Redskins.com's Brian Tinsman takes a closer look at Monday night's Week 13 game against the New York Giants at FedExField:
As far as national spotlight is concerned for Robert Griffin III and this young Redskins roster, Monday Night Football at home in December is about as big as it gets. The game was sold out of tickets on secondary markets first thing this morning. Fans started lining up to park outside the gates by noon. Washington D.C. is ready for some football.
The Redskins tested the Giants' secondary early, throwing deep to Pierre Garçon on the first play from scrimmage. When that didn't work, the Redskins established the running game, setting up a physical matchup for the next 60 minutes.
The ball was bouncing the Redskins' way tonight, illustrated by Robert Griffin III's fumble in the red zone that landed in the waiting hands of receiver Joshua Morgan, who finished the play with a touchdown. After the drive started with three-straight first downs, Griffin III tucked the ball and ran 12 yards up the middle before taking a solid hit. On the way down, he lost control of the football, and batted it into the air in an effort to recapture it. The ball sailed right to Morgan, who scampered the last 13 yards to paydirt.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Redskins linebacker Rob Jackson came through with the biggest defensive play of the day, sacking Eli Manning for a seven-yard loss following the Redskins' go-ahead touchdown. The play brought up 4th-and-long, but more importantly sapped any opportunity for the Giants to get back in the game. Neither team scored in the game's final 11-plus minutes, as the Redskins held on for the 17-16 victory.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Running back Alfred Morris has revitalized the rushing attack in Washington, turning in his two finest performances against the New York Giants' stout front-four. Morris's personal benchmarks aside, he sealed tonight's victory with a six-yard rumble up the middle on 3rd-and-three with under a minute remaining. If Morris fails to pick up the first down, the Giants would have had another opportunity with the ball. His first down clinched the team's third-straight victory and capped off his best day as a pro.
Receiver Pierre Garçon has shown his big play ability already, but today's performance was a workhorse effort, as he became Griffin III's outlet receiver. In addition to his game-winning touchdown, Garçon also caught eight-of-11 targets for 106 yards, his second highest yardage of the season.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
--The Redskins continue to stretch the field on offense, translating tremendous speed in the receiver corps into big plays. The Redskins sent Garçon deep on the first play and it didn't work, but it pushed the safeties back deep and opened up the rushing attack at the line of scrimmage. At the end of the second quarter, Griffin III found Garçon off play action on an intermediate crossing route, reminiscent of his 59-yard score against Dallas last week. Garçon gained 35 yards on the play, out-foxing four Giants defenders and setting up a game-tying field goal.
--Carry the momentum: The Redskins entered today's contest as the winners of consecutive division games and needing to even the season series with the New York Giants. It wasn't always pretty, but the Redskins got it done against the division leaders, setting them up for a final playoff push.
--The NFL's top rushing offense did it again tonight, with Morris going over the century mark in the game, the 1,000 mark on the season, and broke the franchise rookie rushing record set in 1993. Not to be outdone, Griffin III—the team's second-leading rusher—broke the NFL rookie rushing record for quarterbacks (707 yards), topping Cam Newton from a year ago. Griffin III is now in uncharted waters for dual-threat excellence at quarterback.
--Redskins linebacker London Fletcher was uncertain to play today after suffering an ankle injury the Week 11 win over the Eagles. After practicing in a limited capacity and being listed as questionable, Fletcher answered the bell made an immediate impact on Giants running back David Wilson on a run up the middle. Fletcher is paramount to the defensive leadership on this team, and shows up much more than the stats sheets will suggest. With that being said, Fletcher led the team with 12 tackles and led a keyed several defensive stands.
--While the argument could be made that the Redskins were lucky to recover Griffin III's first quarter fumble for a touchdown, receiver Joshua Morgan should be commended for his effort on the play. Morgan was brought in as a free agent because he plays a physical brand of football and plays to the whistle. His willingness to block on the play put him in position to recover the Redskins' fumble. His awareness and refusal to give up on the play allowed him to recover the ball and score. Great play by Morgan, and proof that Shanahan's principles are making an impact.
--Redskins cornerback Cedric Griffin has been a solid contributor on defense this season, but stood out tonight with an expanded role. He played well in coverage, physically imposing himself on routes and forcing would be pass receivers out of bounds.
--After a quiet start to the season, Redskins fullback Darrel Young has assumed a larger role in the offense in recent weeks, catching a 15-yard pass for a first half first down. Young is has quietly led the NFL's top rushing attack and has proven to be a key blocker in the passing attack as well. His emergence as a receiver gives the Redskins an added dimension out of the backfield.
--Keeping it clean: Even in a physical division game, the Redskins kept their composure for a second-straight week, committing only four penalties for 56 yards.
WHAT WENT WRONG
--The Redskins have struggled defensively on third downs at points this season, and tonight was one of those nights. In the first half, the Giants converted nine-of-11 third down opportunities, a conversion rate of more than 90 percent. The defense tightened up some in the second half, but the Giants' ability to sustained drives took its toll later in the game.
--The Redskins had two fumbles in the red zone tonight, as Morris's third quarter fumble sacrificed a golden scoring opportunity. The Giants recovered the fumble at the 9-yard line and proceeded to march down the field for a field goal. This 10-point swing nearly cost the Redskins in the final score.
--The Redskins pass rush struggled to generate consistent pressure tonight, giving Eli Manning too much time in the pocket. Manning has been sacked only 13 times this season, which leads the NFL for full-time starters. With that being said, he is susceptible to mistakes when put under pressure, and only Jackson was able to break through tonight.
--The Redskins have struggled all season against talented tight ends, and tonight was no different against former Cowboy Martellus Bennett. Bennett led all receivers after the first half, tallying seven receptions for 82 yards. Bennett is no slouch--he brings size and a large catching radius, but the Redskins need to identify a defensive answer for opposing tight ends.
Running back Alfred Morris can officially add his name to the army of running backs that have rushed for 1,000 yards in his system. The former sixth-round pick has morphed into a four-down back, showing size, speed and durability that vastly exceeds his draft stock. His 19-yard rip in the first quarter made him the Redskins' first 1,000-yard back since Clinton Portis in 2008. He is only the second Redskins' rookie running back to rush for 1,000 yards, joining Reggie Brooks in 1993 (1,063). Morris broke Brooks's franchise rookie mark in the fourth quarter, finishing with 124 on the day.
"The fans were great. It's how you win games at home: they have a hard time with the snap count. I thought the did. It was quite loud and a big part of our win."
--Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan
The Redskins turn around another short week, hosting the Baltimore Ravens at FedExField for the first time since 2004. The media will push a discussion of geographical rivalry for the Redskins' northern neighbors, but this game looms large for both teams. For the Ravens, a playoff berth can be clinched with the team's 10th win. For Washington, the hunt for the playoffs continues, as the Redskins have no room for error with six losses on the season. The Redskins seek their fourth win at the friendly confines of FedExField this season.
The team that the media declared dead in the water at 3-6 is officially back to life following a cardiac contest over the New York Giants on Monday Night Football. With a 6-6 record, the Redskins control their postseason dreams and put a dent in the hopes of Giants fans everywhere.
Tonight was the Redskins' first Monday Night Football win since defeating the Philadelphia Eagles on Sept. 17, 2007. It is the first time that the Redskins have won three in a row since their four-game streak in Weeks 2-5 of the 2008 season. Most importantly, it is the first time the Redskins have beaten all three division opponents in succession since Weeks 15-17 of the 2005 season.
The Giants provided the Redskins with ample bulletin board material this week, saying that the Redskins were not "legitimate playoff contenders." The Redskins proved them wrong tonight, defending their home turf and beating the Giants for the third time in the last four meetings. If the Redskins aren't legitimate after tonight's victory, I'm not sure who is.