Playing with backups at a half-dozen positions and backups to backups at others, the Washington Redskins looked like a squad that had just met during stretches of Thursday night's crucial game against the New York Giants.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins was sacked six times and twice called for delay of game. There were holding calls, an epidemic of drops and a tipped ball that Giants cornerback Janoris Jenkins intercepted and ran back 53 yards for a tying score in the third quarter.
But at the end of this Thanksgiving night, the Redskins owed thanks that the flailing Giants were in greater disarray, enabling Washington to overcome its self-inflicted errors for a 20-10 victory.
Playing behind a patchwork offensive line that lacked three starters, Cousins was under duress for much of the evening but completed 19 of 31 throws for 242 yards, two touchdowns and the one interception
It was a miserable night for New York quarterback Eli Manning, who threw poorly and got little help from his receivers. He was 13 of 27 for 113 yards and a late, game-sealing interception to cornerback Kendall Fuller.
Redskins rookie running back Samaje Perine earned 97 of his 100 yards in the second half, playing a major role in helping the Redskins outgain the Giants, 323-170.
"We needed to stick with [the run]," said Coach Jay Gruden, who had scripted a conservative game plan, given that his team had a new center and new left guard, and was at peace with having to punt, if need be, until the offense got settled. "We're not interested in stats here. We're interested in wins."
The victory snapped the Redskins' two-game losing streak, tying them with Dallas, at 5-6, while providing their first win in the division. It was essential to keep the Redskins' slim playoff hopes alive and sorely needed for morale, too, coming four days after their devastating overtime loss to New Orleans after leading by 15 points with less than six minutes remaining in regulation.
While the Redskins have played hurt and shorthanded for weeks, they took the field Thursday with a roster that was a shadow of the one that opened the season. Left tackle Trent Williams sat out, leaving just two starters on the offensive line — right guard Brandon Scherff and right tackle Morgan Moses. And at center was a third-string lineman, Tony Bergstrom, signed just four weeks earlier.
Moreover, it was the fourth consecutive game without Pro Bowl tight end Jordan Reed and the first without versatile running back Chris Thompson, who had served throughout the season as an escape hatch for Cousins, ready to bail him out when plays broke down with a sure-handed catch or carry.
Things got off to an ugly start for both teams.
The Redskins punted on their first two drives, unable to muster a first down while being called for holding and a false start and dropping easy balls.
They turned the ball over on downs on a snake-bitten third series. Cousins tripped over the leg of his retreating center, and somehow a Giants defender was credited with a sack. Gruden went for it on fourth and one, but the throw to Josh Doctson in stride fell incomplete.
The Giants took over on their own 41 but couldn't do anything with the gift, as linebacker Ryan Kerrigan flew in for his second sack of the night.
The Giants broke the deadlock midway through the second quarter, converting a fourth and one en route to a 16-play drive that resulted in a 30-yard field goal.
The Redskins replied with more drops than receptions. With 13 seconds remaining in the half, Nick Rose tied it with a 28-yard field goal.
The Redskins got the ball to start the second half. The result was the same: some scattered positive yardage, followed by self-defeating mistakes. A holding call on Arie Kouandjio and a third sack left Cousins staring at a third and 27. They ended up punting a fifth time.
After forcing the same from the Giants, the Redskins got a 33-yard catch and run by Jamison Crowder that took them to field goal range. But things went backward from there. Unable to find an open receiver, Cousins took off running and was sacked a fourth time. A false start set them back further. On the run again, Cousins fired a bullet at Crowder in the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown that put the Redskins up, 10-3.
It looked as if the Redskins would go ahead by two scores on their drive.
But in leaping for a short throw, running back Byron Marshall tipped it into the hands of Jenkins, who ran it back for the Giants' lone touchdown.
Cousins said afterward that he felt pressure coming on his right side and feared he'd be strip-sacked if he didn't get the ball out quickly. That's why he threw hurriedly (and a bit high) to Marshall.
"It ended up very unlucky," said Cousins, who praised Marshall for his composure and "juice," saying he felt the recently signed back could help the team, particularly after losing Thompson.
Trying to break the 10-10 tie, Gruden went for it on fourth and one, but Cousins couldn't get the play called in time, drawing a second delay-of-game penalty and a cascade of boos from the stands.
The Giants' offense stalled again, however, and the Redskins moved inside the New York 20 when Doctson out-jumped Jenkins in the corner of the end zone for a 14-yard strike from Cousins to make it 17-10 with 3:31 remaining. Rose hit from 33 yards to extend the lead, and Fuller ended it by intercepting Manning.