You can’t spell elite without Eli, but don’t tell that to the Redskins.
Eli Manning may have emerged as one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks in 2011, yet Washington made the Giants quarterback look downright ordinary, intercepting three of his passes and severely damaging New York’s playoff chances with a 23-10 win.
The Redskins clearly relished their chance to play spoiler, delivering one of their sharpest performances to date under Mike Shanahan. They scored the game’s first 17 points and pounded the NFL’s worst run defense into submission with a steady dose of Roy Helu and Evan Royster.
“I feel like the whole team collectively had one of its better games,” said DeAngelo Hall. “I felt like we all played pretty damn good….It’s scary when this team decides they want to play football and we come out here and we show up, man.”
Hall and the rest of the defensive backfield had every right to be excited. After a wide-open Hakeem Nicks got behind the defense and dropped a sure touchdown in the first quarter, the Redskins contained Manning and his high profile receiving corps for the rest of the game. They were aggressive in coverage and held the Giants quarterback without a first quarter completion for the first time in his career.
Even with a 20-3 lead in the second half, the Redskins never allowed themselves to get complacent. Good quarterbacks have burned them all season, but not on Sunday as the embattled secondary kept its foot on the gas for 60 minutes.
“I thought [the secondary] played phenomenal,” said Brian Orakpo who sacked Manning for the first time in his career. “Those guys did a great job [in] coverage and [they were] able to make Eli hold the ball a little bit longer so we can let our big dogs get after it.”
Hall intercepted Manning to start the second half and when the Giants appeared to be sneaking back into the game with 13 minutes left in the fourth quarter, Josh Wilson intercepted a pass in the end zone for a second straight week to all but end it.
“We had some nice interceptions. We had some good pressure – bigtime third down play by our entire team and you got to do that against a guy like Eli,” said Shanahan. “He’s very talented and he’s got some weapons.”
It’s been an unforgettable year for Manning, but he probably wishes the Redskins weren’t on the schedule. In two games against Washington the stats are pretty damning: zero touchdowns, four interceptions, a quarterback rating of 56.8 and a pair of losses.
Wins haven’t come easy for the Redskins this season, but Sunday’s success was a testament to their perseverance. Most teams with eight losses in nine games would have packed it in, but Shanahan has gotten the most out of this bunch throughout the season.
“The preparation and the seeds we’ve been sowing all year made it believable that today could possibly be the day,” Atogwe said.
And that’s why this win – no matter how it might affect Washington’s draft position in 2012 – was so important. The Redskins needed something to hang their hat on after weeks of coming up short. Finally, their efforts were rewarded with crisp execution, a balanced attack and their first sweep of the Giants since 1999.
“They’ve really been our nemesis around here the last five years,” said London Fletcher. “[They’ve] really had our number, but this year to be able to sweep them, it means a lot.”