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For Openers, Redskins Defeat Giants 28-14

Posted Sep 11, 2011

The Redskins opened the 2011 campaign with a stirring win over the New York Giants at FedExField. Tim Hightower had a 1-yard TD run and Ryan Kerrigan returned an interception for another score.


REDSKINS 28, GIANTS 14: SCORING SUMMARY
Team Quarter Play Score
Giants 1 Manning 2-yard run Giants 7-0
Redskins 2 Hightower 1-yard run Tie, 7-7
Giants 2 Bradshaw 6-yard run Giants 14-7
Redskins 2 Armstrong 6-yard pass from Grossman Tie, 14-14
Redskins 3 Kerrigan 9-yard interception return Redskins 21-14
Redskins 4 Gaffney 4-yard pass from Grossman Redskins 28-14

Redskins.com’s Gary Fitzgerald takes a closer look at Sunday’s season opener against the New York Giants at FedExField:

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Amid a moving pre-game tribute devoted to the heroes and victims of Sept. 11, the Redskins opened their season on Sunday with a 28-14 win over NFC East rival New York Giants.

The victory ended a six-game losing streak to the Giants, who have dominated the series in the last five years. And it hasn't really been close.

This time, after a slow start, everything seemed to come together for the Redskins. There were big plays and big performances, led by Rex Grossman making his first start as the guy, the leader, the quarterback of the team. He was efficient and – with the exception of one costly fumble – protected the football, spreading passes around to seven different receivers.

On defense, linebacker Ryan Kerrigan turned in a game-changing play when he scored a touchdown on an interception return to give the Redskins a second-half lead. London Fletcher suggested after the game that the Giants are a different team when they play from behind late in the game. He may be right; the Redskins amped up the pressure, sacking Eli Manning four times.

So the Redskins are 1-0. Is this a victory that portends great things for this team? Too soon to tell. Yet, on a solemn afternoon, the Redskins lifted the spirits of their fans with a well-deserved win over a division rival.

REVEALING MOMENT

The Redskins were clinging to a 21-14 lead early in the fourth quarter when Rex Grossman had fumbled after a sack by defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. The Giants recovered at the Redskins’ 27-yard line and seemed poised to tie the game. The defense stiffened, though, forcing the Giants to settle for a field goal attempt. Brian Orakpo surged through the line and blocked the kick. It proved to be pivotal because it thwarted a Giants comeback effort before it could really start. The Redskins grabbed back momentum and drove downfield for a touchdown that would seal the win.

REDSKINS PLAY OF THE GAME

Ryan Kerrigan made an impact in his first NFL game. Early in the third quarter, with the Giants starting a drive at their own 10-yard line, Kerrigan rushed ahead and found himself in Eli Manning’s passing lane. He batted Manning’s short pass to wide receiver Hakeem Nicks into the air. Kerrigan reached for the ball and grabbed it. He raced to the end zone for a 9-yard touchdown return.

REDSKINS PLAYER OF THE GAME

Rex Grossman got off to a slow start, misfiring on his first four pass attempts. He worked his way into a rhythm, though, and he finished the game completing 21-of-34 passes for 305 yards and two touchdowns. Pass protection was an issue as Grossman was sacked four times, and he fumbled once. He took the blame for the fumble but he was leveled by defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul on the play. Overall, Grossman overcame the scrutiny of the last week and turned in a strong performance. For this week, at least, he was the right choice as Redskins quarterback.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

-- Third down success was key in the Redskins' win. Rex Grossman and company were 5-of-15 on third downs while the Giants were a woeful 1-of-10.

-- Tight end Fred Davis was Rex Grossman’s go-to receiver on third downs. Davis caught three third-down passes, all in the second half, to keep drives alive. He finished with five receptions for a career-high 105 yards.

-- Anthony Armstrong had just two catches but they were both key plays. Early in the second quarter, Armstrong made a diving grab for an 18-yard catch to the Giants’ 1-yard line. It appeared he was not touched as he rolled into the end zone, but Redskins coaches decided not to challenge. The Redskins scored anyway on Tim Hightower’s 1-yard run. Later in the second quarter, Armstrong beat cornerback Aaron Ross for a 6-yard touchdown grab, courtesy of a perfectly placed pass from Rex Grossman.

-- Chris Neild was the next-to-last pick in last April’s NFL Draft, but he didn’t play like an afterthought in his NFL debut. Neild had a surprising impact, logging his first NFL sack early in the second half, tripping up Eli Manning after Brian Orakpo had pressured the quarterback. On the last play of the third quarter, Neild had another sack when he toppled Manning alongside a blitzing London Fletcher.

-- The stretch play was working well early for new running back Tim Hightower. He picked up 22 yards on a run in the first quarter. He scored the Redskins’ first points of the season in the second quarter on a 1-yard run to the left.

-- The Redskins won most statistical categories on the final stat sheet. They out-gained the Giants in total yardage by a 332-to-315 clip, had five fewer penalties and had the ball for five more minutes.

WHAT WENT WRONG

-- Defensive coaches had to be careful with strong safety Reed Doughty in coverage. Early in the first quarter, it appeared Doughty took a bad angle on a deep route and wide receiver Hakeem Nicks was wide open downfield. He pulled in the pass for a 68-yard catch before Doughty and cornerback Kevin Barnes pushed him out of bounds at the 1-yard line. Next play, quarterback Eli Manning ran in for a 1-yard score.

-- On a second quarter drive, the Redskins’ defensive front was pushed off the line allowing running back Brandon Jacobs to bulldoze ahead for a 14-yard gain to the Redskins’ 6-yard line. Next play, running back Ahmad Bradshaw slipped through a hole vacated by a blitzing Ryan Kerrigan and he powered past Reed Doughty and Rocky McIntosh for a touchdown.

-- Both Trent Williams and Jason Pierre-Paul are second-year players still developing their game. On Sunday, Pierre-Paul got the best of the matchup, recording two sacks. Pierre-Paul, who has impressive range, appeared to toss Williams aside on the sack that resulted in a Rex Grossman fumble. Overall, Grossman was sacked four times by the Giants, so pass protection could be a focus in Redskins practice this week.

-- Graham Gano had very little competition in preseason for the Redskins’ kicking job. It appeared coaches had confidence in him despite his 2010 struggles. He did not reward them midway through the first quarter when he missed a very makeable 39-yard field goal. It appeared he pushed the kick just right of the goal post.

UNSUNG HERO

Who did Rex Grossman turn to after he had misfired on his first four passes? Santana Moss, who has emerged as “Mr. Reliable” for the Redskins. Moss’s first catch was Grossman’s first completion, a 6-yarder midway through the first quarter. Later on the same drive, Moss caught a 22-yard pass from Grossman to help set up a Redskins scoring opportunity. In the second quarter, Moss grabbed a 10-yard pass on a 4th-and-5 play. Overall, Moss finished with a team-high six catches for 76 yards.

STATS GEEK

The red zone was a concern all preseason for the Redskins. On Sunday, the Redskins converted 3-of-4 times inside the Giants 20-yard line on Sunday. The only time they failed to score in the red zone was on Graham Gano’s 39-yard missed field goal.

QUOTE

-- "To start the second half off with an interception and touchdown, that's a tough way to start. We were battling even then. To be in a position to kick the field goal and have the field goal blocked, that was extremely disappointing and that very well may have changed the complexion of the game right there." -- New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin

INJURY REPORT

-- Brian Orakpo suffered a sprained ankle in the first quarter but managed to play the entire game with the injury. The team will monitor the injury heading into Week 2 to see if it swells up.

-- Chris Cooley put aside his knee soreness and started the game, catching two passes.

WHO'S IN, WHO'S OUT

The Redskins' inactives were as follows: wide receivers Leonard Hankerson and Donte Stallworth, safety LaRon Landry, defensive lineman Darrion Scott, fullback Mike Sellers, offensive tackle Willie Smith and linebacker Markus White as Redskins’ inactives for Sunday’s game. So the Redskins dressed six wide receivers, including rookie Niles Paul, and sat out the veteran Sellers whose role on the team is uncertain at this point. For the Giants, defensive ends Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora were sidelined due to injuries.

WHAT’S NEXT

The Redskins will face off against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, Sept. 18 at FedExField. Kickoff is 1 p.m. ET. The Redskins are 73-44-2 all-time against the Cardinals' franchise. The last meeting between the two clubs was Sept. 21, 2008, and the Redskins won 24-17 at FedExField. Tim Hightower played for the Cardinals the last three years.

LAST WORD

Recall that during the Redskins Welcome Home Luncheon on Aug. 24, head coach Mike Shanahan and several players noted that this season could be a “special” one. If that comes to fruition, then Sunday’s win was the first step. The Redskins needed to get past the Giants and prove they can match up with them. Plenty more challenges lie ahead, but this is the fresh start the Redskins needed.