The quarterback had last started exactly 14 months ago and hadn’t won as a starter since 2014.
The backup running back scored two touchdowns for the first time since … 2014, including the first scoring reception of his nine-year, 110-game career.
But while Colt McCoy and Alfred Morris were two of the Giants’ key offensive performers on Sunday, they could not outshine the team’s ferocious defense, which held Seattle’s high-scoring offense to one touchdown and is getting key contributions from numerous youngsters, including one who has accomplished a statistical feat unmatched by a Giants player in 70 years.
Something special is happening with the Giants. The resurrection of their 2020 season took another great leap forward at Seattle’s Lumen Field, where they overcame a scoreless first half to defeat the Seahawks, 17-12.
Numerous television analysts quickly labeled it one of the NFL season’s biggest upsets. The Giants won their fourth consecutive game, improved to 5-7, solidified their hold on first place in the NFC East and pushed their 0-5 start further toward irrelevance.
“We walked in here confident, I’m not going to lie,” safety Jabrill Peppers said. “Team had a different swagger about them, team had a different juice about them today because we knew if we played our brand of football, we knew we could shock a lot of people. The ball rolled in our favor. I’m proud of the way guys fought.”
“This has been a fun season,” defensive lineman Leonard Williams said. “I think the beginning of the season is when the team and the guys and the coaches proved to each other what type of team we really have. It’s easier to be happy and see the good things when you are winning, but I feel like we all see the good things in each other and what we have, even when we were losing. That just helped continue to build our confidence in each other and build on what we have working here. Eventually, it turns into a snowball and it keeps building up. I feel like we have a real culture here now and I love the way this team is going.”
McCoy and Morris each appeared in one game during the 2019 season, with Washington and Arizona, respectively. McCoy started against New England on Oct. 6, completed 18 of 27 passes in a 33-7 loss and then was inactive or did not play in the final 11 games.
He saw his first Giants action last week in Cincinnati, where Daniel Jones suffered a hamstring injury that forced him to the inactive list on Sunday. McCoy stepped in and completed 13 of 22 passes for 105 yards, one touchdown and one interception and earned his first victory in a starting role since Oct. 27, 2014, when he led Washington to a win in Dallas.
“I am just so proud to be part of this team,” McCoy said. “We had zero points at halftime and the defense was playing lights-out and we rallied together and they helped me out, they calmed me down. I felt like I played a little better as the game went on. I was seeing a lot of things early. They pressured a lot and I wasn’t confused on a whole lot of looks, I just was kind of seeing it too quick. I just needed to calm down, take a breath and once we started to run the football, I felt a lot better.”
Morris contributed 39 yards to the Giants’ season-high 190 rushing yards. The bulk of the production came from Wayne Gallman, who had a career-high 135 yards, including a 60-yard run that was the longest of his career.
“Part of our game plan obviously was to run the ball,” coach Joe Judge said. “It starts up front with the guys blocking. I thought they did a good job of playing hard and wearing them down over time. I thought our backs ran tough and finished runs.”
Judge was confident McCoy would play well against a Seattle team that entered the game with an 8-3 record and a one-game lead in the NFC West.
“He’s as competitive as anyone in this league,” Judge said. “You put this guy against our defense, you put him in a two-minute drill, he gives you headache after headache. This guy comes to work every day and this guy is a ballplayer.”
So is Morris, who has rushed for more than 6,000 yards in the NFL. He didn’t join the Giants until he was signed to the practice squad on the last day of September and made his debut on Nov. 2. Morris scored each of the Giants’ touchdowns in the third quarter on a four-yard run and a six-yard catch, the latter a career first.
“I definitely double-caught it,” said Morris, who had snuck unnoticed into the right flat. “I was so wide open, I just assumed somebody was going to be there. I think they were planning for us to run a gap run again, which I think that drew them in and normally I don’t do those types of plays. I think it just made it work that much more and I was able to just creep out into the flat and I was so open, that’s why I kind of double-caught it. That was actually my first receiving touchdown, so that was huge and felt really good to get into the end zone.”
The Giants also got a 48-yard field goal from Graham Gano, his 25th consecutive successful attempt.
Seattle averaged 31 points in its first 11 games and had scored more than 30 points seven times. But they did not reach the end zone until 6:09 remained in the game, when Russell Wilson threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to running back Chris Carson.
Wilson completed 27 passes for 263 yards, but he was sacked five times, hit 10 times and was chased on virtually every one of his 43 pass attempts – including a final desperation heave on fourth-and-18 that fell to the ground with 37 seconds remaining.
Williams led the Giants’ onslaught with a career high-tying 2.5 sacks.
“I think schematically we did a good job making (Wilson) feel pressure and making him uncomfortable,” Williams said. “He felt like he had a guy on his side and had to hold the ball. I felt like we were coming at him from a lot of angles and it made him a little bit confused sometimes. Overall, he’s the head of the offense being the quarterback and making him uncomfortable is what we needed to do. I think we did a good job of that.”
Williams increased his season total to a career-best 8.5 sacks.
“That guy is a man,” Judge said. “That dude is a man. There are things about Leo that you may not know by not being in the locker room with him. First off, this guy is a pleasure to be around. This guy smiles all the time. He’s a great teammate, he’s very coachable. You give him something to work on, he’s going to work as hard as he can to master it. He gives us a lot of versatility on the defense because of his skillset.
"And this dude is just a guy that when you see him in your locker room before the game, he makes you feel a little bit better. Obviously, there’s statistics on the field that you see, what you don’t see is what kind of guy he is to coach, what kind of teammate he is away from it. That’s as important if not more important than all the statistics you see on the sheets. This guy helps everyone else raise their level of preparation and play.”
Several of his teammates played at a high level on Sunday. Peppers, rookie linebacker Tae Crowder and Jaball Sheard accounted for the Giants’ other 2.5 sacks.
Rookie Darnay Holmes intercepted a Wilson pass for his first career pick. In what is almost a weekly occurrence, linebacker Blake Martinez led the Giants in tackles (10, including five solo) and forced one a fumble.
Niko Lalos, who intercepted a pass in his NFL debut last week, fell on the ball when Wilson couldn’t secure a second-quarter snap. According to the Elias Sports Bureau,
Lalos is the first Giants player with at least one interception and one opponent fumble recovery in first two NFL games since Otto Schnellbacher in 1950.
“These guys work hard,” Judge said of his defensive players. “(Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham) has a good plan and I think there’s really good position coaches on each side of the ball. They’re very detailed in their approach. Our players have gotten more comfortable in our scheme and they’ve been able to build on the multiples. You have to have multiples to play a lot of these quarterbacks that we’re playing. You’ve got to be able to play guys like Russell Wilson where you can go ahead and stop him in the run game. That’s a lot easier said than done. At the same point, you want to try and confuse them a little bit in the passing game which again is a lot easier said than done.”
The Seahawks led at halftime, 5-0, thanks to Jason Myers’ 31-yard field goal on the game’s opening series and a safety late in the second quarter after Ryan Neal blocked Riley Dixon’s punt. But the Giants scored 17 consecutive points before Seattle’s late touchdown.
The victory assures the Giants will remain in first place, no matter what Washington does Monday evening in Pittsburgh. The Giants have four games remaining, three at home, beginning next week against the Cardinals.
“We know we have to keep stacking them,” Peppers said. “That was a great team we just played but we know we have another great team coming in next week. We’re going to enjoy the win tonight, get this tape corrected, cleaned up and shift our focus to Arizona.” *