A promising performance from quarterback Alex Smith ended with a pair of interceptions, the last of which sealed the Washington Football Team's sixth defeat of the season. Despite completing 24 of his 32 passes for 325 yards -- the most of his Washington career -- in place of the injured Kyle Allen, his two turnovers in the final three minutes sealed the Giants' 23-20 win Sunday at FedExField
"I was very pleased. It was exciting to watch him get out there and do the things that he did and control the tempo of the game the way he did," head coach Ron Rivera said of Smith. "It's unfortunate with the interceptions; he tried to make things happen, tried to force things, and unfortunately bad things happened this time. But, there will be times when he'll force something and something good will happen, and we'll all be happy about that."
Smith's late-game miscues were part of a five-turnover day for Washington, which could not get out of its own way throughout the game. Those giveaways led to the Giants' first 10 points and allowed them to secure just their second win of the season.
The first turnover came on Washington's opening offensive play, when running back Antonio Gibson made the catch on a drag route, turned upfield and rumbled down the right sideline for a 22-yard gain. But then Gibson got hit and fumbled, and while several Washington players were there to recover, the ball bounced around until a Giants player fell on it at the 19-yard line.
On the next play, seventh-round rookie Kamren Curl, filling in for Landon Collins at strong safety, allowed Austin Mack to go right past him and run free down the right sideline for a 50-yard gain. The Washington defense held strong from there, but Graham Gano still opened the scoring with a 38-yard field goal. The Giants then extended their lead to 10-0 at the end of the first quarter following a muffed punt from Isaiah Wright.
Check out photos of the Washington Football Team during its Week 9 matchup against the New York Giants. (Photos courtesy of Amanda Bowen/NFL, Elijah Walter Griffin Sr/Washington Football Team and Emilee Fails/Washington Football Team)
The turnovers were not the only issue, though. After allowing just 240 yards of total offense against the Giants in Week 6, Washington gave up 244 in the first half Sunday, 109 of which were on the ground. Entering the game, the Giants ranked 27th in the NFL with 98.5 rushing yards per game.
Washington was also without Allen, who dislocated his ankle according to Rivera. Rivera did not have any other details to provide after the game, but he said Smith will start next week in Detroit with Dwayne Haskins Jr. backing him up.
Smith's first possession Sunday resulted in a field goal, and while he drove the offense near the goal line at the end of the half, an interception ensured the hosts entered the break facing a 20-3 deficit.
"The difference is that we can start fast," linebacker Jon Bostic said, "and we've been preaching that all year. We've got to play a full 60-minute ballgame on offense, defense and special teams. Everybody's got to be able to play together. If we're only putting 30 minutes together or a good 45 minutes here and there, we're not going to get too many ballgames. For us, we've got to put a full 60 minutes together."
While the Giants dominated the opening 30 minutes, Washington controlled most of the final two quarters.
The offense started the second half with a six-play, 70-yard drive that ended with Gibson's fifth rushing touchdown of the season. Wide receiver Cam Sims made a 45-yard catch on that drive, and he corralled a 33-yard pass on the next possession to set up a field goal -- both of which contributed to the first 100-yard game of his three-year career. Terry McLaurin also eclipsed the 100-yard mark in large part because of an electrifying 68-yard touchdown, which pulled his team within 23-20 early in the fourth quarter.
Washington had two chances to either tie the game or take the lead, but both possessions ended the same way. Facing a 3rd-and-10 from the Giants' 40-yard line, a backpedaling Smith tried to find J.D. McKissic over the middle but sailed the throw. The ball tipped off McKissic's hands and into the arms of Jabrill Peppers for the interception.
Washington's defense quickly forced a punt, setting up the offense at its own 30-yard line with 1 minute, 48 seconds to play and one timeout. This time Smith was looking for McLaurin, but safety Logan Ryan cut in front for the game-ending interception.
"The last [interception], two minute, you're trying to make a play, I just felt like I was late," Smith said. "I had a chance to throw that on time, and if you double clutch it, any good defense is going to make you pay. I either needed to keep moving through my progressions or throw that football on time. That's one where I obviously feel like I'm better than that and certainly capable of making that play. You can't throw it late over the middle, obviously, that's quarterbacking 101."