There’s no shame in losing to the Redskins nowadays. Washington has an explosive offense that’s led by a talented rookie quarterback who is wise beyond his years. They’re weak in the secondary but can still stop the run and put pressure on the quarterback.
That said, the Giants blew a couple of chances to put Sunday’s game in the books early and ended up putting the outcome in Robert Griffin III’s hands. When that happens, even the best laid defensive plans can go awry, and they did. Fortunately, Eli Manning and Victor Cruz exploited Washington’s weak spot on the ensuing possession to get the Giants over the finish line.
The 77-yard touchdown pass from Manning to Cruz left just over a minute on the clock for Washington, but the Giants forced Griffin to use the middle of the field. Even if Santana Moss had not fumbled the ball away around midfield, the Redskins would likely have run out of time anyway.
Of course, football games are not just won and lost in the last few minutes. Here’s what else contributed to (and detracted from) New York’s narrow victory:
The Giants were run over by Alfred Morris in the first half
Washington did not need much Griffin magic to move the ball in the first half. Although Griffin certainly did help his cause by dashing away from the ball carrier on read options, most of the credit has to go to Alfred Morris. The rookie out of Florida Atlantic bruised his way to 94 first half yards on 13 carries, and there was little the Giants could do about it. Even when they hit Morris just two or three yards past the line of scrimmage, the big back would bully his way for four or five more yards. Eli Manning needed to throw for 186 yards in the first half just to keep the game tied at 13-13.
Washington was on pace to take the lead in the third quarter, but the game quickly turned thanks to a slew of turnovers
After a punt from each team to start the second half, Washington took over on its own 36-yard line and began moving the ball down the field. The Redskins advanced as far as New York’s 28, but a 15-yard Morris run into the red zone was called back because of a questionable leg whip penalty that was called on right tackle Tyler Polumbus. Polumbus appeared to kick his leg up after trying to cut down a Giants defender, but the supposed whip did little to impede the defender’s progress. Nevertheless, the call halted Washington’s momentum and the drive fell apart completely when Linval Joseph forced Morris to fumble on the very next play. The Giants recovered the ball and quickly marched into Washington territory.
Now in field goal range themselves, the Giants gave the ball back when Manning overthrew Cruz and had the ball land in Josh Wilson’s hands. However, two Washington first downs later, Griffin misfired on a pass intended for tight end Logan Paulsen and had the ball picked off by Stevie Brown. Brown reached Washington’s 35-yard line on the return and the Giants capitalized early in the fourth quarter with a Ahmad Bradshaw one-yard touchdown run.
The Giants had a chance to keep Griffin from getting the ball back, but a low percentage pass on 3rd-and-1 led to a punt
After another exchange of turnovers and a Washington field goal made the score 20-16, the Giants took over with just over five minutes left and a chance to melt the clock away. After the drive began with a sack of Manning, New York miraculously converted a 3rd-and-15 on a screen pass to Andre Brown. However, two plays later on 3rd-and-1, the Giants failed to gain the necessary yardage when Manning threw incomplete toward Hakeem Nicks on the right sideline. It was curious enough that offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride didn’t call for a run in that situation, but it was even more baffling that Manning tried a back shoulder throw with so little room for error.
Griffin’s 4th-and-10 conversion was one of the most spectacular plays I’ve seen this season
Anyway, the Giants were “forced” to punt, but they still looked to be in good shape when Washington gained nothing on its first three plays. On 4th-and-10, New York’s pass rush forced Griffin into a corner with no chance of escape. With Jason Pierre-Paul on one side and Osi Umenyiora on the other, Griffin backpedaled, then dashed forward to split the pash rushers. When Chase Blackburn stepped up to halt Griffin’s advance, he truly had nowhere else to turn, but his scramble had opened things up for Paulsen, whom he passed to 19 yards down the field for a game-saving conversion. Just three plays later, Griffin countered a Giants blitz by lobbing a 30-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss that gave Washington the lead.
Washington’s secondary somehow let Victor Cruz behind them with less than 90 seconds left in the game
With a minute and 27 seconds to work with and three timeouts still left, the Giants seemed perfectly capable of driving for a game-tying field goal before the game ended. What happened instead defied even the most optimistic Giants fans’ expectations. After an incomplete pass to start the drive, Manning faced a four-man rush on second down and caught pressure from the middle of the formation. Right before he got hit, Manning released a deep ball, and the camera shifted over to show Cruz sprinting past Josh Wilson and safety Madieu Williams. The ball found Cruz perfectly in stride and he continued running past Washington’s defense right into the endzone for a 77-yard touchdown.
Cruz started the play well by getting a great break off of the line of scrimmage to give himself a step on Wilson. What really made the play was Williams hesitating for a second and not anticipating the fly route. That second allowed Cruz to bolt by Williams for the game-winning score.
Would it have killed the Giants to just convert that 3rd-and-1 and win the game without much drama? Probably not, but it almost killed me. That said, a win is a win. This Sunday, the Giants head down to Texas to take on a Cowboys team that is banged up at the halfback position. Yeehaw!
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