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Redskins 17, Giants 16: Ten Observations


  1. The Redskins’ confidence did not start with the three-game win streak. You don’t accomplish what they’ve done unless that confidence was largely intact. No, this streak is a by-product of what they say has been building for a while. For the past two seasons, I’ve heard the same thing from many players: We’re going to be special… something special is happening here. When they dropped to 3-6, yes there were questions. But one of the first things fullback Darrel Young said after the bye week was this: “We’re going to do something special.” Why would he say that? From an outsider’s perspective, there was no reason. They had just lost two straight and faced a difficult upcoming schedule. Remember, this is supposed to be the killer part of the schedule. But sometimes teams know that they’re truly better than their record. I saw this happen in 2005 and ’07 and it appears we’re seeing it now. The Redskins knew this: they had a special QB and a special running back.  They know they had a (sometimes) opportunistic defense. I’m also going to flash back to the 2000 season. They were 6-2 and started losing. I remember Larry Centers saying you find out about a team’s chemistry when you get punched in the face. That team got punched and crumbled; this one has reeled off three straight wins and now trail New York by a game in the NFC East and Seattle by a game for the final wild card spot.
  2. The play that perhaps sums up their new karma? The fumble that bounced from Robert Griffin III to Joshua Morgan. Yeah, Morgan was in the right spot as the pitch man on the option. But players who have been here for a while know what that play meant. Lorenzo Alexander: “In years past that would bounce into someone else’s hands. Against the Rams in ’08, it bounced in O.J. Atogwe’s hands and he takes it the distance. When you have bounces go your way… I don’t want to say the football gods are on your side, it’s guys hustling and making plays vs. the other way around.” When that happens, you lose that oh-no sense even later in games; instead, you feel like you’re going to make a stop or keep a drive going. And that’s what the Redskins did. There’s just a different sense in the locker room. And I can’t say that it’s a whole lot different now that they’re winning; I just think it’s being revealed.
  3. Left tackle Trent Williams did not look good in warm-ups. It pained him to even push off on his left leg thanks to the deep thigh bruise. In fact, he said he felt like, well, a certain type of fertilizer. But Williams gutted out yet another effort. “I’m still having a hard time,” he said afterward. “But my team needs me. I had to be out there on the field being a leader. I was going to do anything I could to play.” He told coach Mike Shanahan before the game that he was around 70 percent healthy. “But I felt I could still be effective,” Williams said. “I might not dominate blocks, but I can still get my blocks and hold on.”
  4. Williams was far from perfect, though the reality of night games is that it’s tough to focus on particular matchups. But when you have leaders fighting through what he did – just like London Fletcher, who had a walking boot on his left foot after the game – then it inspires others. And you play through injuries like both did when the game matters. It’s funny because Williams is unlike the person I expected when the Redskins drafted him, based on what was heard from Oklahoma and others. When guys are said not to be hard workers, you figure they’ll take the easy route. Williams is a hard worker and he is willing to play through a lot. This is a good time to mention the Giants did not record a sack.
  5. One adjustment the Giants made to stop the zone read is playing their ends a little tighter than usual. But you can say it really didn’t work: the Redskins still rushed for 207 yards with Alfred Morris getting 124 on 22 carries and Robert Griffin III gaining 72 on five runs.  By the way, there’s been a ton of focus on Griffin and the NFC East, but here’s what Morris has done vs. the division: 48 carries, 433 yards. In two games vs. the Giants he’s rushed for 244 yards on 44 carries (5.5 yards per carry). It’s not just Griffin who is the concern for the next few years, it’s Morris. Really, without him this offense does not go this well. He’s a legitimate threat and that’s why the ends crash so hard inside, enabling Griffin to get wide for easy first downs.  Morris had a number of good runs, but his last one, the one that sealed the game, was a strong one. Jason Pierre-Paul got his arms on him near the line of scrimmage, but Morris – as he did all night – made the first guy miss en route to six yards on third and 3. Runs like that aren’t the longest, but they are telling. When it’s a key run late in the game, I’ll take my chances on a guy who worked his way up from Florida Atlantic; who had to fight his way onto the roster. Guys like that run hungry and that’s exactly what Morris does. It’s as if his football future depends on each carry.
  6. I know the defense gave up a ton of yards — 390 to be exact with 273 in the first half alone. I know they deserve some heat for how they’ve played this season. You can knock anyone associated with the defense, from the coaches down to the players. But this much is also true: despite all the yards allowed, they only surrendered 16 points. The Giants had first downs on the Redskins’ 23-, 30- and 17-yard lines and managed two field goals and a missed field goal (a third field goal came at the end of the half on a nice drive). On those three series, QB Eli Manning was a combined two for seven for 15 yards (and those 15 yards came on the same series and did not result in a first down). The defense did its job.
  7. And they especially did their job in the second half when they allowed only 117 yards. One reason: they sent more five-man rushes to generate pressure. The result: Manning threw for 187 yards in the first half, but only 93 in the second half – and 65 of those yards came on one series. The Redskins played more combination coverage in the first half; more man in the second half. In fact, Manning’s lone TD pass came vs. zone coverage. He froze Fletcher by looking left, allowing tight end Martellus Bennett to break wide open over the middle.
  8. A meaningless stat at times is time of possession. The Giants controlled the ball for 33 minutes, 13 seconds. In years past that would have meant trouble for the Redskins. But the ability to make big plays means that it really doesn’t matter (unless the team is finishing with touchdowns). The Redskins had four plays of 25 yards or more. And when the Giants took a 3-0 lead, the Redskins answered with a four-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. Yes, it’s certainly a new era. “You guys can go calculate the stats, we’ll calculate the wins,” Redskins corner Josh Wilson said.
  9. Linebacker Rob Jackson also played more on third downs in the second half and recorded a sack and drew a holding penalty. Jackson often comes out in these situations, partly because if he’s on the field the opposition knows he’s going to rush. It’s harder to block if there’s some doubt and you can scheme certain rushes by having a guy fake the rush and drop. With Jackson, there’s no faking because he’s rarely going to drop into coverage. That’s why Lorenzo Alexander has played ahead of him on these downs. But not Monday. “I told [defensive coordinator Jim Haslett] to let me get some third downs,” Jackson said. “He left me out there and he believed in me. I felt I had to show up. If I’m asking for an opportunity I have to go show him.”
  10. Wide receiver Pierre Garcon makes a difference. Some places might charge you money for that sort of insight, but not here. That’s a freebie. Seriously, though, a healthy Garcon changes this attack. He finished with eight catches for 106 yards and a touchdown. No other receiver has finished with more than 80 yards receiving this season. In Garcon’s six games, he’s finished with at least 86 yards three times and more than 100 yards twice. His 35-yard catch and run was a classic mix of scheme plus talent. The play-action not only froze the linebackers, but it caused confusion as they dropped. They have to turn their backs and they lose sight of the play and they get out of position enough so that when Garcon made the catch, he was in a good position to run. He showed burst to get around the edge, too. On his touchdown, again a play-action froze the ‘backers and Garcon was able to sneak behind them, running a cross from left to right. An easy touchdown. But the combination of Griffin, Garcon and scheme makes a lot of things look easy.

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