It took until the end of a dismal and disappointing season, but Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley reminded everyone why the Giants' future is bright.
Both players looked as good as they ever have as they put on dazzling displays in the Giants' wild, 41-35 overtime win over the Washington Redskins. Jones, the rookie quarterback who missed the last two games with a sprained ankle, completed 28-of-42 passes for a career-high 352 yards and a career-best five touchdowns. And Barkley, in by far the finest game of his young career, rushed 22 times for 189 yards and caught four passes for 90 yards and scored twice, too.
For Jones, it was his third game of the season with at least four touchdown passes and fourth game with at least four touchdowns overall. And Barkley set his career best with 279 total yards.
Yes, it was against a bad Redskins team and its middling defense. And absolutely, it was a crushing win for anyone hoping the Giants would be able to land Ohio State pass rusher Chase Young in the upcoming NFL draft. But those twin performances were still a welcome sight for a team that had struggled so badly in recent weeks. Jones' last game was a three-interception nightmare before he gave way to Eli Manning for two weeks. And his last win was way back in Week 4 in his second NFL start.
Barkley, meanwhile, had been dogged by questions for months about whether he was still hurt or whether he came back way too soon from his own ankle sprain. His 112-yard game against the Dolphins last week was his first since Week 2, and this week he made sure to show that was no fluke.
It helped that the Redskins' defense offered little pressure, making things fairly easy for the Giants' offensive line. But it was a reminder of what Jones and Barkley are capable of doing if they get blocking in front of them and afforded room and time. They are a 1-2 punch that definitely bodes well for the Giants future -- assuming the right pieces are put around them soon.
Here are a few more takeaways from the Giants' second straight win …
- This game actually was quite a showcase for two of the top quarterbacks from the Class of 2019 up until Dwayne Haskins was carted off the field with an ankle injury. Haskins was 12-of-15 for 133 yards and two touchdowns Of course, the fact that he and Jones both had such terrific performances is at least partially due to the fact that both defenses stink, too.
- If you were rooting for Young in the Draft, this was a really bad result. The Giants now are 4-11 and currently slotted to pick fourth in the NFL draft (after the 1 p.m. games). Even if they lose to the Eagles next Sunday they probably won't be able to get to 2, which is where they need to be for Young (unless the Redskins somehow beat the Cowboys). So it's probably time to start scouting the best available offensive linemen.
- This was one of the best games of the season -- if not his career -- for linebacker Lorenzo Carter, the Giants' third-round pick from a year ago. He was the source of constant pressure and ended up with 1.5 sacks, and came up just short of one or two more. He had a huge tipped pass on a second down play near the end zone in inside the final minute. He now has five sacks on the season -- one more than he had as a rookie. It was a good reminder of how it takes some players a couple of years to fully develop.
- Rookie receiver Darius Slayton injured his knee early and Cody Latimer filled in nicely, gaining 44 yards on five catches, including a touchdown. It's been a disappointing season for the stretch-the-field receiver, but he showed he might have some value down near the bottom of the depth chart.
- Speaking of value: Golden Tate had six catches for 96 yards. He is so good at getting open in the middle of the field and his hands are so reliable. He even made a terrific catch on the sidelines at the edge of field goal range late in regulation. Thanks to his PED suspension, the Giants can get out of his contract after the season, but I'm not sure why they'd want to. He's got 44 catches for 608 yards in 10 games on the season.
- Leonard Williams watch: Three assisted tackles. Still no sacks. What the Giants do with him is going to be one of the most fascinating decisions they've had in many years. They traded a third and a fifth for him, so they have to try to sign him. But they really can't justify signing him for much. The transition tag probably makes the most sense, but stay tuned.
- Rough game for rookie CB Corey Ballentine, who really almost blew the game at the end for the Giants. He was covering WR Steve Sims on Washington's 4th-and-goal play from the 3 inside the final minute -- and at the end of what turned out to be a 99-yard drive, by the way. Sims had no chance of catching Case Keenum's pass, but Ballentine shoved him anyway. It was an easy, obvious pass interference call. One play later, Keenum ran it in for a touchdown to tie the game.
- Pulling within 35-34 with 29 seconds remaining in a Week 16 game between two 3-11 teams, and Redskins coach Bill Callahan sends out the kicker for the extra point? Come on. Go for the win. Who cares about overtime between these two awful teams? Ridiculous decision. He deserved to lose in overtime.
- Another strong game for rookie TE Kaden Smith, a 49ers castoff, who has filled in nicely with Evan Engram and Rhett Ellison hurt the last few weeks. He had six catches for 35 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner in overtime. He has 22 catches for 169 yards and three touchdowns in the last five games.