After playing to a 13-13 tie in the first half, the two teams took turns scoring and giving the ball back to each other. Washington fumbled three times and Robert Griffin III was picked off once, and Manning was intercepted twice, all in the second half.
Santana Moss’s fumble with his team attempting a last-minute drive sealed the Redskins’ fate. Washington dropped to 3-4 on the season while New York improved to 5-2 and remained in first place in the NFC East.
“We had turnovers today, and there are no excuses for that,” said Griffin, who completed 20 of 28 passes for 258 yards, two touchdowns and the interception and had a passer rating of 108.9. “But I was telling the guys in the locker room, we had a chance to win the game, and were ahead even with those turnovers. So, if we can cut back on that and continue to put points on the board, it’s going to be hard to be stopped. . . . [We] still had a chance to win the game. We didn’t do that. Right now, it’s hard to know what to think, but you just keep pushing forward.”
Compounding the pain felt by the loss, the Redskins lost their top tight end, Fred Davis, for the season with a torn left Achilles’ tendon.
Despite losing Davis on their first offensive series, Washington continued to execute and looked to break its halftime tie after getting the ball first in the third quarter. The Redskins had to punt, however. But the defense forced the Giants to do the same, and the offense recaptured its previous form, moving the ball 51 yards in five plays. Then a 15-yard run by Alfred Morris that would have put the ball at the New York 13 was nullified when Washington right tackle Tyler Polumbus was called for a “leg whip” and the Redskins were penalized 15 yards.
On the next play (a first and 23 from the New York 41), Morris fumbled while trying to fight through the middle of the line.
The Giants threatened to score, moving downfield in five plays, but cornerback Josh Wilson intercepted a Manning pass at the Washington 9-yard line and returned it to the 16.
Griffin and the Redskins began clicking again and returned to Giants’ territory, but facing a second and five from the New York 42, Washington turned the ball over again.
Backup tight end Logan Paulsen appeared to break off his slant route early, and Griffin’s pass landed in the arms of safety Stevie Brown, who returned it 41 yards to the Washington 35. The Giants scored on a one-yard run by Ahmad Bradshaw to go up 20-13 with 13 minutes 1 second left in the game.
The Redskins hadn’t gotten the turnovers out of their system. After getting the ball at their 28 and going 51 yards on 11 plays — converting two fourth downs on the series — Griffin coughed up the ball at the Giants 29-yard line while he was sacked by New York’s Jason Pierre-Paul.
The Giants gave the ball right back when Manning threw an interception to linebacker Rob Jackson while trying to hit wide receiver Hakeem Nicks in double coverage.
Washington couldn’t pick up a first down, however, managing just five yards on four plays, and had to settle for a 45-yard field goal from Kai Forbath to pull within 20-16 with 5:28 to play.
After another defensive stand forced a Giants punt, Washington took the ball back with 2:59 to play at their 29-yard line and no timeouts left.
Finding himself in a familiar situation — with the ball in his hands and requiring a fourth-quarter drive for the fifth time this season — Griffin orchestrated another comeback drive. The rookie completed 4 of 6 passes — including a 19-yard pass to Paulsen on fourth and 10 from his 30 — and then connected with Moss on a 30-yard touchdown pass to put his team ahead 23-20 with 1:32 to play.
But Manning — who has orchestrated 22 fourth-quarter comebacks in his career — completed a 77-yard touchdown pass to Cruz, who beat Josh Wilson and Madieu Williams to give the Giants a 27-23 lead with 1:13 left.
“He did it again,” former Giant and current Redskins nose tackle Barry Cofield said. “He’s like Joe Montana now. . . . The team has no quit because they have so much faith in him.”
Of the blown coverage,Williams said, “[Cruz] was double-covered, and he was able to make a play. Obviously, Eli had something dialed up, and they did a good job of executing.”
But plenty of time still remained. Although the Redskins had only one timeout, they had shown an ability to score quickly.
“As soon as they scored, I was ready to go back out there and lead another touchdown drive and win the game,” Griffin recounted.
Said left tackle Trent Williams, “They scored, but we still felt like any time [Griffin] has the ball in his hands, we had a chance.”
On their final desperate drive, Griffin connected with Moss on a pass in the middle of the field at the Washington 43-yard line, but Moss was stripped of the ball and Giants cornerback Jayron Hosley, who had given up the touchdown to Moss, recovered to clinch the New York victory.
“It’s just part of the game,” said Moss, who prior to the fumble had three catches for 67 yards and two touchdowns. “I don’t feel well about fumbling. I felt great about the touchdown, but any time you get a chance to make a difference, you try to make a difference. Would I want it to happen a little differently? Yeah. But when you’re fighting, anything could happen. I feel like I lost the fight.”
Washington had little difficulty moving the ball against the Giants, but the team repeatedly struggled to capitalize on opportunities.
The Redskins went 93 yards on their opening drive but had to settle for a field goal after holding the ball for 9:11.
Two plays prior to that field goal, Washington lost Davis to the torn Achilles’ when he went down while running a pass route in the back of the end zone.
“I want to be out there playing and helping my team out,” said Davis, who this season was on a path to redemption after serving a four-game suspension at the end of last season for failing multiple drug tests and had stepped up as a leader while also ranking among the league’s best tight ends. “I had a lot of stuff I wanted to do this year.”
The Redskins, however, still managed to move the ball efficiently on their next possession.
Trailing 7-3 following an 80-yard Giants touchdown drive capped by a one-yard run by Andre Brown, the Redskins marched downfield, dialing up run plays on five of the eight snaps. Washington kept New York off-balance with a succession of option plays.
Griffin had a 30-yard run to the outside during the possession, and Morris had a 28-yard run around the right end as well. The rookie running back finished with 120 yards rushing, his third 100-yard game of the season.
Facing third and seven from the New York 26, Griffin slung a screen pass to Moss on his left, and the veteran wide receiver used his blocks, found an opening and went 26 yards untouched for a score that capped an 80-yard drive and put his team up 10-7 following the point-after attempt.
Washington added another Forbath field goal (from 43 yards), and the Giants added two field goals by Lawrence Tynes (a 27-yarder and 39-yarder) for a 13-13 tie at halftime.