Redskins Ride With the Wind
Playoff Hopes Remain Intact After Victory
Monday, December 17, 2007; Page E01
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., Dec. 16 -- A large white plastic bag hovered above Giants Stadium just before kickoff on Sunday night, swirling and whipping in the wind, floating from one end of the field to the other in a wild, jagged arc. At times the goal posts shook violently and the flags twirled in opposite directions, in no discernable relation to the blustery bursts.
The weather ruled above all else on this frigid evening, with the Washington Redskins and New York Giants jostling for playoff position, and the visitors doing a much better job at adapting to the unusual conditions. The Redskins (7-7) took hold of the game in the second quarter and went on to a 22-10 victory, prospering under what were essentially must-win circumstances.
Backup quarterback Todd Collins, making his first start in 10 years in place of injured starter Jason Campbell, rallied after misfiring on his first eight passes. Tailback Clinton Portis posted his third 100-yard game this season, the defense stifled New York's offensive cogs and Coach Joe Gibbs beat the Giants (9-5) here for the first time since returning to coaching in 2004 -- another emotional outing for a team still coping with the killing of safety Sean Taylor.
"I couldn't be prouder of this football team," Gibbs said. "They're been through a lot and they keep fighting."
The Redskins remain in the eighth playoff spot in the NFC, and trail New York, Minnesota (7-6) and New Orleans (7-7) for a wild-card spot. But they but can overtake the Vikings with a victory next Sunday at the Metrodome. In all likelihood it would require a four-game winning streak for the Redskins to reach the postseason, but they are halfway there. Should the Redskins win their final two games and the Giants lose theirs (at Buffalo and against New England), Washington would reach the playoffs, one of several possible scenarios, all dependent on a victory at Minnesota.
It was clear during warmups this would be a night of unsightly football, with the wind dominating, and few spectators willing to answer the challenge this weather presented. The game began with the stadium perhaps 70 percent full and it emptied rapidly as the Giants failed to accomplish even the most fundamental elements of play.
"Extremely tough conditions to throw a ball in," Gibbs said. "You could tell with both quarterbacks."
The ball rolled off the tee three times before the opening kickoff, and the teams combined for six drives that failed to gain a first down in the first quarter, trading wind-altered punts in a game of field position. Gibbs opted to allow place kicker Shaun Suisham to attempt a 49-yard field goal late in the opening quarter, and with the wind gods at his back the low line drive easily sailed through.
"The wind was continually changing," said Suisham, who aimed the kick low to avoid the gusts. "On that kick I think it was maybe blowing to the left corner."
Collins -- who completed just 8 of 25 passes, though six of them went for first downs -- hit wide receiver Santana Moss down the sideline for a 36-yard gain 17 minutes in; it was the first discernable pulse of offense in this contest and his first completion.
Suisham capped that drive with 31-yard field goal, making it 6-0 early in the second quarter. Washington's offensive line provided ample support for the quarterback -- negating New York's NFL-leading pass rush -- and un-drafted rookie tackle Stephon Heyer fared well against standout Giants defensive end Michael Strahan.
"I just got my hands on him as much as I could and that helped slow him down a whole lot," Heyer said. "I think I did pretty well."