“It felt great to finish,” said wide receiver Anthony Armstrong, who caught one of two Rex Grossman touchdown passes on the day. “Last year, I don’t know that we would’ve scored on those plays. . . . It’s different this year: attitude and something that’s going on in this locker room that I can’t explain.”
Grossman — the ninth-year veteran, who started the final three games of the 2010 season after the failed Donovan McNabb experiment, then beat out John Beck for this year’s first-string duties — led the offense. He completed 21 of 34 passes for 305 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions as he spread the ball around to six different targets.
On defense, the Redskins flustered Eli Manning and the Giants, holding them scoreless in the second half and forcing Manning to to throw an interception as he completed just 18 of 32 passes for 268 yards.
Even the two-touchdown margin of victory before an announced crowd of 80,121 was a rarity for Washington, which in the previous 48 games had won by more than seven points only once.
In the offseason, Washington sought personnel who better fit in Shanahan’s offense and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett’s defense. The moves purged Washington’s roster of big names and familiar faces, such as McNabb, Clinton Portis, Albert Haynesworth and Carlos Rogers, leaving Washington with a younger, more willing and able roster.
But the offense went three-and-out on its first two possessions of the game, and Grossman was 0-for-4 passing on those two offensive outings.
Manning also missed his first four pass attempts, but struck on a 68-yard pass to Hakeem Nicks to set up his team’s first score. On third and 10 from the New York 30-yard line, Washington’s defense lined up in a two-deep zone coverage, and cornerback DeAngelo Hall released Nicks to strong safety Reed Doughty. But Doughty appeared to slip initially and couldn’t catch up to Nicks, who made the catch and fell out of bounds at the Washington 2-yard line. On the next play, Manning rolled out to his right and tip-toed into the end zone to cap a four-play, 70-yard scoring drive.
Grossman and the Redskins found a rhythm on their third possession, marching 62 yards to the New York 16-yard line in nine plays, including three completions by Grossman. But Grossman was sacked for a five-yard loss, and then led Armstrong out of bounds for his first incompletion of the drive.