LANDOVER, Md. -- Special teams have been a problem for the New York Giants for much of this season, but a huge play the punt-return team made Sunday night led directly to the drive that put the Giants on top for good in their 24-17 victory over the Washington Redskins.
With a minute and a half left in the third quarter and the Redskins leading 17-14, Justin Tuck sacked Robert Griffin III to force the Redskins to punt from their own 38-yard line. The punt snap was bad, and Redskins punter Sav Rocca dropped it, and when he picked it back up to kick it, Giants special-teams disruptor Damontre Moore was there to get a hand on it. The ball fluttered out down the middle of the field and settled at the Giants' 44 -- an 18-yard punt that set the Giants up with good field position.
They needed four plays to take the lead. The first was an Eli Manning pass to Victor Cruz for 8 yards. The second was a Manning pass to tight end Brandon Myers for 18. The third was a brilliant Cruz catch in traffic that looked, initially, to have been a touchdown catch. But Cruz was ruled down at the 1-yard line, and Andre Brown ran it in on the next play for a touchdown that put the Giants up 21-17.
The sequence was critical because it functioned as something like a turnover, and the Redskins had just scored a field goal off of a Manning interception. Having the lead early in the fourth quarter enabled the Giants to lock in on Griffin, as their defense already had running back Alfred Morris bottled up and the Redskins were going to have to throw while playing from behind.