BIG BLUE SHOWS WASHINGTON THE DOOR IN SEASON FINALE
Giants Game Story (at Redskins)
By Michael Eisen
January 1, 2017
LANDOVER, Md. – Anyone who thought the Giants had nothing to play for doesn’t know the Giants.
Locked into the fifth seed in the NFC playoffs, the Giants traveled here to face a Washington Redskins team that would have virtually secured a postseason berth with a victory. But it was the Giants who played as if they had a lot at stake, and they walked out of FedEx Field with a 19-10 victory.
The Giants finished 11-5 and will visit the Green Bay Packers in an NFC Wild Card Game late Sunday afternoon.
“I like this football team,” said Ben McAdoo, who joined Dan Reeves as the only Giants coaches to win 11 games in their debut seasons with the team. “I think we have talented men of integrity in the locker room. That’s where it starts and where it ends. We have a good group of guys that’s willing to work. They like football, and you saw that today.”
It was crystal clear. Washington had averaged 25.7 points through its first 15 games, but managed just 10 against the Giants, none in the first half. Kirk Cousins hadn’t thrown more than one interception since opening day, but Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie picked him off twice. Cousins was also sacked four times. The Redskins’ dangerous threesome of wideouts – Pierre Garcon, Jamison Crowder and DeSean Jackson, had a combined eight catches for 146 yards and no touchdowns. Washington rushed for only 38 yards and averaged 2.5 yards per carry.
“We’re trying to be the best defense,” said safety Landon Collins, who had a team-high eight tackles, including a sack. “That’s our mindset. We want to be the best and we just keep running for it.”
Rodgers-Cromartie sensed frustration in the Redskins’ offensive players.
“They’re ranked number three team in the league (in yards-per-game),” he said. “Anytime you can hold them a little bit as a player, you’re going to get frustrated. I think that’s what they did for the most part. We put pressure on them and forced the quarterback to make plays. Normally, he makes plays with his feet, but I think the back end held up and we just got after guys.”
Offensively, the Giants unveiled the kind of game they will likely need to play to win in cold, hostile Lambeau Field. They had season-high totals of 40 rushing attempts, 161 yards, and a time of possession of 35:52. They did not have a turnover. Eli Manning was an efficient 17-for-27 for 180 yards. He threw neither a touchdown nor an interception, but was more interested in discussing the productive ground game.
“That’s big,” Manning said. “They were playing a lot of two-high safeties, so you have to be able to run the ball with those looks. We did a good job running them out of that a little bit. They brought in some single-high finally and we were able to make some plays with that. That’s big going in. It just helps control the clock and run the clock. Our defense is playing outstanding, so that’s a pretty good formula. With the defense playing strong and we’re running the football well, you’re going to be strong moving forward.”
Rookie Paul Perkins carried the heaviest load. He was told last Wednesday that he would get his first career start. The fifth-round draft choice responded with season-high totals of 21 carries and 102 yards. He was the first Giants back to reach the century mark since Rashad Jennings in the 2015 season finale vs. Philadelphia.
“I hold myself to high expectations,” Perkins said. “One hundred yards is good, but I’m striving for better … This was a crucial game, a big time game. Coming into this stadium was awesome. As the game went on, I got more comfortable. The game slowed down and I started seeing the holes more quickly.”
Robbie Gould’s 22-yard field goal and Jennings’ 2-yard run gave the Giants a 10-0 halftime lead. It was the first time they pitched a first-half shutout since Dec. 7, 2014 in Tennessee.
Washington tied the game on Dustin Hopkins’ 32-yard field goal in the third quarter and Cousins’ 1-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Reed in the fourth.
Later in the quarter, Manning threw deep down the left sideline for Tavarres King, who got a step on cornerback Greg Toler and caught the pass for a 44-yard gain. Four plays later, Gould’s 40-yard field goal put the Giants ahead for good.
“Earlier, we tried to throw a slant over there but he (Toler) was playing heavy inside,” Manning said. “The next series we said, ‘Hey, let’s try and run by him.’ I got Tavarres over there. I told him early on that we were going to run by 20 if we get a chance. Sure enough, the play came in. He just had a go-route and got one-on-one. I took my matchup. He did a good job winning and making the catch.”
King had not played since Nov. 14. The reception was just his second of the season, and the fourth of his career.
“It means a lot,” King said. “The fact that E and the coaches believe in me and trust in me enough in a critical situation like that, to come to me means so much to me. I have a lot of gratitude and thankfulness in those guys. That’s all I want from my teammates. For them to believe in me, trust in me and know that I’m going to give 110 percent for them.”
Washington appeared to be driving for, at worst, a tying field goal when Rodgers-Cromartie picked off Cousins with 1:12 left. The Redskins got the ball back at their own six with six seconds remaining, but Reed’s attempted lateral became a fumble, which Trevin Wade returned 11 yards for a touchdown as time expired.
And now the Giants head to their first postseason in five years.
“It feels good to make the playoffs,” Manning said. “That’s what it’s all about. Eleven wins, it’s a nice accomplishment, but it’s all about getting into the dance. I’m proud of this team. I think there is a uniqueness and something special about this squad of guys. We’re finding ways to win games. Not perfect. I wish it could be prettier at times. But hey, we’re winning games and that’s a good quality to have.”
Especially at this time of year.