When looking over the Redskins schedule there were games where the Redskins should win, could win, and should struggle. The Giants hadn’t lost to the Redskins since 2007, the Redskins defense was one of the worst in the NFL last season and the Giants feature a strong running and passing attack, and the Redskins entered 2011 as a team surrounded by questions on the offense. The Redskins didn’t just not struggle against the Giants they dominated. The yardage comes out about the same as the Giants passed for 268 and rushed for 75 while the Redskins passed for 305 and rushed for 75, but the Redskins managed to outscore the Giants by the final score of 28-14 due in large part to 21 straight unanswered points.
The first of those three unanswered touchdowns might have been the most important as on their previous possession the Giants started on their own 15 and then methodically marched down the field to score on eight plays. The Redskins got the ball back on their own 20 yard line and needed only five plays to answer. Every sport has its own unique language and the language of football is momentum. The Redskins had missed a field goal and then fought back to tie the game. The Giants responded on an eight play 85 yard drive to retake the lead, and not five plays later the game was tied once again. It was at this moment that the Redskins told the Giants that this year was going to be different. The Giants came into FedEx Field expecting a blowout victory and a football game broke out.
The Giants let the clock run down and retreated to the safety of the locker room. Something in the game had changed and when the second half started the Giants had little idea that Eli Manning was about to throw a touchdown pass to Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan. On 3rd and 10 at the Giants 18 yard line Eli Manning dropped back to pass to Hakeem Nicks, but Ryan Kerrigan tipped the ball to himself and then ran it in for a touchdown. The Redskins had sent the message that they were in the game before the first half ended and opened the second half with the message that this game was theirs.
The Giants mounted little to no offense after this. They twice more made it into Redskins’ territory but Ahmad Bradshaw was stuffed by London Fletcher and Josh Wilson on a 4th and 1 rushing attempt for a turnover on downs, and a Lawrence Tynes 38 yard field goal was blocked by Brian Orakpo and recovered by London Fletcher. On the proceeding possession the Redskins took the ball all the way down the field and scored on a Rex Grossman 4 yard touchdown pass to Jabar Gaffney.
On the day Grossman had 305 yards passing on 21 completions of 34 attempts with 2 touchdowns and no interceptions. Tim Hightower looked good at times but the Giants defense was able to contain him in the second half and he finished with 72 yards on 25 attempts. The 25 attempts are important because the Redskins were able to finish with a balanced attack as they passed 34 times and ran the ball 26 times. This was enough to keep the Giants defense off balance as Grossman was able to find six different receivers. The leading receiver on the day was tight-end Fred Davis who finished with 105 yards on five receptions and might be the most improved player from 2010 to 2011. Anthony Armstrong had a couple drops that could have hurt the Redskins in a closer game, but for the most part Armstrong was solid and finished with two receptions for 24 yards and a touchdown. Santana Moss continues to be a steady presence in the passing game as he was good for six receptions and 76 yards.
Graham Gano was perfect in extra points, but on the one field goal opportunity he got he missed a 39 yard attempt that at the time would have been the first Redskins points of the game. It doesn’t effect the outcome of the game, but at some point this season the Redskins will find themselves in a game where a field goal might be the margin of victory and at that time Gano is going to have to be more accurate.
The Redskins don’t need to worry about the missed field goal as Grossman performed above expectations and the defense was lights out with four sacks, an interception, a turn over on downs, and a blocked field goal. The Redskins special teams also did an excellent job as the Giants spent most of the day backed up against their own end zone. Overall it is a pleasant and surprising victory by a Redskins team that was supposed to struggle against teams like the Giants. It is just one game and means as much as one game can, but it is a good start, and if Rex Grossman and the defense can play like this on a consistent basis then the Redskins will surprise more than a few people.