(photo by Brian Murphy)
1. “1999” by Prince
The last time the Washington Redskins swept the New York Giants in a season was 1999. To put that in proper perspective, outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan was 11. So was running back Roy Helu. At 13, linebacker Brian Orakpo had just become a teenager.
“What grade is that? Seventh? Seventh grade? I was a young cut,” Orakpo said with a laugh. “It feels good – especially to sweep a team in a season like this, man. The only pessimistic thought I have is I wish we played like this all year. We played a full 60 minutes. This is a game we can truly learn and grow from because we started fast and we finished strong. Guys just continued to play throughout the game. We didn’t worry about all of the other stuff going on; we just continued to play the game.”
Clearly, the Redskins’ 23-10 victory over the Giants was well overdue. But the Redskins came out strong, set the tone of the game on both sides of the ball and really took it to a divisional rival with much more at stake in this match-up.
“We all came out here today and decided we were gonna make plays,” said cornerback DeAngelo Hall. “I was telling the guys on the bench that it’s a scary thing when this team decides to play football. We’ve definitely got a lot to look forward to.”
Considering some guys from the Giants were mouthing off about being able to beat the Redskins 99 times out of 100, you’d think they would be able to put forth a better effort against such a supposedly inferior opponent.
Maybe next year.
2. “Eli’s Coming” by Three Dog Night
Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman threw an interception on the first play of the game. He was picked off again on the first play of Washington’s third offensive series.
And yet, the Redskins somehow managed to hold a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter. Why? Because New York’s offense was simply unable to capitalize on turnovers.
Giants quarterback Eli Manning failed to complete a single pass in the entire first quarter – missing on all six attempts. When Manning did put a pass on target, his receivers dropped the ball.
New York’s first five possessions resulted in four punts and an interception. Things were so ugly that an impartial observer might have had trouble figuring out which team was in the hunt for a playoff spot and which team was in last place in the division and headed for a top five pick in the NFL Draft.
But the Redskins were able to weather the storm and overcome a few Grossman miscues and the defense rose to the occasion.
In 12 games this season against teams other than Washington, Manning has thrown for more than 3,837 yards with 25 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and a quarterback rating of 97.2.
In two games against the Redskins though, Manning has zero touchdowns with four interceptions and a QB rating of 56.7. His completion percentage drops from 62.3 to 56.9 when playing against the burgundy and gold. His two lowest quarterback ratings of 2011 are the two Redskins games.
Simply put – the Redskins are able to shut down Manning in a way no one else in the NFL can.
“We just know these guys,” Hall said. “We’re pretty familiar with them and we pick up on little things they’re trying to do. It’s been frustrating not being able to get more wins, but we felt really good coming into this game that we had a pretty good gameplan.”
3. “Shut it Down” by Drake
Over the previous four games, Grossman and friends had begun to show signs of life on offense – averaging 23 points per game.
Unfortunately though, the Redskins went just 1-3 because Washington’s defense allowed an average of 28 points per game.
Just as importantly, the Redskins came into the Giants game a depressing minus 14 in turnovers for the year.
When Grossman committed two more turnovers in his first three possessions, it wouldn’t have been surprising if momentum swung in New York’s favor and they jumped out to a big lead that Washington was unable to overcome.
But the defense, and specifically the team’s secondary, turned in the best performance of the season – with three timely interceptions that ensured the hometown faithful had little to cheer for on this day.
Safety Oshiomogho Atogwe hauled in an acrobatic interception that sparked a 13-play, 82-yard touchdown drive for Washington.
Hall followed that up with a highlight-worthy one-handed grab to start the second half and cornerback Josh Wilson picked off a pass in the end zone that effectively ended any hopes the Giants had of making the game competitive.
4. “Dark Fantasy” by Kanye West
The Giants came into this game with an obvious gameplan that involved shutting down Helu and the Washington rushing attack.
That makes sense because, if a team takes away the ground attack, that means the ball is in the hands of Grossman more often.
But even though Helu was held to just 53 yards on 23 carries, the Redskins were able to keep drives alive because of the creative playcalling of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.
Shanahan dialed up a flea flicker, reverses and anything else he thought might catch the Giants’ aggressive defense off guard. Receivers Anthony Armstrong and Niles Paul each had a carry. Fullback Darrel Young had four rushes – including the first rushing touchdown of his career.
Most importantly, the Redskins were able to convert on third downs (going eight of 15 for the game) to extend drives and wear down the New York defense.
If the Redskins needed 14 yards on a third down, they found a way to pick up 14 and a half yards. Receivers like Santana Moss, Jabar Gaffney and Donte Stallworth found small slivers of space in the defense and picked up just enough yardage in key moments to frustrate the miserable souls who braved the cold at MetLife Stadium.
All in all, it was a day in which Helu never really got going and Grossman turned the ball over early and often. And yet, the Redskins offense still managed to hold the ball for 35 minutes against the Giants. Can’t say anyone saw that coming.
5. “Bushleager” by Pearl Jam
By all accounts, the Redskins turned in their most impressive victory of the 2011 season. And yet, there are going to be a few so-called fans out there who bitch and complain about the team’s win hurting their draft pick.
To that I say – what the hell is wrong with you? Seriously, think about it. If you can’t be happy when your favorite team wins, then why root for them?
And honestly, the Redskins would have picked in the top five of next year’s draft prior to Sunday’s win. After the victory, it looks like they’ve dropped to seventh – which still puts them in solid shape to secure a franchise quarterback.
So please, enjoy the win and worry about stuff like the draft down the road. Wins are so hard to come by in the NFL that every one of them is cause for a celebration.
If you can’t be happy when the Redskins win, then it’s probably time for you to switch your allegiance to one of the other NFC East teams. Their fans are always thrilled when the Redskins lose.
Finally, here’s a link to my favorite photos I was able to capture during the game.