A collective sigh went out across Washington. A win came when we needed it the most, and it’s hard to not be in good spirits with the end result. After a week of sulking and dreariness from a loss to the Cowboys, a win against the Giants is the kind of pick me up that you need.
It would have been easy for spirits to crumble given how the game took an early 3-14 swing against us. After such a strong 3 out and by the defense on the opening drive, we gave up such a crucial turnover on a botched punt. REGARDLESS of Dunbar getting blocked into the ball, if Crowder fields the punt there is no issue. In the end, that play by both Crowder and Dunbar would set up the perfect redemption story that they had yesterday with their special teams and third down efforts being the keys to victory. They spoke for the team by picking themselves back up. We would bounce back, show resiliency, and when we truly were hanging off the edge of the cliff in an 0-3 start to the season, the Redskins picked themselves back up. It was a tough win and a reason to hold our heads high.
There were some rough plays and rough drives in the first half. Our defense had a terrible time stopping Running Backs and we kept giving away 3rd & longs. There were some moments where we almost flashed brilliance with Norman dropping a near interception and Crowder on a 51-yard punt return to reset field position, but ultimately we would be staring at the wrong side of a 9 – 21 score. Again, it would have been easy to crumble, but we didn’t. Chris Baker started yelling at Joe Barry, DeSean kept pressing Gruden. Players were hungry, we still had fight in us. Immediately we charge down the field on two strikes to DeSean and right the reeling ship. WE’RE STILL IN THIS GAME! we seethed. Our defense kept the pushing with Will Blackmon ripping the ball the out of the Giants hands. While we would close the half by misusing timeouts in the final seconds or taking a bad sack, tthe game was still within reach and spirits were strong.
Lichtensteiger got hurt on the first drive and it would be the beginning of what would become a test of our offensive line depth with Lauvao joining him on the side line. One of the best personnel decisions on the offensive line was getting Ty Nsekhe out at LT and moving Trent Williams inside to guard. It was a great move that eventually won the day with our running game. Crowder breaking free on his screen for the touchdown is due to Trent Williams being the man blocking out in space. Him in the guard swing/tackle position is what’s best for the team given that we have a monster like Ty sitting on the bench otherwise. That’s not to say that Williams isn’t the best LT on our team, he’s the best LT in the NFL. It’s precisely because he’s so athletic and a guy like Ty is so trained/built to be a LT that you need to move Trent inside to keep our best players on the field, especially given that Long was our backup guard/center and we’re out both a guard and a center.
Did I mention we can’t stop Running Backs and 3rd & long is our Achilles heel? Cause in the second half it was more of the same of that as the Giants went down the field. Our defense made an admirable stand, almost forcing an Eli Manning fumble, and Bruton Jr. lost a maddening challenge that would have kept a 23-21 lead that instead slipped to 23-24.
Side Note: lip reading Jay Gruden’s clear, irate, and filthy side line language after challenges is my new favorite pastime.
The trick play on special teams was a gambit at the right time. It was too late in the game to being giving the ball back with a defense that has had issues stopping the Giants from scoring and points and time were scarce. Gruden made a gutsy call and Dunbar made a phenomenal catch on a surprisingly spiraled ball from our punter. I’d like to think the Tress Way had practiced that throw ad nauseam waiting for that exact moment to show the world that there truly is no better punter or pure passer in the NFL. Seriously, both of our kickers were outstanding yesterday. Dustin Hopkins putting all but one of his kickoffs though the end zone and every single one of his field goals (5) was through the uprights… It’s been a while since it was safe to trust our special teams and they did so much to comeback from an early error.
Like many of our trips to the redzone this season, we couldn’t capitalize with a touchdown after a great play that set us up in good territory. We did get back the lead thought with 26-24 and we went into a tightly contested 4th quarter. It would have been easy to lose our cool, it would have been easy to crumble. But there was fight in this team, they would not squander a chance to lead. We did see signs of slipping on the other side of the field. It culminated in the FIRST ejection due to two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. Odell Beckham Jr made some deep gashes in yards but the Giants couldn’t help themselves and had a line man taunt after a hit to the back on Norman. The Giants continued to drive down the field on OBJ when a man by the name of Dunbar (heard of him yet?) made a one handed interception within our own 5-yard line to safe guard the lead and shake off the Giants assault. It boiled over with OBJ having a tantrum against a net on the sideline. Soon afterward an unnecessary hit on the other side of the field by a player you’ve never heard of before (and probably won’t again seeing as the Giants added him to the active roster the day before the game) saved us from a blocked punt and ensured that their offense would be denied the opportunity to rally for a little while longer.
Shout out to Sean McVay for remembering to stick with the ground game. He ran the ball more times yesterday (30) than he had all season (29). It’s amazing how much better play action is when the threat of a ground game is real. It also leaves defenses so tired that you can end games strong by eating 6+ minutes of clock on a running back’s shoulders. So keep it up and watch the formula that worked last season start working again for you this season. On Sunday it left the Giants with a little more than a minute to spare. The Giants we trying to march to field goal range. That’s when the wonderful new addition to our defense Sua Cravens stepped up and came down with an Eli Manning interception when we needed a big play the most. An excellent end to an exciting game.
Cleveland is a stronger team than their record suggests. They’ve had some bad breaks with their kicker but otherwise they’re playing good football and we are not a good enough team to overlook anybody. Beating teams that you’re favored +9 by Vegas is something that good teams do. Victory this past Sunday doesn’t mean we’ve proven anything yet, but it does mean that we can start to believe this team can play like the 9-7 Division Champs they were last year. Next week is an opportunity to reaffirm those beliefs.