LANDOVER, Md. — There are N.F.L. teams that are coolly, consistently efficient. There are N.F.L. teams that reliably dominate opponents on both sides of the ball. There are N.F.L. teams that do neither.
And then there are the Giants.
No other team is as good at looking bad or as bad at looking good — and still managing to win most of the time — as this edition of the Giants.
They will take one of the league’s finer regular-season records into next weekend’s playoffs after a typically exasperating but ultimately gratifying win on Sunday — a 19-10 conquest of the Washington Redskins. The victory gave the Giants an 11-5 record, the team’s best since it went 12-4 in 2008.
But as the Giants approach their first playoff game in five years, they remain a puzzle. Dependable on defense but mercurial on offense, the Giants have, in most games, constantly seemed one misstep away from disaster.
And then, out of the blue, the stumbling offense would rescue the steadfast defense, or vice versa. After the pattern repeated itself again on Sunday, it became clear that this is who the 2016 Giants are.
They are the N.F.L.’s best at winning when they appear to be at the brink of losing.
“This team has a uniqueness, something special,” said quarterback Eli Manning, who has seen all kinds of Giants teams in his 13 seasons with the franchise. “We’re not perfect and it could be prettier at times, but we’re good at finding ways to win. That is a good quality to have.”
Since they had clinched their playoff berth on Christmas Eve despite losing an ugly game in Philadelphia on Dec. 22 and could not improve their postseason standing, the Giants came into Sunday’s game with the Redskins with one goal: Avoid heading into the postseason with dispiriting losses in the final two regular-season games.
Closing out the regular season with two away defeats could have had a ruinous effect on the team’s morale, given that the Giants will open the playoffs at 4:40 p.m. Sunday at Green Bay.
“Losing the last two is certainly not how you build momentum,” Giants linebacker Jonathan Casillas said.
And until midway through the fourth quarter, the Giants — stout on defense if erratic on offense — had what appeared to be a comfortable 7-point lead on Washington, whose offense was floundering and flat.
But a startling 11-play, fourth-quarter drive by the Redskins — their only possession to last more than six plays — concluded with a 1-yard touchdown reception by Jordan Reed that tied the game, 10-10.
Stumbling into the postseason by blowing a late lead for a second consecutive defeat suddenly seemed a possibility.
But as they have so many other times this season, the Giants — unlike other recent editions that had repeatedly lost tight games — persevered.
They even displayed a little guile to find an advantage in the final minutes. Manning noticed that Washington cornerback Greg Toler had been overly protective of the middle of the field while covering Giants wide receiver Tavarres King on a pass play on a previous possession. Afterward, on the sideline, Manning told King, “Let’s just run by him next time if we get a chance.”
Manning meant that he wanted King to burst straight down the sideline to get a jump on Toler, who was playing toward the inside of the field. King did as he was instructed and dashed past Toler. Manning threw the football 50 yards in the air and into King’s waiting hands as he sprinted deep into Redskins territory.
It was a 44-yard gain that set up Robbie Gould’s 40-yard field goal, which gave the Giants a 13-10 lead with 2 minutes 17 seconds remaining in the game.
Proving that the defense can also save the day, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie made his second interception of the game to end one subsequent Washington drive.
The Giants then scored a fittingly freakish touchdown on a turnover on the game’s final play. Reed desperately attempted a lateral after time expired. His backward toss bounced, and it was picked up by the Giants’ Trevin Wade, who casually ran the ball into the end zone. It was ruled an 11-yard fumble return.
Sunday’s game also featured another chapter of the running feud between Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and Washington cornerback Josh Norman. With Norman covering Beckham on nearly every play, the two tangled frequently, especially on running plays when they engaged in hand-to-hand combat at the line of scrimmage. There were also several tussles after the whistle, with multiple officials pulling Beckham and Norman aside separately to caution them against additional fisticuffs.
But Norman was called for two personal fouls for late hits on Beckham, who sat out much of the second half in what Giants Coach Ben McAdoo called a coach’s decision.
After the game, Beckham did his best to play down his confrontations with Norman.
“That’s been dead for a long time,” he said. “It bothers me — doesn’t really bother me. It’s been whatever. I’m really focused on us and going to the playoffs right now.”
Most of the talk on Sunday evening in the Giants’ locker room was about the coming first-round playoff game — with a nod to various accomplishments, like the rookie running back Paul Perkins’s 102 rushing yards on Sunday. That made him the first Giant to run for more than 100 yards this season.
“There were good things to build on — there usually are,” guard Justin Pugh said. “There were a couple moments that could have been better.”
There usually are.
“But in the end, we won and that’s huge for our momentum,” Pugh continued. “Washington came back on us, their crowd was all jacked up and loud. But we still won. That’s us.”
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