-yard pass to Mack came on the next snap.
Washington punt returner Isaiah Wright muffed a catch not long after, setting up Gallman’s 2-yard TD run.
WHO NEEDS TATE?
Veteran Giants receiver Golden Tate was a healthy scratch and didn’t travel with the team days after shouting into a TV camera during a loss to Tampa Bay, “Throw me the ball!” Jones completed passes to 10 players, including Mack, who wouldn’t be playing if Tate were in uniform.
“Austin did a great job stepping up and made a lot of plays for us,” Jones said. “He’s someone you can trust to be in the right spot.”
The loss was a coming-out party of sorts for Washington receiver Cam Sims. He had three catches for 110 yards Sunday after entering with a total of 88 yards receiving in his first 15 NFL games.
FANS AT FEDEX
Washington’s first home game with fans this season included some Giants supporters among the 3,000 in attendance. They were sprinkled throughout the lower bowl at FedEx Field with all nonalcoholic concessions at half price. A Bud Light was going for the kind of price that would make people socially distance from the beer: a cool $14.
New York: The Giants were without running back Devonta Freeman because of an ankle injury.
Washington: After Kyle Allen got knocked out of the game, defensive lineman Jonathan Allen left briefly with a knee injury in the third quarter before returning.
The Giants host the Philadelphia Eagles in their second-last NFC East game this season, while Washington visits the Detroit Lions.
More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL