It's going to be awfully tough for Robert Griffin III to get back to his 2012 form if he can't get off his own.
Justin Tuck sacked Griffin a career-high four times, as the Giants stifled Washington's early momentum and came from behind to record a 24-17 victory at FedEx Field on Sunday night.
In what was mostly a tale of two halves, Washington's last push for a comeback culminated in one of the strangest sequences in recent memory. After Griffin completed what looked to be a four-yard pass on a 2nd-and-5 situation with under two minutes remaining, the on-field officials strangely signaled for a first down as the Redskins, who were without timeouts, rushed to the line.
Their subsequent play resulted in an incompletion, but rather than give Washington a second down at its own 45-yard line, the officials reverted their initial call and mandated the Redskins were instead facing a 4th-and-1. While it was likely the right call, Griffin's pass was a deep ball down the middle to Fred Davis—a call that seemingly indicated the Redskins thought they were in a first-down situation.
Amid the chaos, Pierre Garcon fumbled a six-yard completion on 4th-and-1, giving the Giants the victory. It was a cataclysmic end for Washington in a game Mike Shanahan has to feel his team gave away.
For much of the first half, it looked as if Griffin and the Redskins were finally responding in kind to the wave of criticism surrounding their team. The second-year quarterback led Washington on a seven-minute scamper up the field on the opening drive of the game, culminating in a one-yard touchdown from Alfred Morris.
The Redskins went up 14-0 on their opening drive of the second quarter. Griffin found Logan Paulsen from 19 yards out, and suddenly it looked like the rout could be on. Washington was running well on the read-option and designed runs, giving Griffin time to throw in the pocket and generally looking like the team that shocked the NFC East a season ago.
That early pass was about the last time anyone at FedEx Field felt a positive vibe.
While Griffin continued hitting his passes—he went 16-of-17 in the first half, with his only incompletion coming on a pass that traveled more than 50 yards through the air—the Giants were setting their opponent up for the fall. Andre Brown scored his first of two touchdowns from 23 yards out to make it 14-7 with 8:46 remaining in the second, and Eli Manning hit tight end Brandon Myers for a 22-yard touchdown to tie the game at 14-14 just before the half.
After the break, Tuck took over. Constantly getting the better of Redskins right tackle Tyler Polumbus, Tuck matched his 2012 sack total in the second half alone Sunday. He brought Griffin down four times by beating Polumbus in a variety of ways, halting the Redskins offense before it could recapture its first-half momentum.
Griffin went down for five sacks total in the second half and was hit nine times—six times by Tuck. After scoring on two of its first three possessions, Washington managed only a 33-yard Kai Forbath field goal in the second half, one entirely set up by a Manning interception.
Griffin finished by completing 24 of 32 passes for 207 yards, adding another 88 on the ground. But with Redskins receivers dropping accurate throws and their offensive line allowing Griffin to get pummeled, one has to wonder how many points they left on the board.
The Giants, meanwhile, managed to just take advantage of Washington's mistakes and avoid big ones of their own. Their two scoring drives in the second half went only for a total of 86 yards. Manning threw for 235 yards, completing more than 70 percent of his passes (22-of-28) for the second time in three games. Brown could manage only 35 yards on his 14 carries but scored the Giants' go-ahead touchdown in the beginning of the fourth to give them a 21-17 lead.
Neither team has much postseason hope, but New York again proved it could play an interesting spoiler. After starting 0-6, the Giants have now won five of their past six games.
Robert Griffin III (QB, Washington Redskins): A-
Despite the loss, the overall results were as close to the 2012 level we've seen from Griffin this season. The second-year quarterback looked solid and comfortable on designed runs, finding gaps and getting to the second level throughout the contest.
Of equal importance: Griffin threw the ball brilliantly. The Redskins offense was filled with the quick, short throws that made Griffin a budding superstar last season, but he also looked very good on the couple times he uncorked the ball downfield.
The question here has never been whether Griffin has the ability to recapture his magic—we've seen enough flashes this season that indicate the talent is still as high as ever. But Griffin's results have varied wildly, to the point where some have wondered whether Washington was better off with Kirk Cousins under center.
The game was essentially split into two halves, but for once it wasn't Griffin's fault. Mike Shanahan hasn't made many correct decisions this season, but Sunday night proved sticking with RGIII was one of them.
Eli Manning (QB, New York Giants): B
The weekly nightmare portion of Manning's season has calmed down a bit. He hasn't thrown multiple interceptions in any of the past six games, and while he has only been intermittently effective in those contests, Manning hasn't been the singular reason his team lost a ballgame. So, there's been progress.
Nonetheless, Manning had to feel a sense of relief seeing the Redskins defense on his slate for this week. Washington came into this week as the league's sixth-worst pass defense yardage-wise and ranked No. 25 in Football Outsiders' DVOA metric. Coupled with last week's game against the Cowboys, this has been a nice two-week reprieve for Manning and the Giants, who have faced one of the NFL's most difficult schedules.
Manning responded to the easier competition with a solid outing. There weren't many frills or any reminders that this guy has won two Super Bowls, but his interception only cost the Giants three points and he found a ton of success over the middle.
Justin Tuck (DE, New York Giants): A
Once the NFL's most vaunted pass-rush teams, the Giants had fallen off a cliff this season. They came into Week 13 with just 18 sacks, ranking ahead of only Jacksonville's anemic rush, and having no player with more than four takedowns.
Tuck, whose dog-years aging has been one of the root causes for New York's struggles, responded by eclipsing his previous season total in one night. After having a mostly solid first 30 minutes, Tuck and the Giants watched on as the Redskins offensive line disintegrated down the stretch.
The 30-year-old Tuck reminded fans why he was once considered a future perennial Pro Bowler. Those days are probably over at this juncture, but Tuck was nothing short of excellent in the win.
Alfred Morris (RB, Washington Redskins): C-
The Giants weren't able to stop Griffin from having a solid rushing outing, but they bottled up his most consistent offensive weapon. Morris, who rushed for 26 yards on 11 carries, found resistance on nearly every one of his handoffs, with the defensive line penetrating well and linebacking corps having a night to remember.
In particular, Jon Beason made sure Morris' evening was the most disappointing of his season, finishing with a whopping 17 tackles.
This was the second straight nondescript performance for Morris, who had been the one bastion of steadiness during the Redskins' early struggles. The second-year back has accumulated just 78 rushing yards the past two contests after rushing for at least 70 in Weeks 2-11.
Washington will stick around at home next week, where it will host a Chiefs team desperate to get back in the win column. Kansas City dropped its third straight game on Sunday after its 9-0 start. The Giants will play their second straight road game when they travel west to take on the Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium.
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