There's still a lot of work to be done over the final month of the season but after how the Redskins played Monday night against the division-leading Giants, and the fact that they've now won three in a row -- all against NFC East opponents -- there's plenty of reason for optimism, too.
In a season when the conversation has been some variation of "Did you see what RGIII did this time?", Monday's 17-16 win over the Giants came down to a beleaguered defense putting together a solid effort and the sustained success of a running game that kept New York on its heels all evening.
The last time these two teams met in Week 7, the difference was a Eli Manning-to-Victor Cruz 77-yard touchdown pass with 97 seconds left. This time, Manning was a proficient 20-of-33 for 280 yards and a touchdown, but the offense couldn't string together drives in the second half. In fact, the Redskins allowed just three points in the final 30 minutes and none in the fourth quarter.
“It’s a great feeling,” Redskins defensive end Stephen Bowen said via the Washington Post. “In the second half, we dedicated ourselves and we said, ‘We’ve got to get it done. The season’s on the line.’”
And defensive tackle Barry Cofield added: “We tightened up a lot [on defense] in the second half. . . . We’re still not in control, but we feel like if we keep winning, we’re in a good spot.”
For years, the knock against Dan Snyder's teams were that they had plenty of superstars but no depth behind them. Against the Giants, we saw glimpses of the future; linebacker Rob Jackson will never be mistaken for Brian Orakpo, and he maybe he wasn't much of a factor for the first 55 minutes or so, but on the most important third down of the game, Jackson beat left tackle William Beatty, who was flagged for holding. The penalty negated what would've been a drive-sustaining first down and instead, one play later, forced the Giants to punt. It was the last time they saw the ball.
There's also the running game. New York had no answer for it in Week 7 and nothing had changed by Week 13. Robert Griffin III rushed for 72 yards after racking up 89 in the last meeting. But it was his rookie backfield mate, running back Alfred Morris who, despite a costly second-half fumble, did his part late, converting a huge third down to seal the Giants' fate. He ended the evening with 124 yards on 22 carries and cracked 1,000 yards for the year.
“This is just a blessing. It means a lot. I came from nothing, and first to be the starter and two, to have their trust and respect to give me the ball after I made a mistake, and to be able to come through, it was just huge,” Morris said.
And that decisive first-down run that sent the Giants to 7-5?
“I told him that six yards was the difference of our season, because without that, knowing Eli, no telling what he could’ve done,” tackle Trent Williams said told the Post. “We take a lot of pride in him rushing the ball like that. If you look at coach Shanahan’s rap sheet, rushing the ball is what his teams do, and for us to be able to get to that (thousand yards), it’s a big testament.”
And for another week, the Redskins' postseason hopes live. It's the biggest win the the RGIII era but that could change as soon as Sunday.