LANDOVER -- Consistently inconsistent. One-step forward, stumbles back. Rally for a thrilling win, get blown out the following week. Through 10 games, the Washington Redskins were nothing if not erratic.
Six games remained, yet arguably little mattered for 2015 without a win Sunday over the New York Giants. Victory meant an improbable first place tie atop the NFC East. With the stakes high and the season running short on time, the Redskins organized a player's only meeting Saturday night with a clear and direct message.
"Stop losing," wide receiver Pierre Garcon stated.
After four weeks of following a win with a decisive loss, safety Dashon Goldson and members of the Redskins defense wanted to ensure all involved were focused especially after last Sunday's 44-16 beatdown at Carolina.
"That's something Dashon would do," lineman Ricky Jean-Francois explained. He added, "It had to be said eventually. We were just telling everybody that we have the players on the team. Now we just have to go out there and play like we have the players."
For at least one week, the Redskins responded, dispatching division rival and perpetual nemesis New York Giants 20-14 Sunday afternoon at FedEx Field.
Washington's offense tallied 407 yards including 302 from the arm of quarterback Kirk Cousins, and scored the game's first 20 points. The defense shutout New York for three quarters, pressuring Giants quarterback Eli Manning along the way. The Giants found late life with some fourth down magic and Odell Beckham's catching wizardry. They just couldn't catch the Redskins, not on this day.
"Everybody had to bring the effort," Garcon said. "We saw it today and it all worked out well for us."
It worked out from the start. Aggressive coverage and opportunistic playmaking led to interceptions on New York's first two possessions. DeSean Jackson's 61-yard touchdown sparked a 17-point second quarter.
Cornerback Quinton Dunbar, a wide receiver back in training camp, intercepted Manning in the end zone during quarter number three. After the Giants turned two fourth down conversions into 14 fourth quarter points, the Redskins offense kept the chains and clock moving just enough to prevent a true final rally. The message from the meeting stayed with the players for the full 60 minutes.
"We don't need all the big names that most teams usually carry. All we just need is the heart of a Redskin," Francois said. "Go out there and play ball. Execute your assignment. If you do your job, believe me, all 10 other guys are going to do the same."
Good feelings oozed from every corner of the Redskins locker room after the win, their first against the Giants in six tries. New York never trailed en route to winning 32-21 in Week 3.
"It felt a little personal because they've kicked our tail the past couple of times we've played them," linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said. "This was a great feeling to get this win against them."
That feeling won't last if the effort and focus doesn't remain. Washington won't lack for motivation this week, not with first place in play and the Dallas Cowboys visiting Monday night. The hope is that those needed words spoken Saturday night stick for the remaining days and nights of the 2015 season.
"That meeting was well needed. I hope it sunk in everybody's head. Today it did," Francois said. "I hope it sticks in the head for the rest of the season that you know you have the players. You know you have the capabilities to beat any team that's in front of you from this day on out.
"Knowing that, you have to trust in the man next to you. Last night we were saying, 'Do you trust the man next to you?' You trust the man next to you and you shouldn't be paying attention to what he's doing. Execute your job and he's going to be doing the same thing as you."
That's what happened Sunday against the Giants. For more steps forward than back, that's what must happen against the Cowboys and beyond.