LANDOVER, Md. -- No matter how poorly things go for the Giants, they'll always have the Redskins. Desperately needing a win to keep their playoff hopes alive, the Giants embarrassed Washington in front of a national audience.
The Redskins always seem to remind New York of better times. And for one night, the once-vaunted defense rediscovered its ability to harass an opposing quarterback. It certainly helps when the offense scores on its first four possessions, but for the Giants to have any hope of sneaking into the playoffs, this defense must dominate like it did against the Redskins in a 45-12 win.
Make no mistake, a win over 4-10 Washington isn't something the Giants will tell the grandkids about. The first game of the Bruce Allen era did little to inspire the FedEx faithful. But it's fair to point out that Skins quarterback Jason Campbell and his supporting cast had put together a pretty nice stretch heading into Monday's game.
Giants defensive end Justin Tuck sacked Campbell for a 9-yard loss on the Redskins' first possession. Campbell had spent the past few weeks extending plays with his legs, but he had nowhere to turn against the Giants. The Redskins finally converted a first down with 3:44 left in the first half.
"I think we really felt that we had to get after the quarterback," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "Jason Campbell had a 65 percent completion percentage and on third down had 69 percent. I think in the last five games they were over 50 percent on third downs, so we knew we had to have a pass rush."
CAMPBELL PASS PLAYS
With Jason Campbell in the game, the Redskins called 35 pass plays:
Five different Giants players sacked Campbell, and defensive end Osi Umenyiora knocked him out of the game briefly in the first half. When the game was still in doubt (go with me) midway through the second quarter, it was rookie linebacker Jonathan Goff who knifed through and sacked Campbell after he'd taken two steps away from center.
It may be too little, too late for a team that has struggled to find an identity this season. At 8-6, the Giants need to beat the Panthers and Vikings and hope that either the Cowboys (9-5) or Packers (9-5) falter. The Giants are in position to win a tiebreaker against Dallas by virtue of their season sweep and against Green Bay because they have a better record against common opponents.
Coughlin spent the week talking to his players about playing with purpose. And it was obvious from the opening drive which team had the most on the line.
"It was a must-win for us and it wasn't for them," said Giants defensive tackle Barry Cofield, who had a sack and a tackle for a loss. "We were just playing for a lot more than they were."
Coughlin's goal for this defense each week is to hold teams to 17 points or fewer. Coming into Monday's game, though, the Giants had been giving up an alarming amount of points, causing first-year defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan's job status to become a topic of conversation.
"He's a rookie coach," said Cofield of Sheridan. "They expect a rookie coach to be flawless, but he's growing just like any other rookie."
NO PASS RUSH
It didn't matter how many pass-rushers Washington sent. When the Redskins brought pressure against Eli Manning, they got burned.
For the Redskins, Monday's loss was another embarrassing reminder of how far they've fallen as an organization. A fake field goal attempt at the end of the first half pretty much embodies the '09 season. When the Skins suddenly had seven players sprint out to the left side, Coughlin was forced to call a timeout. But instead of changing things up, the Redskins lined up in the exact same formation.
When Todd Yoder snapped the ball directly to holder Hunter Smith, three Giants converged on him. We may never know who Smith was trying to throw to because there wasn't a Skins player within 15 yards of the ball. Giants cornerback Bruce Johnson intercepted the heave and returned it 49 yards. As the Redskins left the field, they were met with a chorus of boos and at least three or four snowballs. On this night, there was only one team on the field that had any sense of urgency.
"We came out like our hair was on fire," Giants linebacker Danny Clark said. "All that front office stuff that they were dealing with can dismantle a team. But we were also worried about it drawing them together."
Turns out Clark didn't have anything to worry about.