Martin Shaw reckons that if he were rooting for just about any other NFL team, he might have been celebrating sooner. His heart rate might have come down quicker.
After Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III took a knee, the final play of consequence in Washington’s grind-it-out 17-16 victory over the visiting New York Giants, Shaw finally exhaled. Relieved, he and the rest of the previously tense Redskins fans inside the Silver Spring restaurant got rowdy, jumping out of their seats and clapping as Washington came from behind to move another improbable step closer to reaching the playoffs.
It was the first meaningful December home game in a long time for a Redskins team that has finished at the bottom of the NFC East four consecutive seasons. The victory was the third straight for Washington, all against division opponents, and it ended the team’s years-long losing streak on Monday Night Football. The Redskins (6-6) have moved into second place in the division and within a game of the Super Bowl champion Giants for the division lead.
“It’s real now,” Shaw said. “Basically the season just got real serious.”
Robert Griffin III completed 13 of 21 passes for 163 yards and a touchdown. He also ran the ball five times for 72 yards, giving him 714 rushing yards for the season, an NFL record for a rookie quarterback. Griffin broke the mark set last year by Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (706).
Griffin has looked impervious to pressure all season — he became the first rookie quarterback in NFL history to throw four touchdown passes in back-to-back weeks in a Thanksgiving win over the Dallas Cowboys — and he didn’t wilt under the white-hot spotlight of a primetime Monday game.
“We haven’t had a quarterback since Joe Theismann,” said John Harrison, who painted his face burgundy, black and gold and wore Griffin’s No. 10 jersey from his Baylor days. “This is a quarterback. He thinks. He’s a leader.
“I feel a new life. We need to build around the young man.”
Several of the pieces around Griffin came alive Monday night. Wide receiver Pierre Garcon was the quarterback’s favorite target. He had eight catches for 106 yards and a touchdown.
Running back Alfred Morris’s historic day included a lost a fumble, but also 124 yards on 22 carries. He now has 1,106 yards for the season and is just the second Redskins rookie to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a single season.
“My concern is RG3’s support system,” said Titilola Onabanjo, a Northeast resident. “If anything was to happen to him where would we be? The team’s got to meet him halfway.”
In the fourth quarter, with so much on the line for the Redskins and everything in doubt, Burt Pina remained confident — in Washington’s inability to stop its opponents. The Potomac resident believed it was just a matter of time before the defense, which is ranked 31st in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game, would surrender a big play that would cost the team the game, just like it did in its first meeting this season against the Giants.
“The D lets you down. Everybody knows that,” Pina said. “I get excited about the offense because that’s all we get to cheer about is the offense.”
The Redskins almost lived up to Pina’s expectations. Two-time Super Bowl most valuable player Eli Manning threw for 280 yards and a touchdown and led a Giants team that converted on 8 of 10 third downs in the first half.
But the Redskins’ defense buckled down during the second half, stifling four of five third-down conversion attempts by the Giants and even recording a sack on Manning that led to New York punting the ball.
When the game ended, Shaw pulled out his cell phone and placed a call. No answer. He made another call that also went to voicemail.
Both calls were to friends of his who are Giants fans.
“They ain’t answering,” Shaw smiled. “That’s okay. I’ll put them on blast on Facebook though.”
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