The Redskins have no business winning this game.
That was the pervasive thought heading into their Sunday night encounter with the Giants in the Meadowlands on Dec. 16, 2007.
The 6-7 Redskins were three weeks removed from the death of superstar safety Sean Taylor, a tragedy that had rocked the organization.
They’d lost three straight to the Giants and three in a row at Giants Stadium. Their quarterback, Todd Collins, hadn’t started a game in a decade.
The 9-4 Giants, winners of two straight, needed one more win to clinch a playoff spot. The NFC East title was also in their sights.
The rivals clashed on a cold and windy night at Giants Stadium, making it challenging to pass and kick the ball.
Both teams did little on offense in the first quarter. But two nice runs by Clinton Portis moved the Redskins into position to try a 50-yard field goal.
With his back to the wind, Shaun Suisham kicked a knuckleball that sailed through for a 3-0 lead.
Collins, who misfired on his first eight passes, was coming off a remarkable performance.
In the previous game against the Bears, he replaced injured starter Jason Campbell late in the first half and completed 15 of 20 passes for 224 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions, in a 24-16 Redskins win that broke a four-game losing streak.
Until then, the 13-year veteran hadn’t completed a pass in the NFL since 2004 when he played for the Chiefs.
“We needed him tonight, and he came up big for us,” Redskins guard Pete Kendall said after the win over Chicago.
Despite completing only 8 of 25 passes for 166 yards in the biting conditions against the Giants, Collins appeared in control all game.
His 36-yard pass to
A few minutes before halftime, Collins found Moss again for 34 yards for a first down on the Giants’ 15.
Three plays later, running back Ladell Betts ran 14 yards up the middle for a touchdown to create a 13-0 game.
The Giants responded with a 65-yard march that ended with a field goal. But a 31-yard run by Portis, who also had a big game with 126 rushing yards, and a 15-yard facemask penalty put the Redskins in position for another field goal.
Suisham was true from 28 yards out for a 16-3 halftime lead.
“That was a big drive to get us three points right before the half,” Collins said.
Picking up where they left off, the Redskins crafted a 54-yard drive capped by Portis’ 9-yard touchdown run through a gaping hole on the right side.
A two-point conversion failed, leaving them ahead, 22-3, three minutes into the second half.
The Giants regained momentum after scoring on quarterback Eli Manning’s 19-yard pass to tight end Kevin Boss with about four minutes left in the third quarter for a 22-10 game.
But they missed a field goal early in the fourth period, and the Redskins held on for the win.
Unlike Collins, Manning had a forgettable night against a defense that gave him fits as he threw into the swirling wind. He was 18-of-53 for 184 yards, and his receivers dropped a number of throws.
“We knew we needed this game,” Portis said. “We didn’t want our season to be over. We wanted another week to fight.”
Suddenly, a word that seemed foreign with the Redskins at 5-7 after four straight losses – playoffs – was front and center.
They had to win their last two games to have a decent shot at getting in.
Behind the leadership of Collins and riding a wave of emotion stemming from Taylor’s death, the Redskins beat the Vikings, 32-21, and dominated the NFC East champion Cowboys, 27-6, to clinch a wild card spot.
Their inspiring run ended, however, with a 35-14 loss to the Seahawks in Seattle.
The Giants, meanwhile, regained their footing after losing to the Redskins and captured five of their last six games including Super Bowl XLII, where they shocked the undefeated Patriots, 17-14.
Mike Richman is the author of The Redskins Encyclopedia and the Washington Redskins Football Vault. His web site is redskinshistorian.com. Check out his Facebook Friend and Fan pages and follow him on Twitter.