By Curt Macysyn
The New York Giants (11-5) did not have much to accomplish on Sunday. New York was already locked into the fifth seed in the NFC playoffs, and they would stay there regardless of the Week 17 game’s outcome. On the other hand, the Washington Redskins (8-7-1) were playing for their playoffs lives. But for the better part of this contest, it seemed like the roles were reversed. Big Blue’s defense rendered Washington’s high-powered offense impotent, except for a few downfield completions late in the game. Conversely, the Giants relied on a stiff ground attack in besting the Redskins 19-10 at FedEx Field.
The Giants made a strong commitment to the rushing attack, and it paid dividends. New York had its best running game of the season with with 161 yards on the ground. Rookie Paul Perkins led the ground attack with 102 yards, and Rashad Jennings chipped in with 52 rushing yards and a touchdown.
If the NFL wants to rid itself of its WWE reputation, then it needs to send Josh Norman a message. Norman continually engaged in his own brand of thuggery, while his target, Odell Beckham, generally kept his nose clean. In fact, the loud mouth corner should have been ejected for an intentional head butt, similar to what got Beckham in trouble last season. Chances are the NFL offices will give radio silence on the issue this week. To his credit, Beckham did not take the bait and ended up with 44 yards on five catches before being removed.
After 63 passing attempts in his previous outing, Eli Manning had a manageable 27 attempts this week. He completed 17 of those passes and had only 180 passing yards. The four catches for Beckham were the result of him being placed in bubble wrap for the second half. Tight end Will Tye also caught four passes for 47 yards. Tavarres King had a huge 44 yard reception that set up the game-winning field goal. The passing game was largely out of sync though.
Defensive starters played the lion’s share of the game, with Janoris Jenkins making a surprise start for Big Blue. Damon Harrison was also out there, despite being injured against the Philadelphia Eagles. New York would not allow Rob Kelley to have any semblance of a ground game. Kelley finished the game with 33 yards on rushes (2.8 yards per carry), which made the ‘Skins one-dimensional.
The scribes continue to want to put Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie out to pasture, but DRC is as valuable to this defense as anyone. His first of two interceptions snuffed out a Washington rally, and his second of the game turned the lights out on Washington’s season. Rodgers-Cromartie finished the season with six interceptions. Olivier Vernon was a force on the edge as usual. Cornerback Trevin Wade, the team’s Swiss Army Knife, was rewarded with a defensive touchdown on the last play of the game.
Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins needed a big game to surpass 5,000 passing yards for the season, and the Giants would not allow him to get there. If the G-Men can bottle this quarterback pressure for the playoffs, they will be in good shape. New York pushed hard against the Redskins’ offensive line, and they never allowed Cousins to get too comfortable all afternoon.
Special Teams: B+
Brad Wing was solid on the afternoon with seven punts for a 50.1 yard average, and three punts inside the 20-yard line. But Wing’s last punt brought back memories of Matt Dodge’s kick to the Philadelphia Eagles’ DeSean Jackson in 2010. Thankfully the coverage unit surrounded Jamison Crowder, or it could have gotten ugly. Robbie Gould hit two field goals (22, 40) and nailed the extra points. Gould’s kickoffs are gaining distance as the season carries on, and he earned four touchbacks against Washington.
The coverage units have been great, while the return units have been somewhat dormant. Dwayne Harris had six punt returns for 46 yards (7.7 yard average). Special teams touchdowns have been non-existent this season.
Yes, the passing game was ineffective, but the ground attack came alive. The reason for that was the coaching staff’s total commitment to the run game. Going on the road and beating a division-rival on a playoff quest needs no explanation. And playing starters, and then getting Beckham and Jenkins some rest was the right call. If folks are going to criticize the coaching staff about OBJ’s outbursts, then they deserve major credit for his under control demeanor against the Redskins. As Josh Norman continued his reign of terror, Beckham never flinched, but still played aggressively.