But without that play, this game would have gone down as an incredible disappointment, especially defensively. Luckily for the Giants, the Redskins lost the turnover battle, committing four after only having five total in the previous six games.
All week, the Giants focused on stopping rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III and the Redskins’ powerful running game. However, the Redskins turned in a stellar rushing performance, led by the team’s other rookie Alfred Morris, who rushed for 120 yards including 94 in the first half.
Griffin III added 89 rushing yards on nine attempts and threw for 258 yards and two touchdowns.
The Giants defense looked completely lost in the first half, allowing the Redskins to score on each of their three drives, including a 16-play, 93-yard, 9:11 opening drive, which resulted in a field goal from Kai Forbath. Morris was unstoppable on this drive, which included three third-down conversions.
It seemed as though the Giants would gain a defensive momentum boost after keeping the Skins out of the endzone on that drive, but Washington marched right down the field and took the lead on a Santana Moss touchdown on a Griffin III screen pass.
The third drive again featured Morris, but the Giants finally got some pressure on Griffin III, led by a key sack from Justin Tuck, forcing another Forbath field goal.
Though the Giants’ defense was a bit off, the Redskins’ offensive line played great early, opening up huge holes for Morris and giving Griffin III plenty of time to throw. Griffin III was deadly all half on play action throws.
Obviously at halftime, Tom Coughlin said that the Giants needed to do a better job of stopping the run, and Big Blue appeared up to the challenge but did receive plenty of help.
On the Redskins’ second drive of the half, the team was driving down the field before Morris surrendered his first career lost fumble. Linval Joseph stripped the ball, and Michael Boley pounced on it for the turnover.
But a Manning interception gave the Skins the ball back immediately. Again, Washington put together a lengthy drive with a few trick plays from offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Keeping up with the theme of turnovers, Griffin III threw just his third interception of the season right into the hands of Stevie Brown, who has done an admirable job filling in for the injured Kenny Phillips at strong safety.
The Giants followed with an Ahmad Bradshaw touchdown run, but again the defense couldn’t stop Griffin III from moving the ball down field.
The Redskins converted on two straight fourth down plays, but the drive was stunted by a Griffin III fumble, caused by Jason Pierre-Paul and recovered by Joseph.
All the Giants had to do at this point was milk the clock for a victory, right? Wrong. Manning threw a terrible interception, giving the Skins great field position down by just seven.
The Giants’ defense finally came up big forcing a field goal attempt after just three plays. Forbath made the kick to cut the deficit to four.
So with time running out, the Giants needed to just put together a drive to finish off the game, but again, it wasn’t so easy. Big Blue punted, giving Griffin III the chance for the comeback victory.
The Giants looked like they would force a turnover on downs deep in Skins’ territory, but Griffin III turned in a highlight-reel scramble and found tight end Logan Paulsen for a huge gain over the middle.
Griffin III kept scrambling for big yardage before delivering what could have been the dagger, a 30-yard touchdown strike to Moss, who burned Giants’ rookie corner Jayron Hosley big time, giving Washington the lead.
After Manning’s pass to Cruz, Griffin III still had 1:13 remaining to try to orchestrate another comeback. He completed a pass to Joshua Morgan and then another over the middle to Moss, but Moss fumbled the ball, recovered by Hosley, for the Redskins’ fourth turnover of the day.
The reason the Giants were 0-2 last season against the Redskins was because the defense gave up big plays in clutch spots. Though that’s pretty much what happened today too, Washington’s four turnovers ultimately sealed their losing fate.
Griffin III certainly lived up to the hype and put his team in a position to win despite the turnovers, but his own defense came up empty on Cruz’s game-winning catch. Even so, the Giants’ defense will be just as focused on stopping Morris next time these teams play as they will be in limiting RGIII.
Big Blue’s defense has a week to plug up its holes as it prepares for another important divisional battle next Sunday in Dallas against the Cowboys.