The Giants were not without their heroes. Rookie TE Jeremy Shockey had 111 yards receiving, Matt Bryant nailed four field goals and Michael Strahan added two sacks of woeful Washington QB Shane Matthews. That made up for the handful of foolish penalties, three turnovers and three dropped INTs.
"Obviously that was a good win," Head Coach Jim Fassel said. "I thought it was an overall win, I thought our guys showed a lot of courage and a lot of guts. I'm proud of them. That was an important win, a division game and it gives us three in a row and that's what we've been talking about, playing, winning and streaks."
The Giants Stadium contest was played in a driving rainstorm, something that clearly aided the defenses.
"I loved it," said CB Jason Sehorn, who snapped New York's INT drought with a crucial third-quarter pick. "It inhibits what the offense can do."
So did Matthews. Steve Spurrier's latest choice at QB completed only 15-of-35 passes for 113 yards.
The Giants got as much offense from their kicker. Bryant, with his regular holder Matt Allen back in place, nailed FGs from 43, 34, 33 and 19 yards, the final boot providing the winning points with 11:56 to play.
"Our special teams had to step up today, especially the field-goal unit," Bryant said. "Special teams was real big today, especially with the weather conditions. I made them all but the weather was a factor."
Former Giants LB Jessie Armstead, however, was not a factor. All week, the game was being billed as Armstead's revenge game, his chance to get even with New York. He posted six total tackles, but was hardly heard from in crunch time.
"We all like Jessie around here," Fassel said. "But Jessie has another uniform on so we just [had] to go out and play."
They played well enough to keep pace with the Eagles, who received a huge dose of bad news. Philly's signal-caller Donovan McNabb, arguably the only person who qualifies the Eagles as a division threat, broke his ankle and is expected to miss approximately six weeks of action.
But the Giants were worried only about their own results, which included dropping Washington two games behind them in the NFC East race.
"We knew it was going to be a hard-fought game," said RB Tiki Barber, who had 64 rushing yards. "Washington's tough. They have a tough defense, and with Jessie coming back they were very emotional. With the weather conditions, the rain picking up made it hard on both teams. We fought through it, persevered and we made plays on offense and defense and especially on special teams."
The specialty units contributed in a big way. Not only was Bryant perfect, but Allen did a solid job punting the ball, the coverage units were stingy – including forcing and recovering a fumble – and the FG block unit did just that – block James Tuthill's 42-yard attempt with 3:11 to play.
"I knew if [Tuthill] had to kick anything from 40 or beyond, it'd be tough because that side of the field was trashed," Bryant said.
The Giants defense, which hasn't exactly been stellar against the run recently, sought out to trash Washington's running game. And with Redskins RB Stephen Davis back in action and the inclement weather, Big Blue knew what was coming. They limited the ‘Skins to only 60 rushing yards, a mere 2.9 yards per carry.
And they started early. Strahan and SS Shaun Williams combined to drop Davis for a one-yard loss to end Washington's first drive.
The Giants (299 total yards to Washington's 166) had no problem moving the ball against Washington's defense out of the gate, but Big Blue had to settle for three after a 16-play drive. New York moved 54 yards – buoyed by four catches for 41 yards from Shockey – before Bryant drilled a 43-yard FG to open the scoring.
A holding call on RG Jason Whittle and Collins' overthrow of a wide-open Barber, who would have scored easily, helped stall the drive.
The Giants certainly helped the ‘Skins score their first points of the game. New York had Washington stopped on third down at the New York 36-yard-line, but CB Will Allen, one of New York's three INT droppers, was flagged for taunting Redskins WR Chris Doering after the play. On the next snap, CB Will Peterson was penalized for a very questionable pass interference penalty. Then, on third-and-goal, Matthews hit Willie Jackson for a six-yard touchdown to give Washington a 7-3 lead early in the second period. Jackson, whom the Giants probably should have signed when they had the chance, got behind Peterson.
The Redskins seemed to get all the early breaks. So, when Shockey fell down on his route, it was no surprise that Collins' pass was intercepted by Washington DB Ifeanyi Ohalete, who returned the ball 27 yards to the Giants 12. With the ‘Skins knocking on the door again, Peterson dropped a golden opportunity to change the game's momentum. Matthews' pass to Rod Gardner near the goal line was in number 24's hands, and he had nothing but green grass in front of him. However, the Giants [lack of] INT problems continued and Peterson was unable to corral the ball.
"I didn't see it until it hit me," Peterson said. "That's 10 points right there. That's seven points for us because I definitely would have scored and they wouldn't have gotten that three."
No matter. After Washington's James Tuthill hit a 31-yard field goal, the Giants stormed 72 yards in nine plays to tie the score before halftime. Collins hit WR Amani Toomer (eight catches, 95 yards) for five on third-and-four, then connected with Shockey for 15 more. Collins capped the drive when he hit Toomer on a post route for a 35-yard TD. Toomer got behind Redskins S David Terrell for the easy score.
"I told Kerry in the huddle not to go out of his reads or anything, but the last time we ran that, it was open," Toomer said. "It was there."
Collins didn't need to be told twice.
"Before the play, he said he was open on the last one," Collins said. "I was like, all right.
"The thing that made that play work was that I had all kinds of time. The other thing that made that play was Dan Campbell. He has a blocking assignment. He gets out and holds down the corner and the safety on the backside. It allowed Amani to break free and I was able to get it to him."
Shockey's turnover – a fumble forced by Bruce Smith and recovered by LaVar Arrington – early in the second half didn't hurt Big Blue. But Collins' did. His pass was tipped by Champ Bailey and intercepted by Terrell, who returned the ball 19 yards to the Giants 11-yard line.
On the next play, Matthews found Rod Gardner in the end zone for a 17-10 Washington lead. There were no less than six New York defenders nears Gardner, but none close enough to prevent his jumping reception.
With the Giants poised to respond via a 46-yard field goal, Big Blue lost its chance when flagged for delay of game. But they would get those three points on their next drive. After converting a fourth-and-10 from the Redskins 31 with a 12-yard Toomer catch, the Giants still had to settle for three, a 34-yard Bryant field goal.
Barber busted a 23-yard run, but again New York couldn't put the ball in the end zone, settling for a 33-yard Bryant FG that sliced Washington's lead to 17-16 late in third period.
But then the Giants ended their six-game INT drought in a big way. New York recorded its first pick since Week Three when Sehorn stepped in front of Matthews' pass to Derrius Thompson, giving New York the ball at the ‘Skins 40.
The Giants then took advantage of another Washington mistake. A roughing-the-passer infraction on Redskins LB Jeremiah Trotter (16 tackles) moved Big Blue closer to its game-winning 19-yard field goal.
"A touchdown would have been nice there, but a field goal did it," Barber said.
All that was left for Big Blue was to keep Washington off the board the balance of the final period. DT Lance Legree did just that when he swatted away Tuthill's try.
"It was a high snap and then they got it down late," Fassel said.
"I just saw the ball bounce back and knew I had to get possession of it and secure it," said FS Omar Stoutmire who picked up the blocked kick and advanced it 14 yards.
The Giants never let the ‘Skins get close again in the final few minutes.
"Offense, defense and special teams came up when it had to," said LB Brandon Short, who dropped the third of the three gimme picks. "I'm really proud of this team, how they played and fought. Now it's time to move forward."
A fourth straight victory awaits Sunday in Houston.