The game was largely meaningless, as far as a National Football League game can be without meaning. The Metlife stadium crowd reflected the post season implication of the game, no more than two thirds full, and largely ambivalent to the product on the field. Two teams playing out the string met yesterday afternoon, and one player proved yet again that he is far and away the best athlete on the field.
Odell Beckham, jr. missed the Giants first five games with a hamstring injury. Since returning to the field, he has dominated the league with performance after performance that leaves opponents grasping at air. When covered, he makes catches. When open, he uses his blazing speed to race for the end zone. Against Washington, Beckham caught 12 of 15 passes thrown in his direction for 143 yards and 3 touchdowns. He accounted for half of the Giants offensive output and all but 6 of their total points. If not for the rookie, the Giants surely would have lost the game. He is the hope for the future and the sole source of excitement on the Giants offense in 2014.
The Giants won the opening toss and took the ball. The first of Washington’s five personal foul provided the only first down of the drive and the Giants were forced to punt. Zack Bowman caught the punt inside the five yard line, downing it at the 4. Colt McCoy mixed passing and runs, including a 20 yard read option play where he kept the ball himself, drove the Redskins 79 yards in 13 plays before the Giants defense stopped then and forced a Kai Forbath 35 yard field goal to give Washington a 3-0 lead. McCoy re-injured his neck on the drive and Robert Griffin III replaced him at quarterback.
The Giants second drive was their only effective drive of the first half. Manning found five different receivers, including fan favorite, rookie Corey Washington, and converted a 4th & 1 at the Redskins 14 yard line on a fullback run by Henry Hynoski. The drive was capped by Beckham’s first touchdown, a 10 yard grab in the right side of the end zone. It gave the Giants their first lead of the game at 7-3 following the 12 play, 56 yard drive that took 5:07 off the clock and ended as the first quarter was winding down.
Griffin, seeing his first action in a month, was rusty at first, and was sacked by Cullen Jenkins. The teams exchanged punts and then Griffin found a rhythm, completing 5 straight passes before connecting with running back Chris Thompson for a 9 yard touchdown. The score gave Washington a 10-7 lead midway through the quarter and took 4:09 as they drove 77 yards in 7 plays.
The Giants offense continued to sputter and Washington appeared to widen their lead when Griffin dove over the pylon for an apparent touchdown as time expired in the quarter to cap a 12 play, 90 yard drive that consumed the final 3 minutes of the half. With the Redskins set to receive the second half kickoff, and the Giants defense reeling, the outlook was a grey as the skies over the Meadowlands until referee Jeff Triplette went under the hood to review the touchdown.
Griffin bobble the ball before he crossed the goal line and lost the handle, fumbling it out of bounds. That’s a touchback, not a touchdown, and the points were taken off the scoreboard and possession awarded to the Giants. Santana Moss, a veteran of 14 season, vehemently disagreed, and let the several officials know, with expletive laced statements. When he made contact with one of the of the officials, he drew multiple personal fouls and and ejection from the game. As time had expired in the half, the yards would be marked off on the second half kickoff.
The Giants gained only 95 yards in the first half, and targeted Beckham only 5 times, completing 3 for 32 yards and their lone touchdown. That would all change as the game wore on and Beckham strengthened his claim on the rookie of the year award. The team had no running game to speak of, gaining 16 yards on 10 carries in the first half and 33 yards on 12 carries in the second. The game plan would shift to Beckham and pay handsome dividends, awakening and electrifying the chilly Metlife crowd in the process.
The second half opened with a highly unusual sight, the Giants teed the ball up on the Washington 35 yard line as both personal fouls were enforced, moving the ball 30 yards from the Giants 35 into Redskins territory. This drew gasps from the crowd and comments that Giants should onside kick, as even an unsuccessful attempts would have Washington deep in their own territory. Josh Brown bounced the ball down the Redskins sideline, and Chandler Fenner recovered, setting the Giants up at the Redskins 17. A false start on J.D. Walton changed a 3rd & 2 into a 3rd & 7 and the Giants could not convert, but a Brown field goal tied the score at 10.
Washington continued to move the ball well against the Giants, but the beleaguered defense again stiffened in the red zone, forcing a 38 Forbath field goal, giving the Redskins their final lead of the afternoon at 13-10. A blown coverage on Andre Roberts resulted in a 61 yard gain, only Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie running Roberts down from behind prevented the touchdown.
The Giants offense sprang to life on the ensuing drive when Beckham drew a pass interference penalty against cornerback Bashaud Breeland, tasked with trying to cover the dynamic rookie one on one. Two play later, Beckham caught a short pass from Manning and turned on his speed, splitting the Redskins safeties for a 35 yard touchdown. It gave the Giants a 17-13 lead on a quick strike 4 play, 81 yard drive that took only 2:05 off the clock.
After the defense forced a punt, the Giants were driving again, and appeared to extend their lead when Manning found Beckham for a 30 yard touchdown when he was 3 yards behind Breeland. A holding penalty on Justin Pugh negated the penalty and the Giants were faced with a 4th & 1 on the Redskins 28 two plays later. The call was an end around to Beckham who was stuffed short of the first down. It was the type of play that could change the momentum of the game, but Giants defense held again, when Damontre Moore stopped Griffin on a third down scramble short of the first down and forced a Redskins punt.
The first three plays of the drive were Andre Williams runs, and netted 12 yards, the only effective rushing sequence of the game for the Giants. Manning targeted Beckham frequently, and overcame a holding penalty on rookie guard Weston Richburg when Rueben Randle made an 18 yard catch in traffic on third & 8 to set up a first and goal. A fade to Beckham fell incomplete when the rookie couldn’t hold on to the ball, a rarity for the talented receiver. A slant on second down was successful and he caught his third touchdown of the game and closed out scoring to make it 24-13 Giants. The 12 play, 76 yard drive took 5:51 off the clock and left just 4:41 in the game.
The Giants defense teed off on Griffin, sacking him a total of 7 times, with Jason Pierre-Paul and Jonathan Hankins registering 2.5 each. The team has 22 sacks in the past 3 games going against some of the poorest offensive lines in football. Pierre-Paul, an impending free agent, has taken advantage of the lower quality opponents to pad his stats and likely increase his asking price in March.
The win has temporarily moved the Giants up to the 8th pick in the upcoming draft, although if the Saints win in Chicago tonight, New Orleans will move back into first place in the putrid NFC South and 25th spot in the draft order. Carolina, currently occupying that draft spot has a tie on it’s record and will draft behind the teams with 9 losses if the season ended today. The Giants play the resurgent Rams and their dominant defense and strong running game next Sunday, current kickoff time 4:05. It will be a challenge for the Giants to extend their winning streak to three for the second time this season, against 6-8 Rams who have given up just 12 points in their last 3 combined games, with shutouts against the Redskins and Raiders. But, with Beckham on the field, anything is possible.