Well, that was frustrating. For all of the talk coming in about how difficult it would be to contain Robert Griffin III and the Redskins offense, the Giants had every opportunity to win this game. Ultimately, they were undone by one familiar issue and one novel one. Let’s get to the notes before I have another RG3-Predator hallucination:
- The Redskins’ first touchdown came off of an amazing stroke of luck/horror (depending on your rooting interest) when RG3 fumbled the ball into Josh Morgan’s hands, who subsequently ran it in for the score. There’s not a whole lot the defense can do about a play like that, but it was good to see they were going after the ball, as a fumble by Alfred Morris bounced the Giants’ way later in the game. I don’t know what Griffin did in his past life to amass his unbelievable karma. He’s like Mark Sanchez, only the exact opposite.
- Ahmad Bradshaw was amazing. He carried the ball 24 times (his third-highest total of the season) for 103 hard-earned yards, and converted every big third-and-short against a Redskins running defense that only allowed 89.2 yards/game coming in (3rd-best in the NFL). We’re going to need more performances like that out of Bradshaw with Brown likely out for the season, and he appears to be up to the challenge.
- Sean Locklear went out with a gruesome knee injury in the fourth quarter. I assume it was gruesome because that’s what everyone’s calling it, but I’ve learned not to look at football replays that are described that way anymore so I never actually saw it. I did see that the Giants’ pass protection, which was pretty good up to that point, really suffered after he was replaced by David Diehl. If Locklear is out for an extended period (and it sounds likely), this will continue to be a problem.
- Eli Manning looked good for most of the night. The Giants offense started out really agressive, going for a couple passes deep down the field to Nicks and Cruz that juuuuuuuuust missed, and a ton of connections to Martellus Bennett. Eli finally hit Cruz on a big 49-yarder in the second half, but barely went down the field after that. As soon as the Redskins took the lead, Bradshaw started getting carry after carry, whether called by the sideline or checked to by Manning at the line. Considering they were going against the 3rd-ranked rushing D and the 29th-ranked passing D, I thought this was somewhat quizzical.
- The Giants’ run defense had a tough night, but I find it pretty hard to blame them. ESPN highlighted a bunch of plays where the defensive ends got caught guessing wrong on the Redskins’ pistol option plays. I was watching at home and trying to guess where the ball was going on those plays, and I did NOT do well. Hard to expect our lineman to do much better in the heat of the game.
- The red zone: our old nemesis. The Giants came into the game scoring touchdowns on about 49% of their red zone possessions, which isn’t gonna get it done. I was hoping that these concerns were behind us after that number jumped to 83% last week against the Packers, but alas, no such luck. Despite moving the ball well through the first 3 quarters, the Giants could only muster 16 points due to 3 promising drives that stalled out, leading to Lawrence Tynes field goal attempts. The second try saw the usually-automatic Tynes miss from 43-yards away, which turned out to be sorta important.
- The Giants came in to this game as the second-least penalized team in the NFL, averaging only 4.4/game. Well, that average is gonna go up a bit. They were called for 9 penalties, two of which put the Giants in tough field position coming off kickoffs and one that wiped out a first down on what ended up being the Giants’ final offensive possession. I suspect Coughlin may mention this in practice before the next game.
Despite all that, the Giants had the ball with 5 minutes to go, down only one with a chance to take the lead. With Eli at the helm, we usually do pretty well in those circumstances, but a win last night would have put the Giants in a great position to coast into the playoffs without much stress over these last 4 games, so obviously they could have none of that. Part of the beauty of being a Giants fan is their knack for putting together dramatic victories, but part of the horror is the anxiety they induce along the way. Next Sunday, an afternoon home game looms against the Saints. The Giants must win that one to ensure they maintain their lead in the division.
What, you thought it would be easy?