Best and worst moments from Washington’s 17-16 win over the Giants at FedEx Field.
Best Closing: “We just need to learn how to finish” has been a sad refrain in this town for years. You want to know what finishing looks like? Allowing the Giants — and fourth-quarter king Eli Manning — to gain just 17 yards on their final drive. Getting the ball back with nearly four minutes left. And then destroying that clock with three first downs. Washington ran seven times for 26 yards on its final drive, completed a 17-yard pass, and ended the game with a Robert Griffin III kneel-down.
Best Difference-Maker (Non-RGIII Edition): Pierre Garcon. He does make a difference, doesn’t he? In the six games he’s played, the Redskins are now 5-1. In the six games he’s missed, the Redskins are 1-5. He had eight catches for 106 yards and a touchdown on Monday, and was by a million miles Washington’s most explosive non-rookie.
Best Surprise: The Redskins’ offensive line, facing the most feared defensive line in the NFC East, didn’t allow a sack, and helped Washington run for 207 yards. I would not have predicted that.
Worst Quip: After Robert Griffin III fumbled the ball while sliding late in the first quarter, Joshua Morgan wound up with the ball, which he took into the end zone. Jon Gruden dubbed this “the magic of RGIII.” If the magic of RGIII is getting lucky on fumbles, well, that’s a very risky form of magic. That fumble was Griffin’s 10th of the season, tied for second-most in the NFL with Mark Sanchez and Michael Vick.
Best Strategy: The fumble for a touchdown is a thing, I guess. Morgan’s touchdown was the second time this season a Skins receiver has recovered a Griffin fumble for a touchdown; Pierre Garcon did it in Tampa.
Best Stats: Another week, another record (or three). According to the NFL, these Redskins are the first team in NFL history to have a rookie run for more than 1,000 yards and another rookie pass for more than 2,000 yards in the same season. Also, Robert Griffin III set the season record for rookie quarterback rushing yards. In his 12th game. Also, Alfred Morris set the Redskins season rookie record for rushing yards. In his 12th game.
Worst First Pass: I’ve spent the past two weeks convinced that RGIII will never again misfire on a deep ball. The first pass of the game proved me wrong. Griffin out-shot Pierre Garcon by quite a bit; a Logan Paulsen drop on second down left the quarterback a shocking 0-for-2. Before the first drive ended, a slightly off-target pass went through Garcon’s hands, and Griffin was 1-for-4. What happened to one incompletion a game?
Best Sidelines: Play a big-time primetime game against a big-time big-market opponent, and the stars come out. Among the famous names on the sideline before the game kicked off: Joe Gibbs, C.C. Sabathia, Steve Young, Trent Dilfer, Michael Strahan, Bruce Boudreau, Craig Laughlin and Ryan Zimmerman. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was also in the stadium.
Worst Clock Management: The end of the first half was a case study in poor clock management. The Redskins had 1st-and-10 at the 13 with more than a minute remaining and three timeouts, which is an eternity in the NFL. And yet, after a one-yard run on first down, they stopped the clock at 1:01 with a timeout, which was silly. Then Garcon caught a short pass and lunged for the sidelines, which was silly. An incompletion on third down meant the Giants got the ball back with 41 seconds left. They got a field goal, which was the fault of whoever called that Redskins timeout.
Worst Time of Possession: Here was the time of possession at halftime: Giants 20:32, Redskins 9:28. Hard to win a football game that way.
Best Time of Possession: In the second half? The Redskins held the ball for more than 17 minutes. That’s a better recipe.
Worst Field: What exactly happened to the grass stuff at FedEx Field? Grenade droid dodgeball? World jack-hammering finals? Prairie dog convention? Did not exactly look pristine. “Redskins have a hard one-cut runner, and a track-speed QB, on a field that’s a fuzzy green slip n’ slide,” Steve Czaban put it on Twitter. “That’s an owner issue.”
Worst Deja Vu: Alfred Morris has made so few mistakes this season. His two biggest? Two second-half fumbles in two crucial situations against the Giants. Both came on first-down plays inside Giants territory, too.
Best Response: On Washington’s next drive, Morris carried 5 times for 41 yards, and the Redskins marched 86 yards for the game-winning touchdown. Morris seemed a bit fired up on that drive, huh?
Best Individual Effort: The Examiner’s John Keim noted that the Redskins will likely have more than one primetime game next season, because RGIII is electricity. This wasn’t his finest night, but the circuits starting buzzing on his 46-yard sprint in the third quarter. He seemed to nod toward the sideline — which would be the typical quarterback move — but then split two Giants defenders and very nearly pulled away. It’s something you can’t see in any NFL game not involving the Redskins.
Best Forbath: This kicker feller is now 11-for-11 on field goals. I mean, the Kappa Alpha house at the University of Georgia has more missus than Forbath. That was supposed to be a pun. I don’t think it really worked. But hey, I’m on deadline. The Giants, you’ll recall, missed a field goal in a one-point game.
Worst Drops: Victor Cruz? Logan Paulsen? Niles Paul? You can choose.
Best Flop: Or maybe worst flop. Either way, Giants punter Steve Weatherford was gently nudged by Bryan Kehl, and reacted as if his midsection had been penetrated by barbed daggers. He got the flag, too.
Worst Discipline: Hey, for once the Redskins didn’t get called for the most penalties in a game! USA Today reported that the Redskins actually used their high number of penalties (and the Giants low number) as a pre-game motivational technique. The officials didn’t seem particularly anti-Washington on this night; the Giants were whistled for 9 penalties, and the Redskins for just 4.
Best Hit: London Fletcher just wrecked Giants running back David Wilson in the first quarter. The kind of tackle that, by league rules, forces every viewer to inhale and wince. Old, injured people aren’t supposed to hit that hard. Watch it here.
Worst First-Half Defense: For the first 30 minutes, the Redskins allowed Eli Manning to luxuriate in a pretty chill safe space behind his offensive line. Washington didn’t record a sack in the first 50 minutes of the game, and let the Giants convert 9 of their first 11 third-down attempts. The Giants had 11, 13 and 13-play drives in the first half alone.
Best Second-Half Defense: But things sure changed in the second half, when the Giants went punt, field goal, punt, punt. Rob Jackson got a sack, Ahmad Bradshaw was repeatedly gang-tackled after minimal gains, and the Giants scored three points.
Worst Decision to Bring a Kickoff Out from the End Zone to the 14: Brandon Banks. Each week, a new and exciting re-writing of special teams conventional wisdom.
Best Audio: Throughout the game, the “RGIII” chants from a large FedEx Field crowd were easily audible at home. Even better: the A cappella rendition of Hail to the Redskins after Morgan’s weird touchdown. That was loud. Gruden was making crazy talk about RFK Stadium, but the atmosphere looked special.
Worst Dread: When Hakeem Nicks had a step on Cedric Griffin and Eli Manning’s deep ball was in the air late in the first quarter, it sure felt like a touchdown. But the ball was slightly underthrown
overthrown, and Griffin accelerated and got his hand in to break up the play. A few plays later, a Manning deep ball barely missed Victor Cruz, and that feeling returned. Every time that ball goes high up in the air against the Skins secondary, you fear the worst.
Best Reversal: A month ago, the Redskins were 3-6, and Mike Shanahan was offering “time to evaluate” speeches, and the knives were out, including in this space. Now the Redskins have back-to-back-to-back NFC East wins for the first time since 2005, and are poised for a four-game sprint to the playoffs. Weird sport, the NFL.