"The biggest thing was the way the defense stepped up and created turnovers," Head Coach Jim Fassel said. "It was nice to see the ball on the ground and for us to get it."
The Giants benefited from four Washington fumbles and an INT by Redskins QB Danny Wuerffel, who was injured and replaced by rookie Patrick Ramsey in the second half. To let you in on a little secret about how Wuerffel played, type his name into your computer, then use spell-check. The first option you'll see to replace the word ‘Wuerffel' is ‘woeful.'
Ramsey came in and rallied the ‘Skins, but New York's defense, led by former Redskin Kato Serwanga, came in to close the door. Ramsey's Hail Mary try on the game's final play fell to the turf and New York headed home victorious.
"I'm obviously proud of this team," Fassel said. "The thing I'm most proud of is that these guys came in here believing we're going to win, we're going to fight our way through it, and they did."
"One reality that we're finding out is that you're only as good as your backup guys," said Michael Strahan, who had his consecutive games with a sack streak snapped at 10.
While Serwanga, who forced a key fumble late in the game and recovered another only a few days after being signed, was receiving plenty of kudos – and deservedly so – he also had plenty of defensive help. CB Ralph Brown, playing for Will Allen, posted his first career INT and added a lengthy fumble return. LDT Cornelius Griffin, playing on a bum ankle, recorded a hat trick with three sacks while LBs Nick Greisen and Kevin Lewis, each making their first career start, posted their first career sacks.
"Coming in here, I knew it was going to be a hard-fought game and I think some guys really stepped up," Fassel said. "We had some backup-type guys that came through for us."
"I'm excited about the win," said Defensive Coordinator Johnnie Lynn, who joked with his club the night before the game that despite all the injuries, he wasn't going to come out of retirement and suit up. "The guys all pulled together. Those guys left everything out there on the field."
And it wasn't just the defense. "The offense came through when they needed to," Fassel said.
"Our defense was dominant with the turnovers they got and we were able to capitalize on them," QB Kerry Collins said.
Big Blue's offense, which finished with 316 total yards, was opportunistic, if not spectacular. The league's worst red-zone club practically all season, New York came up with three TDs and a FG in five trips inside Washington's 20-yard line.
"[Jeremy] stepped up big when he had to and obviously made big plays," Fassel said.
"They play so much man-to-man, we're going to take advantage of it and we have to," Collins said. "The kid's a tremendous athlete and he can make plays all over the field and obviously he can make plays after he catches the ball."
There were plenty of plays made all afternoon by both clubs.
The ‘Skins missed an early opportunity as their newly-signed K Jose Cortez missed a 43-yard FG try wide right. ‘Skins WR Rod Gardner turned CB Jason Sehorn around for a 23-yard gain on third down to move Washington into scoring position. Sehorn continued to struggle in the starting lineup in place of Will Peterson.
Giants K Matt Bryant responded by drilling a 42-yarder to give New York an early cushion. Big Blue's 43-yard drive was keyed by a third-down run by Barber and Shockey's 20-yard catch to convert a third-and-six. New York picked up ‘Skins LB LaVar Arrington on the play and Shockey took the short pass down the middle of the field to the Washington 32.
The Redskins were on the move as the second period began after Gardner caught a third-down pass in front of Sehorn and TE Walter Rasby was wide open along the sideline for a 15-yard gain.
But after Wuerffel completed a nine-yard pass to WR Derrius Thompson – who blistered New York for six catches for 122 yards – at the Giants 13, the momentum actually swung in New York's favor. FS Omar Stoutmire stripped the ‘Skins wideout and Brown, starting only his second NFL start game, picked up the ball on one bounce and returned it 31 yards to the Redskins 44.
"I was just trying to get into the end zone and make a play," explained Brown, who flashed a little of his running back skills, which he last played in high school.
Barber then changed direction and busted a 43-yard run on the next play.
Then, as they always seem to, things got interesting for Big Blue. After Barber caught a nine-yard pass on third down, New York had a first-and-goal at the Redskins one-yard line. The Giants needed seven plays to score.
Ron Dayne was stuffed for no gain, before a Shockey TD was nullified because he was called for interfering with Redskins DE Ladairis Jackson. On the ensuing second down, Barber posted a short catch before New York again moved to the one-yard line after Redskins LB Antonio Pierce was flagged for interfering with Shockey.
On first down, Barber was thrown for a one-yard loss, then stopped for no gain on second down. Finally, New York was able to score and extend to a 10-0 lead when Collins, under heavy pressure, hit FB Charles Stackhouse. The Giants rookie fullback got open between two Redskins DBs and crossed the goal line for the much-needed points.
Greisen started at middle linebacker in place of Micheal Barrow. He recorded three career firsts on one play midway through the second period – his first sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery.
Greisen's super individual effort left the Giants in scoring position, which they promptly squandered when Barber dropped a third-down pass and Bryant pulled a 37-yarder wide left.
But the Giants came right back. Brown picked off Wuerffel and returned it 19 yards to the Redskins 34.
"I was the curl defender in a Cover-2 [defense]," Brown explained. "I had to drop like 12 to 15 yards and follow the inside receiver. I looked up and saw Gardner and Wuerffel throwing the ball. My first thought was to break up the pass, but then I realized it was within my reach.
"It was like a dream. I can still see the spiral now."
Wuerffel's scrambling (35 yards) and a delay-of-game penalty on Strahan allowed Washington's Cortez to kick a 23-yard FG as the first-half clock expired. Redskins RG Wilbert Brown pushed LDE Michael Strahan in the back after a play and Strahan held him to the ground, drawing a flag and stopping the clock with just two seconds to play. Wuerffel had been tackled in bounds, so the clock would have run out had Strahan not been penalized.
The third quarter was all Washington – until the very end, that is.
The ‘Skins opened the second-half scoring when Cortez hit from 44 yards out. Then the Redskins marched 55 yards to slice New York's lead to 17-14. Redskins RB Stephen Davis, who had been quiet until that point, broke a 33-yard run through the right side of New York's defensive line. Ramsey hit Gardner on a slant for a 13-yard TD in front of Sehorn, then connected with WR Chris Doering for the two-point conversion. Reserve S Johnnie Harris was the closest defender on the two-pointer.
Washington had all the momentum after stopping New York three-and-out. But then the game changed when Bailey dropped a punt.
Serwanga recovered the free ball at the Washington 22. A 20-yard pass to Shockey preceded Barber's one-yard TD run off right tackle and put Big Blue up 24-14.
Shockey capped New York's third-period about-face with a 30-yard gain on the quarter's final play.
But the Redskins wouldn't go away quietly. Thompson made a beautiful diving grab for a 36-yard catch. Then the ‘Skins successfully converted a fourth-and-nine via a 19-yard Gardner catch-and-run. Davis then barreled in from the one; it didn't even matter that the Giants had 12 defenders on the field.
The Redskins were on the move again late in the final period but Serwanga forced Redskins WR Darnerien McCants to fumble at the Giants 30-yard line with 3:59 to play. The ball hopped right to SS Shaun Williams.
Steve Spurrier's failed challenge cost the ‘Skins their final timeout.
Not surprisingly, the Giants were unable to run out the clock, but the defense held at the end for the win, which kept New York alive in its bid for a post-season berth.
The odds remain stacked against Big Blue, but Fassel still believes.
"Everybody counted us out a while ago," he said. "But we're 7-6, we're still alive and we're going to keep fighting. It will be over when we say it's over."