By Liz Clarke,
Playing with backups at a half-dozen positions and backups to backups at others, the Washington Redskins looked like a squad that had just met during long stretches of Thursday night’s crucial game against the New York Giants.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins was sacked six times and twice called for delay of game. There were holding calls, an epidemic of drops and a tipped ball that Giants cornerback Janoris Jenkins intercepted and ran back 53 yards for a tying score in the third quarter.
But at the end of this Thanksgiving night, the Redskins owed thanks that the flailing Giants were in even greater disarray, unable to mount much resistance as Washington overcame enough self-inflicted errors for a 20-10 victory.
Playing behind a patchwork offensive line that lacked three starters, Cousins was under duress much of the evening but completed 19 of 31 throws for 242 yards, two touchdowns and the one interception.
Rookie Samaje Perine supplied 100 yards toward the 122-yard rushing output that helped the Redskins outgain the Giants 323 yards to 170.
It was a miserable night for quarterback Eli Manning, whose thin receiving corps gave him little help. He was 13 of 27 for 113 yards and a late, game-sealing interception to cornerback Kendall Fuller.
With the victory, the Redskins snapped a two-game losing streak and improved to 5-6 overall while getting their first victory in the division.
With Dallas losing to the Los Angeles Chargers earlier in the day to fall to 5-6, as well, it raised the stakes of the Redskins’ visit to the Cowboys next Thursday, with second place in the NFC East on the line.
The victory over the Giants (2-9) was essential to keep the Redskins’ slim playoff hopes alive. It was sorely needed for morale, too, coming four days after their devastating overtime loss to New Orleans after leading by 15 points with less than six minutes remaining in regulation.
While the Redskins have played hurt and shorthanded for weeks, they took the field Thursday night a shadow of the roster that opened the season. After playing with a significant knee injury the last two weeks, left tackle Trent Williams sat out, leaving just two starters on the offensive line — right guard Brandon Scherff and right tackle Morgan Moses. And at center was a third-string lineman, Tony Bergstrom, signed just four weeks earlier.
Moreover, it was the fourth consecutive game without Pro Bowl tight end Jordan Reed and the first without versatile running back Chris Thompson, who had served throughout the season as an escape hatch for Cousins, ready to bail him out when plays broke down with a sure-handed catch or carry.
Things got off to an ugly start for both teams.
The Redskins punted on their first two drives, unable to muster a first down while being called for holding and a false start and dropping easy balls.
They turned the ball over on downs on a snake-bitten third series. Cousins tripped over the leg of his retreating third-string center, and somehow a Giants defender was credited with a sack. Coach Jay Gruden went for it on fourth and one, but the throw to Josh Doctson in stride fell incomplete.
The Giants took over on their own 41 but couldn’t do anything with the gift, as linebacker Ryan Kerrigan flew in for his second sack of the night.
The Giants broke the deadlock midway through the second quarter, converting a fourth and one en route to a 16-play drive that resulted in a 30-yard field goal.
The Redskins replied with more drops than receptions. Doctson couldn’t reel in a shot in the end zone, and Crowder couldn’t handle short throws.
A pass interference on the Giants took the ball to New York’s 18. Cousins sacked for nine-yard loss. Took another shot in the end zone, but Ryan Grant couldn’t reel it in. With 13 seconds remaining in the half, Nick Rose tied it on a 28-yard field goal.
The Redskins got the ball to start the second half. The result was the same: some scattered positive yardage, followed by self-defeating mistakes. A holding call on Arie Kouandjio and a third sack left Cousins staring at a third and 27. They ended up punting a fifth time.
After forcing the same from the Giants, the Redskins got their first big play—a 33-yard catch and run by Crowder—that took them to field-goal range. But things went backward from there. Unable to find an open receiver, Cousins took off running and was sacked a fourth. A false start set them back further. On the run again, Cousins fired a bullet at Crowder in the end zone, for a 15 yard touchdown that put the Redskins up, 10-3.
Manning could do nothing in the passing game, and it looked as if the Redskins would go ahead by two scores on their drive. But in leaping for a short throw from Cousins, running back Byron Marshall tipped it into the hands of Jenkins, who ran it back 53 yards for a touchdown, streaking past a swipe from Cousins and plowing through a last-gasp effort from linemen Kouandjio and Moses.
With it, the Giants tied at 10, and Moses suffered a knee injury but after a quick sideline evaluation played on.
Trying to break the deadlock, Gruden went for it on fourth and one, but Cousins couldn’t get the play called in time, drawing a second delay-of-game penalty and a cascade of boos from the stands.
The Giants’ offense stalled again, however, and the Redskins moved inside the New York 20 when Doctson out-jumped Jenkins in the corner of the end zone for a 14-yard strike from Cousins to make it 17-10 with 3:31 remaining. Rose hit from 33 yards to extend the lead, and Fuller ended it by intercepting Manning.
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