The Redskins ended an embarrassing drought on Monday Night Football. But, more important, their tense 17-16 victory over the Giants resuscitated their playoff hopes.
At 6-6, Robert Griffin and the Redskins pulled even with the Cowboys for second place in the NFC East and moved to within a game of the 7-5 Giants. The victory was the Redskins’ third in a row, their longest winning streak since 2008.
They entered the night having lost 10 consecutive games at home on Monday, a drought that dated to 1997. But this was the first MNF game the Redskins had Griffin, Alfred Morris and Pierre Garçon.
Griffin’s 8-yard touchdown pass to Garçon early in the fourth quarter that restored the Redskins’ lead, 17-16. The two also hooked up at the two-minute warning, extending the drive the home team used to run out the clock.
Garcon, despite playing on a tender right foot, finished with eight receptions for 106 yards. There were hints of a breakout, however. Garçon participated fully in practice Thursday-Saturday, the longest such stretch since before he suffered the injury in the preseason.
Washington also achieved two significant milestones in the game. Morris surpassed 1,000 yards and set the franchise rookie record for rushing, passing Reggie Brooks’ record of 1,063 yards established in 1993. Morris finished with 124 yards on 22 carries.
Griffin, meantime, set the NFL rookie record for rushing yards by a quarterback, gaining 73 on four carries. The previous mark of 706 was set last season by the Panthers’ Cam Newton.
But in a game of such magnitude, individual records meant relatively little.
The Redskins trailed 13-10 at the start of the second half, but eventually seized control.
After a Morris fumble deep in Giants’ territory, Eli Manning marched the visitors down the field on what appeared to be a game-turning drive that culminated with a 35-yard field goal by Lawrence Tynes
But the Giants’ 16-10 lead did not last.
Early in the fourth quarter, Griffin directed a masterful 12 play, 86 yard drive that the ended with Garçon's critical touchdown catch.
As impressive as the performance by Griffin, Morris and Garçon was on an unseasonably warm night in Landover, it was not without flaws. The defense couldn’t get off the field in the first half, allowing the Giants to convert 8 of 10 third downs. Tight end Martellus Bennett, meantime, caught seven passes for 82 yards in the first two quarters as the Giants dominated time of possession.
But the defense recovered in the second half – just as Griffin and the offense hit its stride.