EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Giants and their first-year coach Joe Judge have finally won, and they have the rookie linebacker Tae Crowder and a risky gamble by Washington Coach Ron Rivera to thank.
Crowder, the last player taken in the 2020 N.F.L. draft — a distinction known as Mr. Irrelevant — scooped up a fumble and ran 43 yards for a touchdown with three minutes and 29 seconds remaining. That gave the Giants a 20-19 victory over the Washington Football Team on Sunday at MetLife Stadium in a battle of the two of the N.F.L.’s worst teams.
The game wasn’t decided until Rivera rolled the dice after a 22-yard touchdown pass from Kyle Allen to Cam Sims with 0:36 left in the fourth quarter to cap a 10-play, 75-yard drive.
Instead of playing for overtime by having his kicker try for the extra point, Rivera had Washington (1-5) go for the win with a 2-point conversion in an attempt to get back in the race for the division lead in the mediocre N.F.C. East. Allen found no one open, scrambled to his left and threw an incomplete pass under pressure.
It gave Judge, 38, his first win as an N.F.L. head coach and allowed the Giants (1-5) to avoid their second 0-6 start since 2013.
Washington rallied from a 10-point deficit to tie the game midway through the fourth quarter. Then a rare Giants quarterback pressure turned the game around.
On a third-and-9 from the Giants’ 45, linebacker Kyler Fackrell strip-sacked Allen for an 8-yard loss. Crowder chased down the bouncing ball, gained possession and ran untouched to the end zone — to the applause of teammates in a spectator-less stadium.
Giants quarterback Daniel Jones, who wasted a long third-quarter drive with an interception, threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Darius Slayton and Graham Gano kicked two field goals.
Allen threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Logan Thomas, and Dustin Hopkins, who missed from 47 yards on the opening drive, hit two shorter field goals.
Jones, who rushed for a team-high 74 yards, was 12 of 19 for 112 yards passing and he threw an interception to Kendall Fuller in the back of the end zone that ended a nine-minute-plus drive.
Allen was 31 of 42 for 280 yards and an interception by James Bradberry, which set up the Slayton score.
Washington used a pair of time-consuming 70-yard drives to tie the game at 13 with 8:56 left in the fourth quarter.
Trailing 13-3 late in the second quarter, Rivera made a gutsy call on fourth-and-4 from the Giants’ 40. Allen hit Dontrelle Inman for 15 yards after scrambling away from pressure. He capped the 13-play drive with a 5-yard rainbow toss to Thomas.
Giants wide receiver C.J. Board was carted off the field early in the third quarter after taking a big hit from Washington safety Deshazor Everett while trying to catch a low pass. He was diagnosed with a concussion and a neck injury and taken to a hospital for evaluation. Cornerback Darney Holmes (neck) left in the first half; linebacker Blake Martinez and defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence were evaluated for concussions and returned.
Washington’s starting left guard Saahdiq Charles was hurt on the second play from scrimmage and didn’t return. Wide receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden left with a hamstring injury.
Both teams were on the field for the national anthem. Washington’s Tim Settle, Landon Collins and Montez Sweat raised fists. The Giants had roughly 15 players take a knee. They had a similar number during the team’s first two home games.
Both teams will play divisional opponents in their next games. Washington hosts Dallas next Sunday. The Giants have a short week and will play in Philadelphia on Thursday.