In a stadium that often has been the scene of disasters for them, the Washington Redskins put last week's collapse behind them and scored early and often against the New York Giants today. And this time they didn't let up, rolling to a 50-21 victory at Giants Stadium.
The Redskins evened their record at 1-1 with their first victory under owner Daniel Snyder--and they did it in style. Their point total was the highest in franchise history for a road game and their fifth-highest overall. It was their biggest scoring output during Coach Norv Turner's six-season tenure, and it came only a week after the Redskins squandered a 21-point, fourth-quarter lead against the Dallas Cowboys.
"We had a tough loss last Sunday," Turner said. "It was a long week. Our guys approached it in a very professional manner. We came in expecting this to be a last-quarter, last-second game."
Running back Stephen Davis ran for three first-quarter touchdowns to give the Redskins a 21-0 advantage. The Giants (1-1) got a second-quarter touchdown and were driving toward another when Redskins linebacker Shawn Barber shifted the momentum for good by returning an interception 70 yards for a touchdown. Quarterback Brad Johnson threw the first of three touchdown passes to give the Redskins a 33-14 halftime lead, and they stretched the margin to 50-14 in the fourth quarter before Johnson made an early exit.
"I felt offensively, we were almost flawless," said Johnson, who connected on 20 of 28 passes for 231 yards.
Davis had his second straight 100-yard rushing performance, with 126 yards on 23 carries. Tight end Stephen Alexander caught two of Johnson's touchdown passes, and wide receiver Michael Westbrook caught the other.
Today's explosion came against a Giants defense that had scored two touchdowns in the opener to carry the team's struggling offense to a win at Tampa Bay. And it came in a stadium that often hasn't been kind to the Redskins, where swirling winds and hard-charging Giants defenses have created many nightmares for them. In their visit last year, quarterback Gus Frerotte threw a pair of third-quarter interceptions that put the Redskins on the way to a 31-24 defeat and an 0-7 start.
But today the Redskins picked on cornerback Jeremy Lincoln, who was filling in for injured starter Jason Sehorn, and rookie right tackle Jon Jansen kept Giants defensive end Michael Strahan in check. The Giants had no answers for a Redskins offense that had 395 yards and has piled up 85 points and 899 yards in two games.
"We played a bad game of football," Giants Coach Jim Fassel said. "I'm very disappointed in this football team, not just the players--everyone. I did not see this coming at all. I thought we were ready to play."
The Redskins set the tone early, amassing 165 yards and 12 first downs in the first quarter. Davis provided a pair of one-yard touchdown runs and another second-effort, 19-yard scoring burst, and the Redskins erased any concerns that they would come out flat after last Sunday's 41-35 overtime loss to the Cowboys.
"I was more concerned about our guys being uptight," Turner said. "We'd worked so hard since March, we were not going to be flat. [But] you can try too hard. That happened some last week."
Said offensive tackle Andy Heck: "We didn't expect to jump out 21-0. We really expected this was going to be a 15-round, drag-out, knock-down fight."
Johnson was sharp from the outset, completing his first five passes as the Redskins drove 68 yards for a touchdown on the opening possession of the game.
The Giants' offense--fresh off its four-first down, 107-yard showing against the Buccaneers--failed to muster a first down on its initial possession, and the Redskins were back at it with an 88-yard drive. Lincoln missed a tackle at the line of scrimmage as Davis went on a 24-yard run, then was called for pass interference on Redskins wide receiver Albert Connell for a 35-yard gain. Davis later wriggled into the end zone from the 1 to make it 14-0.
The Giants drew boos when they went three plays and out, and the Redskins needed only 1 minute 46 seconds to go 54 yards. Connell beat Lincoln for an eight-yard completion, then Davis ran into a pileup in the middle of the line. But Giants linebacker Corey Widmer failed to wrap up Davis, and he bounced outside to get into the end zone.
"I have no idea what happened," Strahan said. "From my side, I thought the play was over. Maybe I was hallucinating. But you have to play until you hear the whistle."
The Giants got a seven-yard touchdown run from fullback Charles Way early in the second quarter, and New York had a chance to get closer when the Redskins' offense fizzled on consecutive possessions. But on second and seven from the 25, quarterback Kent Graham's throw ended up in Barber's chest, and he coasted into the opposite end zone.
Brett Conway's extra-point attempt was blocked, but the Redskins still had a 27-7 cushion--and a feeling that last week's meltdown wouldn't be repeated.
"We had to play a complete game," Barber said. "Last week we didn't. Every time we came off the field, [defensive end] Marco Coleman and I said to each other, 'It's zero-zero.' That's how we wanted to approach it."
New York answered with a touchdown only 59 seconds later, on an 11-yard scoring run by LeShon Johnson. But the Redskins marched down the field again, scoring on Johnson's one-yard lob pass to Alexander with six seconds left in the half. The Redskins missed on a two-point conversion try.
They stopped the Giants to open the third quarter and got a 48-yard field goal from Conway. A fumble by Johnson gave the Redskins the ball back at the Giants 18. Westbrook outran safety Percy Ellsworth on a crossing pattern, then caught Johnson's throw for a 15-yard touchdown. It was 43-14 with 8:26 remaining in the third quarter.
Johnson's 27-yard touchdown pass to Alexander just under four minutes into the fourth quarter got the Redskins to the 50-point mark and completed the purge of last week's frustrations.
"That game showed us we had the capabilities of being a good football team," said Turner, who got both his reserve quarterbacks, Rodney Peete and Casey Weldon, into the game in the fourth quarter. "This game showed us we can bounce back."