Giants vs. Redskins: Takeaways from New York's 24-17 Win over Washington
The win was New York's fifth of the season. The Giants are 5-1 in their past six contests, but as far as playoff hopes go, their 0-6 start to the 2013 season looks as if it'll come back to haunt them.
Where do the Giants stand after this win?
I know last week I said loss No. 7 meant heaven for the Giants. They looked dead in the water after the loss to the Cowboys. It was over. Kaput.
Time to analyze free agency and the draft, right?
Maybe not yet.
This week win No. 5 means still alive, as the Giants are somehow in the playoff hunt at 5-7. It's obviously a long shot, but this league is crazy and anything can happen.
It's probably not smart to get your hopes up; the Giants have a history of letting down their fans in the past. This season is different, though. Instead of starting out hot, New York rolled out the season with a six-game losing stretch. The Giants have since won five of their last six games.
With San Diego, Seattle, Detroit and a rematch with the Redskins still on the upcoming slate, a lot can change before all is said and done. Four straight wins would set the Giants up at 9-7, presumably putting them in the midst of the playoff hunt. Four straight losses would place them at 5-11, possibly setting the franchise up for a top-five draft pick.
It's likely they'll finish somewhere in the middle.
Even if the Giants fall short of the playoffs—a likely scenario—a strong showing in the back-half of the season could set the Giants up for future success. Every player on the roster is seemingly playing for his own life as a Giant. Many want to be on the team again next year, and all of them want to continue playing under head coach Tom Coughlin.
This team has direction, and the leadership is directly to thank. Although there's no doubt the Giants' 2013 season hasn't gone the way general manager Jerry Reese originally envisioned, his coaching staff and team captains have provided unwavering leadership.
Through incredible adversity, the Giants have kept it together—now, they've got win No. 5.
What a performance by defensive end Justin Tuck.
Tuck hasn't had a double-digit sack season since 2010, when the Pro Bowler brought down the opposing passer 11.5 times. Against the Redskins on Sunday night, Tuck showed shades of that former Pro Bowler, bringing down Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III four times.
The four Tuck sacks matched his entire season total from 2012, and it was only one shy of his regular-season total during the 2011 Super Bowl campaign. He only had 2.5 sacks heading into the game versus the Redskins.
While Tuck hasn't gotten to the passer as often, he has always been stout against the run. This season has been no exception. His five tackles against the Redskins raised his season total to 43, which is the highest of any New York defensive lineman in 2013.
Tuck reached another level on Sunday night. Three of his four sacks came in the fourth quarter, with his Giants fighting desperately to hold onto a one-touchdown lead. Physically, he may no longer be the 25-year-old All-Pro that racked up 12 sacks during the 2008 season, but the heart with which he plays has not waned now into his 30s.
Much conversation has been made about Hakeem Nicks' contract year, but how about Tuck's? After Sunday night, this man's Giant drive to win can no longer be questioned. He is Captain Tuck.
Perhaps the energy with which Tuck played rubbed off on his teammates. After allowing two extended touchdown drives early in the contest, the entire defense stiffened up, allowing just a single field goal on a short field for the remainder of the game.
Behind Tuck's efforts, Spencer Paysinger and Keith Rivers had busy nights, collecting eight and seven tackles, respectively. But, of course, it was Jon Beason who could be spotted all over the field, finishing the day with an unheard of 17 tackles.
Tuck's resurrection brought this defense back from the dead.
Manning Makes It Work
We may have witnessed quarterback Eli Manning's most complete performance of the season on Sunday night.
He wasn't perfect. There was the usual interception—a risky pass that tipped off his intended receiver's hands.
But he was efficient. That's not a word we've historically associated with Manning's performances, but that's exactly what he was against the Redskins. Completing nearly 80 percent of his passes, Manning threw for 235 yards and a touchdown. He was inches away from throwing a second touchdown to Victor Cruz in the fourth quarter. Instead, Andre Brown got to punch it in for the go-ahead score.
On a day in which the running game accumulated just 80 yards, Manning had to win the game with his arm—something he hasn't been able to do in 2013.
Against the Redskins, however, Manning made it work. Despite weaving through shoddy protection and eating three sacks, Manning averaged 8.4 yards per pass attempt. With Hakeem Nicks virtually eliminated from the contest (two catches, 34 yards), the two-time Super Bowl champ made do with what he could find.
That meant hitting tight ends Brandon Myers and Bear Pascoe a combined seven times. Brown and Peyton Hillis chipped in four receptions from the backfield as well. It wasn't until late in the game that Victor Cruz began to heat up, finishing the contest with 80 yards on six receptions. Both Cruz and Myers caught a pass longer than 20 yards.
With Brown's go-ahead score coming less than a minute into the final quarter, the win over the Redskins was technically a fourth-quarter comeback for the Giants—the first such win for Manning and the Giants in 2013.
Is he finally back?
That's not fully certain, but for the time being, he's getting it done.
Sealing the Deal
At the game's outset, New York's future didn't look too bright.
While the Giants were apparently still getting off the bus mentally, the Redskins were handing it to their NFC East rivals on both sides of the ball. Robert Griffin III led his team on a methodical opening drive to give the 'Skins an early lead. Manning was sacked on the Giants' first offensive play from scrimmage.
With the offense going nowhere, the Redskins quickly built up a 14-0 lead in the second quarter. From there, the Giants could have packed it in. They could have accepted that they were probably not going to win the game.
However, instead of rolling over and handing Washington the coveted victory, New York responded.
The Giants scored 14 points in the back-half of the second quarter, knotting the game up at 14 points apiece before intermission. They gave themselves a fighting chance in the second half—one upon which they were eventually able to capitalize.
Again, the Giants could have packed it in when Manning threw his third-quarter interception. The defense had held Washington in check since its first two scoring drives, but the short field would give them an opportune moment to recapture the lead.
That the Redskins did, but only by three, as the defense held firm allowing just a field-goal attempt.
From there, the Giants caught a series of breaks on a botched punt play, setting up a chance to claim the lead for the first time in the game. Never before had New York shown such late-game poise in 2013.
After going up by four on the Brown touchdown run, the defense remained stingy. A Josh Brown field goal extended the lead to seven points, as New York stymied any and all of Washington's efforts to advance the ball into scoring position.
On the final meaningful play of the game, safety Will Hill ripped the ball from a Redskin's hands.
And with that, the deal was sealed.