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Posted at 02:01 PM ET, 12/19/2011

Redskins provide reason for optimism with win over Giants

Beating the Giants to improve to 5-9 on the year is much like winning a fluffy pink bunny at the carnival. It’s exciting when you get your prize, but after reality sets in you’re out 15 bucks and you have to haul around a fluffy pink bunny for the rest of the evening. However, sweeping and dominating the Giants after years of beat-downs when they are vying for a spot in the playoffs will serve to last a little longer than some fleeting fluffy pink bunny victory.

The Mike Shanahan-led Redskins remain a bit of an enigma. There are moments, like the wins over the Giants, where this team really feels like it’s on the right track. There are other moments, like the shutout in Buffalo, that feel as if we’ve never left the station. Oddly, the Redskins are playing their best football of the season with nothing to play for, except maybe next season and new contracts.

Obviously the bright spots have been the offensive line and running back Roy Helu. Undrafted tackle Willie Smith was impressive in his second start against the Giants’ top pass-rushing, threat Jason Pierre-Paul. Helu missed his chance at a fourth-consecutive 100-yard rushing game, but made up for it in pass blocking. The secondary had its best outing of the season, notching three crucial interceptions against one of the best receiving corps in the league while the defense dealt Eli Manning his worst performance of the season.

That’s not to say the Redskins didn’t receive some rare help. Hakeem Nicks’ drop in the first quarter of a sure touchdown set the tempo for the rest of the game. A red zone miscommunication between Eli and Mario Manningham put the ball right in Josh Wilson’s hands. A holding penalty on fourth-and-goal from the two pushed Eli and company back to a fourth-and-12. Brandon Banks recovered a fumble that could’ve been disastrous, Rex Grossman threw two first-quarter interceptions that resulted in two Giants three and outs, and Graham Gano had a field goal tipped that still went through the uprights. How to keep luck on their side will be the next challenge.

Despite losing to the Patriots, the last two weeks have been great for fans. The injury- and suspension-depleted offense has put up points and the defense has battled, but, above all, this team has been entertaining to watch for the first time in a long time. The Redskins aren’t playing for the Super Bowl, as Tim Hightower declared, or even winning the NFC East, as Rex Grossman predicted and then defended, but they’re playing well and are showing improvement. If they can finish the next two games against the Vikings and Eagles with similar performances on both sides of the ball then we’ve all got something to feel good about going into the offseason.

Then there’s the offseason. Shanahan will need another dazzling performance of his own on draft day to bring in some new legs and key cogs. LaRon Landry is a huge question mark they might need to give up on. Grossman isn’t, which makes drafting and/or signing a quarterback a necessity. Secondary and offensive line are primary concerns, but depth is needed across the roster. The immediate future is simple: win the next two and let’s start speculating.

More from Redskins coverage from The Washington Post:

Washington damages New York’s playoff hopes

Thomas Boswell: Gunslinging Grossman has his day

Jason Reid: For now, DeAngelo Hall is on top of his game

Mike Shanahan feels good about the future

By Evan Bliss  |  02:01 PM ET, 12/19/2011

Tags:  Redskins, Evan Bliss

 
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