In arguably the franchise’s biggest game of the past 10 years, Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins took the national stage on Monday Night Football and delivered with a tough, gritty, blue collar win over the divison rival New York Giants.
Although I may be running on three hours of sleep and coming at you with one eye closed, nothing can bring down the excitement and euphoria that injected myself and the rest of Redskins Nation last night. And even amidst the brilliance that is RG3, the Redskins as a complete team deserve credit — from the coaches and their playcalling, to the players and their execution.
Three weeks ago, the Redskins were 3-6 and the media was blasting head coach Mike Shanahan for supposedly giving up on his team. Fast foward to now — three division games and three division wins later — and the Redskins are positioned to make a strong push for the playoffs with just four games remaining.
1. Redskins defense kept the lid on things
Pain yourself by thinking back to Week 7 when the Redskins faced the Giants at the Meadowlands. With under two minutes to go, Robert Griffin III hit Santana Moss with a picture-perfect deep ball to give Washington the lead and, what appeared to be, the victory. Or so we thought.
With just over a minute to go in the game, Eli Manning had entirely too much time and Victor Cruz torched the Redskins defense down the seam for a 77-yard touchdown catch and the real game-winner. The defense had let the hot water boil over. They couldn’t contain the deep game.
In somewhat of a surprise showing, the Redskins defense deserves credit for keeping the lid on Manning and the Giants offense Monday night. Although Manning didn’t toss his best of throws early in the game, the Redskins secondary were in position to stop the big play.
Yes, Victor Cruz got loose late in the game by way of a 49-yarder (D. Hall), and tight end Martellus Bennett was a mismatch for linebackers (long reception of 28 yards), but there weren’t any of those 77-yard fire shots that had the Redskins safeties left flat-footed.
2. Offensive lines shows up and kicks ass
Listening to what Giants defensive players are saying this morning, it was Robert Griffin III that sliced, diced, and took the New York defense for everything they had.
Talk to loyal Giants fans that know what to expect from their team and they’ll tell you that the Redskins offensive line won the fight in the trenches. By a lot.
A majority of us have picked on the Redskins offensive line this season, myself included, with many of the fingers pointed at left guard Kory Lichtensteiger and right tackle Tyler Polumbus. It’s clear that the offense being ran in Washington and the mobility of RG3 does a masterful job of disguising the offensive line’s even bigger woes. But when it came to a must-win game on the national stage against one of the most respected front-sevens in football, the Redskins offensive line put on their gloves and went toe-to-toe with the Giants.
Perhaps it wasn’t a knockout in the ninth round, or a TKO of sorts, but the Redskins rushed for more than 200 yards and the offensive line didn’t allow a single sack.
3. Overall attitude and determination
Not that I’m someone special, or that others can’t sense it, but I believe I have a good gauge of how passionate players are in a given contest.
Sometimes players can appear lazy by way of giving up on plays or not finishing their blocks. Others demonstrate the opposite with effort and raw enthusiasm on every down. To me, that effort is extremely special when an entire team puts in.
On Monday night, the entire Redskins football team went all in. The offensive line, the receivers, the defensive line, the secondary, the linebackers, the coaches, everyone. The excitement that was seen/heard on the sidelines resonated to the stands and originated in parking lot pregame tailgates.
When every aspect of a football team — from the fans to the strength coach — brings 110 percent and lays it all on table in respective fashion, good things can happen. The emotion in that stadium alone may have been the very facet that capped the New York Giants and propelled the Redskins to victory.
4. Don’t make Alfred Morris mad
Midway through the third quarter, down in the redzone and threatening to score, rookie running back Alfred Morris coughed up the football near the left sideline. Giants football. Not only was it a buzz kill following an electric 46-yard run by RG3, but Eli Manning took the Giants down the field and turned it into three points.
No one is blasting Morris for that fumble. Was it costly? Sure it was. But this kid has been nothing shy of awesome all year. And on Monday, he made up for every ounce of that fumble with each carry he received following it.
Morris runs hard and explodes through the hole every time he touches the ball. I’d be willing to bet he’s one of the hardest tackles in the league for an opposing defender. But following his turnover Monday night, Morris somehow found an even harder gear to grind with. He somehow dug into another cleat and blasted would-be tacklers at the point of contact. It was easy to see that Morris was upset about his fumble and that he was going to make it up to his teammates and coaches by making the Giants defenders pay.
Moral of the story: don’t make Alfred Morris mad.
Awesome game from Alf — 124 yards on 22 carries.
5. Jim Haslett getting the most out of what he has
If you’ve read any of my stuff throughout the season…well, thank you. But if you’ve read any of it, you’ll know that I don’t take well to the bend-don’t-break philosophy on defense. I like pass rushers. I like turnovers. I like initimidated quarterbacks and opposing offensive coordinators with dark circles under their eyes as a result of staying up for an entire week trying to figure out how to execute against a stellar 3-4 defensive unit.
Needless to say, the Redskins don’t have that.
That’s not to say the defense is terrible (more so three weeks ago). But they rank low for a reason.
Over the past few weeks, and most notably Monday night against the Giants, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett has adjusted his scheme and put his players in better position to make plays. This so-called realignment of sorts is putting the Redskins defensive players in the best position to get the most of their talent.
This isn’t me finding a soft spot for Haslett or miraculously believing that he should be retained next season. Rather, Haslett does deserve credit for the way the defense has played since the bye week.
When it’s all said and done, the Redskins have won their last three games, against division opponents, and are positioned to make a playoff push. They held the defending Super Bowl champions to just 16 points on Monday night.
6. Limited penalties and success on third down. Say what?!
Coming into the game, the Redskins were the known boneheads and most penalized team in the league. But during the game, the Giants appeared to be the team lacking focus, as they committed nine penalties to just the Redskins’ four.
For the Redskins, limited penalties demonstrates the focus this team had throughout the week and it shows that the coaches were effective in hammering home just how important Monday night’s game really was.
On the flip side, while I won’t get after Tom Coughlin as a coach, his team seemingly enjoyed shooting themselves in the foot with stupid penalties throughout the game.
Also to note, the Redskins went 4-of-8 on third downs in the game — a consistent and significant factor in the success of the offense and overall outcome of Redskins games this season.
Bottom line: Mike Shanahan and his staff had this Redskins team prepared for the biggest game of the season.