LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 11: London Fletcher #59 of the Washington Redskins celebrates after a sack against the New York Giants season-opening game at FedEx Field on September 11, 2011 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Rex Grossman picked himself up off the field after fumbling away the ball and potentially the Redskins 21-14 fourth quarter lead over the New York Giants.
Washington had received a boost a quarter earlier from rookie linebacker Ryan Kerrigan’s 9-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter, but it appeared the tide was taking a turn for the worse.
It was a familiar sight. With the Redskins seemingly in control of the game, things changed quickly due to the offense’s inability to protect Grossman. The quarterback’s turnover gave the Giants the ball on Washington’s 27 -- along with all the momentum.
In 2010, the Redskins would have packed it in and called it a day. Self-inflicted wounds have unraveled many a game at FedEx Field, but not this Sunday. Unlike last year when the fumble would have completely deflated Mike Shanahan’s team, the Redskins maintained their composure and their advantage.
Washington’s defense held New York to a three-and-out, Brian Orakpo blocked Lawrence Tynes’ field goal attempt and the Redskins teed off on Eli Manning the rest of the game, sacking him four times in the second half as they beat the Giants 28-14 to get their first win over Big Blue since 2007.
Don’t look now, but Washington has a little bit of that killer instinct they sorely lacked in 2010.
“That’s what you got to do,” said coach Mike Shanahan. “You got to finish games, and we had a chance to finish a little bit earlier in that third quarter, and we couldn’t get anything going offensively. Sometimes when you hang around like that all of a sudden it comes back to bite you, but we stepped up and kept on working [and] persevering and I was pleased with the way it turned out.”
Grossman later atoned for his fumble with a 10-play, 70-yard fourth quarter drive that ended with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Jabar Gaffney to give the Redskins a 28-14 lead. He completed passes to seven different receivers en route to a 300-yard performance, his third in four starts with the team.
But it was the final scoring drive that stood out. The Redskins entered Giants territory three times with a one-score lead in the second half. The third time, they finally managed to score and finish the game on their own terms.
“You got to put games away and we were able to put it away and make it a two-possession game there at the end to make it tough for them,” Gaffney said.
Kerrigan’s heroics gave the Redskins the early second-half lead and the defense fed off the energy the rookie’s play created. Fellow rookie Chris Neild provided a boost at nose tackle with two sacks in his first game and the defense came up with a key fourth down stop to thwart a promising Giants drive late in the third quarter.
“It was good to get some momentum going after [the interception] and I think that kind of set the tone for the rest of the second half,” Kerrigan said.
It was a second half completely dominated by the Redskins. The Giants, clearly not used to playing from behind against Washington, couldn’t get their ground game untracked and Manning stood little chance against a fierce pass rush.
“As a front, I thought we played great,” said Orakpo. “Normally we don’t get after Eli because he knows how to get rid of the ball, but I thought guys played great up front, got after the quarterback and got some big sacks.”
The Redskins might not have won this game last season. The defense might have finally worn out or the offense might have never cashed in with the all-important insurance touchdown. Timing is everything and Washington caught fire at all the right moments and in the end it was enough to start Year two of the Shanahan era off with a bang.
“Last year, I can’t say we would have made those plays,” said receiver Anthony Armstrong, who caught a touchdown pass in the first half. “It would have probably been something coming down to the very end -- last play type of situation where everybody would have been on the edge of their seats. It’s good to show that we can actually go out there and finish a team.”