Washington Redskins Win over New York Giants a Landmark Win in Mike Shanahan Era

James DudkoFeatured ColumnistDecember 4, 2012

LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 03: Members of the Washington Redskins celebrate after defeating the New York Giants 17-16 at FedExField on December 3, 2012 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Washington Redskins' 17-16 win over the New York Giants on Monday night could be a landmark moment in the Mike Shanahan era.

There was something different about the game. It was an almost palpable sense of occasion. The context and the prime time setting were certainly factors, but this meeting with Big Blue felt bigger than usual.

It had the feeling of, dare we say it, "playoff football." It was as if the Redskins needed this win to prove they are actually worthy of playoff respect.

Achieving that feat has put a new spin on the Shanahan era. His tenure rightfully seemed dead and buried after losing at home to the Carolina Panthers in Week 9.

A visit from the imploding Philadelphia Eagles the next week helped Shanahan's team get back on track. However, it's the last two results that make it seem as though Shanahan's Redskins are heading in the right direction.

Beating the Dallas Cowboys on the road on Thanksgiving, was worth much more than just bragging rights between rivals. The Redskins have spent years being the whipping boys in the NFC East.

Winning in Dallas proved they can win a crunch game when it really matters. It also proved the Redskins are again a force in the division.

There haven't been many of those types of games for the Redskins in the last few years. When they've been faced by similar challenges, they've usually folded.

As sweet as victory over the Cowboys was, the Giants were a tougher proposition. The G-men have had the Redskins number for most of the last 10 years.

Last season's sweep was a welcome relief after seeing the Redskins routinely battered by the Giants for so long. Losing a close one to Tom Coughlin's team in Week 7 seemed to suggest the natural order had been re-established.

Attempting to keep their playoff hopes alive against the defending Super Bowl champions looked a daunting prospect. After all, there's probably no tougher team to face in the clutch period of the season than the Giants.

Eli Manning and company have become masters at winning when it counts. The significance of that was clearly not lost on the Redskins on Monday night.

The players were obviously fired up, with London Fletcher's energy and aggression proving infectious. By matching the Giants for intensity, the Redskins enabled their superior scheming to take over.

That scheming saw Robert Griffin III confound Big Blue's talented pass-rushers. It also allowed Alfred Morris to control the clock in the only quarter of the game that really matters.

Winning with emotion and smarts is the mark of all true contenders. That's what Shanahan's Redskins became against the Giants on Monday night.

This is no longer a rebuilding project. After nearly three years and plenty of disappointments, Shanahan has finally built a credible contender in Washington.