The Redskins pulled off a surprise victory over the New York Giants Sunday, winning 23-10 in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score or statistics indicated.

The Redskins improved to 5-9 on the year as they dropped the Giants to 7-7 and muddled New York’s playoff chances.

It was one of the most convincing wins the Redskins have recorded since Mike Shanahan took over last year, and gave Washington its first sweep of the Giants since the 1999 season.

Here are five observations from Washington’s victory.

Roy Helu (AP Photo/Rich Lipski)

Said quarterback Rex Grossman, “We didn’t have some of the big gains, but we were gaining yards consistently.” That enabled the Redskins to keep the Giants off balance because the play-action game continued to work. Another wrinkle that Shanahan used to cause uncertainty for New York centered around pitches to Helu and Royster. When they saw the pitch, the Giants thought Washington would run to the outside as it often does. But Helu and Royster routinely cut back to the inside to pick up yards. Another new facet was the use of fullback Darrel Young in short yardage situations. Grossman would hand off to Young, then fake a pitch to Helu on the outside. The Giants’ defensive linemen often overlooked the inside handoffs to Young, kept watching Helu and didn’t recover until Young had churned out precious yards.

2.) Success on third down – The Redskins made crucial plays on third down to extend drives, which led to points and kept Eli Manning and the Giants off the field. Washington did well in this area, particularly in the first half, when they succeeded on six of nine third-down conversions. For the game, the Redskins’ offense converted on eight of 15 third-down attempts, and Washington’s defense limited New York to just three successful third-down conversions on nine attempts.

One of Washington’s biggest plays of the game came on third and 8 from the New York 20, when Grossman completed a 20-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss. Young had a strong run on third-and-1 on the same drive to make that touchdown possible. On Washington’s next possession, Helu had a three-yard run on third-and-1, and three plays later, Grossman completed a pass to Jabar Gaffney, who gained 16 yards on third-and-14. That led to Young’s 6-yard touchdown run on the next play. Said Coach Mike Shanahan: “I think guys made some plays. … That’s what you have to do, you have to have wide receivers make some plays. You have to have some crucial throws on first down. Rex stepped up and made some plays, and that’s what you have to do.”

(Bill Kostroun/AP)

4.) Solid showing for CB Josh Wilson – A week after intercepting Tom Brady in the end zone to set up Washington with a chance to threaten the Patriots in the final minutes of last week’s game, Wilson provided more clutch plays for the Redskins against New York. Wilson recorded an interception in the end zone to snuff out the Giants’ hopes for an early fourth-quarter touchdown. Then later in the quarter, he tackled D.J. Ware at the goal line to prevent a touchdown. That came after Wilson had recorded three pass breakups. Without his heroics, Sunday’s game could’ve been a lot closer.

5.) An eye on 2012 – The Redskins are beginning to focus on the 2012 season, but not in the “What draft pick are we going to get,” way that the fans’ focus has shifted. The players have approached the final stretch of the season with the goal of laying a foundation for next season and finding positive developments that can carry into Year 3 of the Shanahan Era. After the win over his former team, Redskins nose tackle Barry Cofield stood up and addressed the team in the locker room. His message: based on the no-quit attitude he and his teammates have displayed lately, and the narrow losses Washington has suffered, he believes the Redskins aren’t far off at all. Fellow defensive lineman Stephen Bowen said the optimism in the locker room is very high, and the Redskins are determined to close out this season with wins in their next two games.

Echoing Cofield’s sentiments, receiver Donte Stallworth said, “I think Barry said it best after the game, it’s a lot of optimism in here. Obviously, we want to close out the season well. But speaking on next year, get a lot of guys back from injuries, put some more pieces to this puzzle, man, and we can do something special.”

More on the Redskins:

Reid: Hall on top of his game Sunday

Antrel Rolle eats humble pie

Big plays from defense