On Sunday, September 25, 2016, the Washington Redskins did what many people thought couldn’t be done. They defeated the then undefeated New York Giants 29-27 in New York. Many people, like me, couldn’t think of a possible scenario for the Redskins to win. You could throw out statements like: if the defense stepped up, if quarterback Kirk Cousins plays with heart, and or if special teams steps up. The Redskins got a little of everything.
Defense stepping up
In the first half of the game, the Redskins defense struggled—giving up 21 points. You could see the fire defensive coordinator Joe Barry post all over social media. They couldn’t stop Giants running backs Shane Vereen and Orleans Darkwa, both combined for 97 yards with two touchdowns in the first half. Also, Giants rookie wide receiver Sterling Shepard was embarrassing nickel cornerback Dashaun Phillips, especially on a 23 yard TD reception in the 1st quarter to make it 14-3 Giants. Even with all that the defense made plays. For instance, early in the 2nd quarter, defensive end Chris Baker popped and sacked Eli Manning for a big loss that gave the Redskins some momentum. The sack helped lead to a Giants’ punt. At that time the Redskins were down 14-6 and the Giants were moving and looking to end this game early. One of the biggest plays came from safety/cornerback Will Blackmon. The Giants were up 21-16 and looking to score towards the end of 1st half. Blackmon strips Vereen, leading to a Redskins fumble recovery. This ended the Giants drive and kept the Redskins in striking range.
The Redskins defense stepped up in the second half. They held the Giants offense to six points. The Redskins were up 26-24 late in the 4th quarter and the Giants were driving for a potential score. Cornerback Quinton Dunbar made a nice one handed interception in the red-zone to keep the Redskins up 26-24. Dunbar got the chance to play because of an injury to cornerback Bashaud Breeland, who was hurt early in the 1st quarter (high ankle sprain). The Redskins offense went 0 for 4 in the red zone and the defense couldn’t afford to give up touchdowns, which they did not. They created turnovers, gave up fields goals and ended drives. No play was as big in this game as was the play by rookie hybrid linebacker Su’a Cravens. With a 1:06 left in the game and the Redskins offense failing to close this game out, Redskins defense had to step up. Manning threw a pass intended for Vereen and Cravens lounged across for the game ending interception to seal the deal. This was Cravens first interception of his career. Cravens may have saved the Redskins season with a superhero effort on that play. The defense though maligned, made winning plays. They deserve a lot of credit for the victory.
For many years the Redskins special teams has been the downfall of the team. Yesterday, it may have been the best unit for Redskins. After Chris Baker’s big sack, as mentioned previously, the Giants decided to punt the ball to wide receiver and punt returner Jamison Crowder. Big mistake! Crowder nearly returned it to the house. He was stopped at the Giants’ 37 yard-line for a return of 52 yards. That play led to a Redskins’ field goal—cutting the Giants to 14-9. Later on in the game there was gusty key play. The Redskins were down 24-23 with 3:15 left in the 3rd quarter and were set to punt. The team did the unexpected in that situation and had punter Tress Way throw a 31 yard pass to Quinton Dunbar to put the Redskins in good scoring position. That fake punt was a great call by Redskins head coach Jay Gruden and his staff. The Redskins ended up kicking a field goal on that drive, putting them up 26-24. Although the team would rather have touchdowns compared field goals, field goal kicker Dustin Hopkins kicks were essential. Hopkins went 5 for 5 kicking field goals including a 37 yard go ahead field goal with 1:55 left in game (29-27). Hopkins was clutch and arguably the MVP of the game. Well it’s between him and Su’a Cravens.
Cousins had an effective game. He could improve on his accuracy at times but he did enough for his team to win. Cousins went 21-35, threw for 296 yards and two touchdowns, including a 44 yard TD pass to Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson in the 2nd quarter to get the Redskins back in the game. The quarterback didn’t do anything major to hurt the team. He played within himself and led the team to seven scoring drives. This was an improvement compared to the two prior games where he turned the ball over and missed many open receivers. The point that Cousins can’t beat a good team shouldn’t be used for now. The Giants were 2-0 and looked like favorites to take the NFC East. Cousins is a big part of them being 2-1. You that?!
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