EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The hope -- and the future -- flashed in the final moments, Robert Griffin III dancing out of trouble and firing a fourth-down pass for a first down. And then sprinting around the end for more yards. And finally dropping a perfect ball into Santana Moss' arms for a touchdown -- an apparent game-winner. The legend continued to build.

Reality flashed in the final moments, too. And as usual, reality tends to bite the Redskins. This time it was a secondary known for giving up big plays facing a quarterback known for clutch performances. It took only two plays to figure out which would win out. Eli Manning. Victor Cruz. 77 yards. Touchdown. Thus, it ended: Giants 27, Redskins 23.

The Redskins had one more chance, but receiver Santana Moss fumbled a reception at the Washington 43-yard line that ended another heroic drive. The loss dropped Washington to 3-4 and 0-1 in the NFC East. The Giants are 5-2, 1-2.

"That was a tough one," Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said.

It was a game that showed promise and heartbreak, potential and frustration.

"Right now, it's hard to know what to think," Griffin said.

It nearly was another chapter in the early success tales of Griffin. Instead, it turned out to be the latest saga of a secondary that continues to struggle. Griffin and the Redskins' offense confused New York's defense much of the day. They ran for 248 yards (led by Alfred Morris' 120). Griffin passed for 258 yards and two touchdowns in addition to rushing for 89 yards.

But two plays stood out. On fourth-and-10 from his own 23-yard line with 2:07 remaining, Griffin stood in the pocket, facing a two-deep zone with no open receivers. He was flushed to his left. Under pressure, he started back the other way, took a step upfield and then stopped and threw to an open Logan Paulsen for 19 yards.

"You can't coach that," Redskins fullback Darrel Young said.

Said Paulsen: "That's not something you practice every day. That's some special stuff."

Next came a 24-yard scramble. Two plays later, Moss was one-on-one with rookie cornerback Jayron Hosley.

"You have to take advantage of that," Griffin said.

He did, hitting Moss for a 30-yard touchdown.

Then came another defensive breakdown. On second-and-10 with 1:23 left, the Redskins called for double coverage vs. Cruz, aligned in the right slot. Josh Wilson shaded him inside, expecting help over the top from safety Madieu Williams. But Williams was caught flat-footed and late, and Cruz made an easy game-winning grab.

"He was double-covered. He was able to make a play," Williams said.

Said Wilson: "He made a play, man. He made a play. He didn't do anything all game. The guy was not a part of the game until the last play."

In the end, it was about one quarterback with a knack for getting it done late in the game and another who is developing that same reputation.

"He's like Joe Montana now," Redskins nose tackle Barry Cofield, a former Giants player, said of Manning. "The team has no quit because they have so much faith in him. He was good when I was here, but he's unbelievable now."

The Giants were marvelling over Griffin as well.

"I'm pretty mad at the football gods for putting him in the NFC East," defensive end Justin Tuck said.