By Curt Macysyn
It’s not how you start, but rather how you finish. With a nationwide audience ready to turn off their television sets after Washington took a 14-0 lead, the New York Giants reached back to their past fervor and outscored the Redskins 24-3 over the next three quarters to pull out a 24-17 victory.
The Sunday Night Football contest started out poorly for the G-men as Robert Griffin III was white hot in the first quarter and a half. But New York righted their ship on the backs of veterans Justin Tuck (four sacks) and Eli Manning (235 passing yards), as Big Blue rallied for a much-needed win over the Redskins in Landover, Maryland.
Andre Brown had two rushing touchdowns for the Giants, who raised their record to 5-7 with the victory. Meanwhile, just one year after they were crowned NFC East champions, the Redskins dropped further into the NFC East cellar with a 3-9 record.
After having early momentum, Robert Griffin III cooled off considerably and ended with 206 passing yards and just one touchdown. RG3 did have 12 rushes for 88 yards, but much of that statistic was hollow yardage.
Offense Grade: B+
The offense seemed lethargic, especially after the first two series ended in three-and-outs, and New York went down 14-0 midway through the second quarter. But Eli and company came alive, and Manning ended with his best statistical game in many weeks. The veteran quarterback was 22-of-28 for 235 yards and a touchdown, and despite the fact that Manning threw an ill-advised interception, he led the offense more confidently than he has in several weeks.
Victor Cruz had a typical game for the Pro Bowl receiver, as he had six catches for 80 yards. Cruz is incredibly elusive and thrives after the catch. Despite the fact that he has not caught a touchdown since the Kansas City game in September, Cruz’s contributions cannot be underscored enough. Tight end Brandon Myers caught five passes for 61 yards, and he hauled in a big 22-yard touchdown grab with just 35 seconds left in the first half to knot the score 14-14.
Hakeem Nicks returned to the lineup and had two catches, including a tough grab he stole away from Washington cornerback DeAngelo Hall.
Running back Andre Brown had only 35 yards on 14 carries, but his 23-yard touchdown run in the first half got the G-men on the score board. Brown added a one-yard plunge in the third quarter which put the Giants in front early in the fourth quarter. Brown has taken his share of hard hits since his return from the injured list, and he did not appear to have his normal burst.
Peyton Hillis jump started the offense with back-to-back runs of eight and 27 yards, leading up to Andre Brown’s first touchdown. Overall, Hillis had six rushes for 45 yards and added a catch out of the backfield for six yards in limited action.
Left tackle Will Beatty struggled mightily with the speed of outside linebacker Brian Orakpo, who sacked Manning twice on the evening. The offensive line started slowly, but gained momentum as the game went along. New York only had one penalty in the game, which marked a huge improvement over recent games.
Defense Grade: B+
The highlight of the game was Justin Tuck’s four sacks of Robert Griffin III. The veteran defensive end came into the contest with 2.5 sacks over the first 11 games of the 2013 campaign and matched his entire sack total for the 2012 season. For good measure, Tuck had five tackles on the evening, and defensive coordinator Perry Fewell effectively moved Tuck inside and outside on the defensive line.
Middle linebacker Jon Beason was all over the field with 17 total tackles. Beason has brought stability to the interior of the Giants defense, as well as emotion to the unit. Safety Antrel Rolle played another solid game in the secondary and delivered a hard blow to RG3 as the quarterback went to block on a running play in the first quarter. Rolle’s fellow safety, Will Hill, salted the game away with his strip fumble of Pierre Garcon with less than two minutes left in the contest.
The stat sheet will show that Robert Griffin III had 88 yards on the ground on 12 carries, but this was very much a padded statistic. Included in his 88 yards was a worthless 20-yard scamper as time expired in the first half. The defense also held Alfred Morris to 26 yards on 11 carries (2.4 yards per carry), which was a far cry from 122 yards rushing he averaged against the G-men last year.
Special Teams Grade: B+
Steve Weatherford punted seven times for a 47.8 yard average, with two punts inside the 20-yard line. The punt coverage team has improved, but is not there yet. The unit gave up 8.8 yards per return to Redskins veteran Santana Moss, who would not be confused for Chicago’s Devin Hester. Rookie cornerback Charles James had a couple of tackles on special teams.
Kicker Josh Brown snuck a 39-yard field inside the right upright to put the Giants ahead by a touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Brown has not missed a field goal attempt since the Kansas City game in September. Kick-off coverage was average, allowing Josh Morgan to average 24 yards per return.
Earlier this season, special teams were a liability, and now that is no longer the case. But the special teams units have improved every week, and down the stretch may become more of an asset as players like Rueben Randle and Michael Cox get more comfortable in their roles.
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Curt Macysyn has been covering the New York Football Giants for the past two seasons for Examiner.com. Born and raised in northern New Jersey, Curt has followed and covered the New York Metropolitan sports scene for 35 years. He attended Seton Hall Prep School in South Orange, NJ and is a graduate of Rutgers University, New Brunswick. His work can be found on Examiner.com.