EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.—Saturday morning, the MetLife Stadium parking lot was the site of an outdoor flea market.
Sunday afternoon, the venue hosted the NFL equivalent.
It ended with the New York Giants squeaking out a 20-19 victory after the Washington Football Team attempted a two-point conversion, but quarterback Kyle Allen’s pass fell short.
That the Giants (1-5) and the Football Team (1-5) are bad is not surprising. Both have first-year coaches, and Washington’s Ron Rivera made it a point this offseason to opt for younger players at key positions, a sign of a rebuilding team.
What is surprising is Rivera’s insistence that his team might be good, or at least good enough to win the NFC East title, a trophy that seems likely to end up at the aforementioned flea market someday.
Rivera even squinted his eyes hard enough to see a productive day from Allen, awarding him a luxury that was not given to Dwayne Haskins.
Haskins was benched after a 300-yard day against Baltimore, in part because of missed opportunities and struggles with ball protection.
Allen was a near carbon copy on Sunday. His two turnovers, an interception and a fumble, led to 14 of the Giants’ points, and he routinely missed open receivers.
Yet here was Rivera’s postgame answer when asked if Allen would continue as the starter.
“I would like to believe so,” Rivera said. “His statistics are pretty darn good. He was 31 of 42 for 280 yards. Unfortunately he did have the interception and the fumble, but, we totaled 337 total yards.
“That gives us an opportunity, I think, if we’re scoring points, to be competitive in the game, and I think we got what we wanted out of it in terms of being competitive.”
Yes, Washington was competitive to the final play, but it does merit repeating that the opponent was the 2020 Giants, who entered the game with an 0-5 record this season.
The Football Team’s errors weren’t limited to the quarterback position.
Kick returner Danny Johnson could have let the opening kickoff bounce out of bounds, but instead fielded it inside the 15-yard line. To atone for that, he let a kickoff later in the quarter bounce—this one well inside the field of play, and ultimately fielded at the 13-yard line.
On defense, safety Landon Collins, who used to play for the Giants, was seen huffing and puffing down the sideline as he failed to keep pace with New York quarterback Daniel Jones on a 49-yard run.
That’s been the story this year for Washington’s defense, which has generally been good enough (13 points allowed Sunday, 7 of them on a short field), but has given up a league-leading nine plays of 40 or more yards.
The defense has also struggled to create takeaways, having logged three in a season-opening win and just five in the five games since.
On the flip side, Washington’s offense has turned the ball over 10 times and has struggled to create its own big plays.
A frustrated Allen said after the game that while ultimately the game would only be remembered as a loss, he did feel the team is continuing to build unity.
“If you want to look for something other than a win or a loss, it’s that we kept fighting,” he said. “We’re working through a lot of things, but I’m proud of the way we fought and I think that’s a mentality we’re starting to build around here, and I think it’s starting to become part of who we are.
“We’ve had a tough year so far, but that’s the only thing that’s going to keep us together is we keep fighting.”
Unlike earlier weeks, Rivera gave them the opportunities to fight. Before halftime, punter Tress Way pinned the Giants on their own 1-yard line, but there was a running into the kicker penalty called.
Rivera opted to bring his offense back for a fourth-and-5 from the NY 41-yard line, instead of sending the defense onto the field.
It paid off with a touchdown.
Yet even on that play, Allen missed a wide-open Terry McLaurin for a few seconds before finally settling on a pass to Dontrelle Inman. It was completed, but the play could have been much easier.
The evidence is ample that the Football Team won’t be at a football game this postseason unless they buy tickets, and yet, Rivera was asked if he was ready to throw in the towel on winning the NFC East.
“No, it hasn’t,” he said. “We’ve got to see what happens to Philadelphia (1-4-1) and Dallas (2-3, vs. Arizona on Monday). So it doesn’t change my opinion. That’s why we’re playing these games.”
Mathematically, he’s not wrong. But it would be hard to come away from Sunday’s game thinking Washington is anything other than what they initially were—a rebuilding football team, and one that doesn’t have a solution at the quarterback position.