Perhaps the Redskins victory at the Meadowlands this week came down to who wanted it more. It’s been said that the major determining factors in the outcome of a football game are desire and confidence. Now that they are down to the last two games of the season and are still in the hunt for a wild card, Washington seems to have the desire, at least in part due to the galvanizing effect that the murder of rookie safety Sean Taylor has had on the team. “The last two games, when we were 5-7, basically all these games are playoff games for us,” says Redskins quarterback Todd Collins who made his first NFL start in more than ten years when he took the field against the Giants on Sunday. And the confidence part? That’s what Collins has brought to his teammates after coming off the bench last week just before halftime and performing brilliantly to lead Washington past the Bears.
In terms of overall performance there was really very little difference between the two teams. Total yardage, time of possession and penalty yardage were all nearly identical. New York had an edge with 20 first downs to Washington’s 14, but the Giants lost the ball once when QB Eli Manning fumbled, while the Redskins had no turnovers. In the first quarter it was a back and forth struggle for each team just to try and keep the other from having a workable field position, although an ill advised failed 4th down run by the Giants and later the Manning fumble tilted that battle in Washington’s favor and the Redskins scored first with a field goal.
The wind conditions played a huge part in this game, blowing passes off target and resulting in numerous dropped balls by the wide receivers on both sides. Both Manning and Collins were only able to complete about a third of their passes and each had comparable passing yardage; 166 yards for Collins and 184 yards for Manning. But while Collins threw only 25 passes, Manning put the ball in the air 52 times, obviously getting a lot less mileage from his passes. Collins completed back to back passes in the second quarter of 34 and 30 yards to set Washington up for another field goal and a 6-0 lead, and two possessions later another 34 yard pass and a 14 yard run by Redskins running back Ladell Betts put Washington up 13-0. They led 16-3 at the half.
In general this must be seen as a failure on the part of the Giants offense to finish drives. The defense was adequate, holding Washington to only field goals on three of four first half scoring drives and keeping the Redskins scoreless for virtually the entire second half after Washington opened the third quarter with a TD drive on a short field. New York went to the red zone twice in the second half and both times came away with nothing.
Washington must beat the Vikings in Minnesota but assuming that Minnesota wins it’s last game against Denver, the Redskins must also win against the visiting Cowboys to have any chance at a playoff spot. If the Redskins were to go to 8-8 along with Minnesota, Washington’s strength of victory record would carry them.