If there were two constants for the New York Giants (8-4) entering Sunday’s game against the Washington Redskins (5-7) they were that the Giants had trouble beating quarterback Donovan McNabb and that New York had almost always started slow at home this season.
McNabb had defeated the Giants the past four times he faced them, all as a Philadelphia Eagle.
And, New York had trailed in the first quarter in all but one of its six prior home games this season.
On Sunday however, the Giants made sure that neither of those two things would be factors n McNabb’s first game against the Giants as a Washington Redskin at the New Meadowlands stadium.
Although McNabb ended up throwing for 296 yards, completing 26 of 44 passes, he was responsible for four of six Washington turnovers, was sacked four times, and led only one harmless scoring drive as the Giants led 14-0 after the opening quarter and scored the first 28 points en route to a 31-7 thrashing of the Redskins.
Forget needing another second half comeback this time (as the Giants used in two previous home wins this season).
Pressed into kick return duty due to a lack of production from previous Giants’ kick returners this year, Danny Ware got the Giants started from the outset with a 37-yard return to the New York 41 yard-line on the opening kickoff.
Two plays later, running back Brandon Jacobs, who had lost his starting job this season before regaining it, set the tone with a 39-yard run to the Washington 18 yard-line. Five plays after that, Jacobs capped a 7-play, 59-yard drive with an 8-yard touchdown run to give New York a 7-0 lead 3:34 into the game.
Washington went three-and-out on its first possession, losing a total of 16 yards, and swirling wind gusts in excess of 30 miles per hour pushed a 43-yard field goal attempt by kicker Graham Gano wide left on the Redskins’ next possession.
The Giants liked their first drive so much, they decided to duplicate it on their next possession, once again going 59 yards on seven plays for another touchdown, taking a 14-0 lead on a four-yard touchdown run by running back Ahmad Bradshaw, who ended up with the majority of the Giants’ carries despite losing his previous starting status to Jacobs because of fumbling problems.
The tandem of Jacobs and Bradshaw was punishing. They each scored two touchdowns and combined for 200 yards on the ground. Jacobs gained 103 yards on just eight carries, while Bradshaw rushed 25 times for 97 yards, leading the Giants to a 197-74 rushing advantage over the Redskins.
New York was poised to extend its lead after marching 77 yards on its fourth possession, but quarterback Eli Manning (15 of 25, 161 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, 0 sacks) forced a bad pass into triple coverage and was intercepted. It was the Giants’ sixth red zone turnover of the season but their only turnover of the game.
However, Redskins’ wide receiver Anthony Armstrong fumbled after a 9-yard reception and the Giants took over at the Washington 39 yard-line.
New York took advantage of that break just five plays later, with Bradshaw giving New York a commanding 21-0 halftime lead on a 10-yard touchdown run with 1:55 left in the second quarter.
Each team punted twice to start the second half before McNabb (2 interceptions, 2 fumbles) fumbled on a hit by defensive end Dave Tollefson.
The Giants took possession at the Redskins’ 46 yard-line, and three plays later, Jacobs scampered for a 28-yard touchdown run to give New York a 28-0 lead with 6:36 left in the third quarter.
McNabb finally put Washington on the scoreboard with 33-yard touchdown pass to Armstrong on the next possession, to trim New York’s lead to 28-7 with 4:35 left in the third quarter, but that’s as close as the Redskins would get the rest of the way.
The Giants’ defense forced two more fumbles in the final quarter and New York kicker Lawrence Tynes closed the scoring on a 28-yard field goal – his thirteenth straight – with 9 minutes left.
New York’s offensive line didn’t allow a sack for the fifth straight game and allowed both Jacobs and Bradshaw to achieve personal milestones. Jacobs surpassed 4,000 career rushing yards while Bradshaw went over 1,000 yards for the first time in his four-year career.
Knowing it would be cold during the Giants’ first December game at the windy Meadowlands, both Jacobs and Bradshaw were well-prepared to be the focus of the Giants’ offense, especially with New York still lacking its top two receivers (Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith) due to injuries.
“Running the football is how you win in December,” Jacobs said. “If you don’t have that, unless you’re an indoor team, you’re in trouble.”
“We love challenges,” Bradshaw added, about forming a solid backfield combination with Jacobs on which the Giants can rely. “We feed off each other.”
On the other side of the milestone spectrum, McNabb’s two picks give the former Giant-slayer a career-high 15 interceptions for the season.
The win moved the Giants back into a first-place tie in the NFC East with McNabb’s former team, which beat Houston on Thursday night, moving Philadelphia’s record to 8-4.
New York, now 5-2 at home, will finish its playoff push with three road games in its final four regular season contests, beginning with a trip to Minnesota (5-7) next Sunday, at 1 pm EST. Each team has won two straight.
In addition to writing for New York Sports Day, Jon Wagner contributes at Pro Football NYC (www.profootballnyc.com) and Giants Football Blog (www.giantsfootballblog.com)