New York Giants rookie safety Xavier McKinney ends season on high note

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Jan 3, 2021; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants safety Xavier McKinney (29) celebrates an interception against the Dallas Cowboys in the second half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants were eliminated from playoff contention on Sunday, but they did win their final matchup of the 2020-2021 regular season. After a chaotic ending to the game, the Giants came out victorious over the Dallas Cowboys. New York won the game with a final score of 23-19.

The Giants’ offense showed improvement in its final game this season, but it was still the defense that came up big in the end. Multiple defenders had standout performances and made key plays to earn the victory. But one surprise player came up huge at the end and put together the best performance of his young career.

Rookie safety Xavier McKinney ended the 2020 season on a high note with a strong performance in Week 17. McKinney was drafted in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft by the Giants in April. New York had high hopes for McKinney and his abilities to play on the back end of the defense. Unfortunately, Giants fans did not get to see Xavier very much this season. He suffered a foot injury in training camp that kept him out of the team’s first ten games this season.

Xavier McKinney made his debut in Week 12, playing only five defensive snaps, though. Gradually, as the season went on, McKinney saw his role in the Giants increase week by week until he was playing starting-level snaps in the season finale. In this expanded role, McKinney showed up big time and put together an excellent performance to end the season.

Xavier McKinney’s Week 17 performance

Xavier McKinney saw his role in the Giants’ defense expand significantly in Week 17. He played a career-high 73 defensive snaps on Sunday, accounting for 89% of the team’s defensive snaps. Xavier was attributed with an official start this week, his fourth on the season. With this starting role came a new and improved version of Xavier McKinney.

McKinney made the most of every snap this Sunday. He found himself intercepting two passes on Sunday, though one was called back early in the matchup. But that did not stop McKinney from recorded his first career interception against the Cowboys. On Dallas’s final offensive play of the game, McKinney picked the ball out of the air on Andy Dalton’s prayer to the end zone, sealing the victory for Big Blue.

While some might consider this interception to be a “gimme,” Xavier still found himself in a position to make a play and he did not squander the opportunity. This interception was a clutch, big-time moment from the second-round rookie.

This interception was not Xavier’s only big play in the game. McKinney had another impressive play earlier in the game in the third quarter. The Dallas Cowboys set up a wide receiver screen to CeeDee Lamb and McKinney sniffed it out instantly, blowing up the play and making the tackle behind the line of scrimmage.

Xavier McKinney finished the game with eight combined tackles, one tackle for loss, one pass defended, and one interception. McKinney’s coverage was never targeted, indicating solid coverage on Dallas’s wide receivers.

Xavier McKinney wrapped up his rookie season, playing a total of 209 defensive snaps. He racked up 25 combined tackles (16 in the final two weeks), a 57.6 passer rating when targeted, and only 1 missed tackle. Xavier McKinney showed out in six games and established himself as a clear long-term building block in the final week of his rookie season.