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Winners, losers from New York Giants’ Sunday Night Football victory

NFL: New York Giants at Washington Commanders
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In what was the biggest game of the year for both teams, the New York Giants earned a hard-fought win in the nation’s capital as they defeated the Washington Commander 20-12 on Sunday Night Football.

With the win, the Giants move up to the sixth seed in the NFC playoff picture and the Commanders drop to seven.

Two weeks ago, these two teams played to a 20-20 tie and it seemed destined that this game was heading into overtime as Washington had the ball at Giants’ six-yard line. But Darnay Holmes knocked down a 4th down pass intended for Curtis Samuel to give Big Blue its first win in over a month.

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Here are the winners and losers from the New York Giants’ Week 15 victory.

Winner: Kayvon Thibodeaux’s breakout game

NFL: Washington Commanders at New York Giants
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Thibodeaux was the most dominant player on the field on Sunday night, as he had by far the best game of his young career.

He had a game-high 12 tackles (nine solo) and he stripped sacked Taylor Heinicke and scooped up the ball at the one-yard line and brought it in for his first NFL touchdown to give the Giants a 7-3 lead with 13:10 remaining in the second quarter.

Whenever the defense needed to make a play, Thibodeaux was there including late in the game when he kept Heinicke a yard short of the goal line after his scramble. Some had felt Thibodeaux had underachieved this season, but on Sunday he showed why he deserved to be the fifth overall pick in the draft.

Loser: Taylor Heinicke’s costly turnovers

NFL: New York Giants at Washington Commanders
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

By the numbers, Heinicke did not have a bad game as he completed 17 out of 29 passes for 249 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 33 yards on three carries. But his two lost fumbles were essentially the difference in the game.

We mentioned the strip sack by Thibodeaux in the second quarter, but he lost his second fumble with 5:25 remaining in the game and Washington down 17-12 when he was sacked by Dexter Lawrence and Azeez Ojulari at the New York five-yard line.

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The Commanders could have cut the deficit to 17-15 with a field goal, but instead, Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley spearheaded a nine-play 54-yard drive that culminated in a Graham Gano 50-yard field goal to extend their lead to 20-12.

Winner: New York Giants head coach Brian Daboll

Syndication: The Record
Chris Pedota, NorthJersey.com / USA TODAY NETWORK

Not only did New York increases its playoff chances with the win, but for the first time since 2016, it will not have a losing record. Over the past five seasons, the franchise lost credibility after suffering through five consecutive seasons with double-digit losses.

But now, even if they were to lose their remaining three games, the worst that they’ll finish is 8-8-1. Considering nobody outside the organization expected the team to play meaningful games in December, this is an indication that the team is moving in the right direction under its rookie head coach Brian Daboll.

He made a heads-up challenge when Ojualri and Lawrence sacked Heinicke because it was initially ruled that Heinicke was down before he fumbled.

It’s safe to say, no matter what happens in the final three games of the season, New York has overachieved this season thanks to their rookie head coach.

Loser: Terry McLaurin’s costly mistakes

NFL: New York Giants at Washington Commanders
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

McLaurin had a solid game catching six passes for 70 yards. However, his failure to line up on the line of scrimmage and drawing the penalty that wiped out Brian Robinson’s touchdown with 63 seconds remaining can’t be forgotten.

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The touchdown would have made the score 20-18 with an upcoming two-point conversion attempt. But instead, Washington was penalized five yards for an illegal formation. Two plays later Holmes knocked down Heinicke’s pass for Samuel to give the Giants its first divisional win of the season.