Logical, at least, if you’re Coach Mike Shanahan or one of the Redskins who, in the words of quarterback Rex Grossman, “trust him with everything. We love playing for him, respect him and we believe.”
The Kool-Aid’s being passed. Care for a mug? Tastes good so far.
The positive, but inconclusive signs of improvement that showed up sporadically last year now appear to have been Shanahan’s seeds of future growth. Then, the Redskins, even in their numerous close defeats, showed that their days of utter madness — constant intrigue, mental errors and slack habits — were quickly coming to an end.
By the kind of symmetry you seldom see, the Redskins ended last season against these same familiar Giants, the franchise in the NFC East that has come closest to owning them in recent years. That day, also in FedEx Field, the Redskins finished their 6-10 season by losing 17-14. Some saw nothing more than continuing frustration. The margin of defeat was a botched 30-yard field goal. Pure contemporary Redskins? Shanahan disagreed.
“We had six wins and there were six or seven other games like this one where, with different scenarios, it could have been different,” Shanahan said. “Next year, hopefully, we will learn how to finish.”
Now, the signs of order and cohesion are starting to become clear. The Giants arrived here badly injured, especially on defense, and distracted, to a degree, by a Plaxico Burress-pops-off controversy. But they also arrived as favorites.
“If you are going to [finish], you’ve got to make plays at the right time,” said Shanahan whose team, in the bad old days of ’10, might have been rattled after a Grossman sack-and-fumble gave the Giants the ball at the Redskins 27-yard line in the fourth quarter, with the Skins ahead, 21-14.
“We had a chance [to put the game away] in the third quarter, but we didn’t do it,” Shanahan said. “When you [let opponents] hang around like that, sometimes you get bitten.”
This time, the Redskins did the biting. Linebacker London Fletcher stuffed an Ahmad Bradshaw run for a two-yard loss on third and one from the Redskins 18. When the Giants tried a 38-yard field goal, the Redskins blocked it, with a picture-perfect special teams play worthy of the George Allen era as defensive stalwart Brian Orakpo got his hand on the ball. Surely general manager Bruce Allen smiled and remembered.
Grossman, otherwise excellent all day, was eager to atone. “Obviously my fault,” he said of the fumble. “Just a bad play.” The Redskins ripped off a 70-yard drive that culminated in his second touchdown pass of the game — a four-yard dart to Jabar Gaffney for a 28-14 margin.
Don’t make too much of one game against a gimpy foe. Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, Jonathan Goff, among others, weren’t there. But don’t make too little either. The Redskins needed an infusion of new talent. Early in the second half, their No. 1 draft pick, linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, batted an Eli Manning pass in the air, intercepted it and ran nine yards for a touchdown to break a 14-14 tie.