With a chance to maintain control of the NFC East the New York Giants instead played a miserable game Sunday against the Washington Redskins, losing, 23-3, at MetLife Stadium. The Giants (7-7) now find themselves one game behind the Dallas Cowboys (8-6) with two games to play.
The Giants have now lost five of their last six games, but still control their playoff destiny. They have no more margin for error -- or for stinkers like Sunday -- however. The Giants have to win their last two games, next Saturday against the New York Jets and then a season-ending New Year's Day game against the Cowboys. If they do that, they will win the division based on their two victories against Dallas.
After watching the Giants on Sunday against Washington, however, it is difficult to believe that they can pull it off. One week after an exhilarating comeback against Dallas, erasing a 12-point deficit to win in the closing minutes, the Giants were never really competitive against a Washington team that entered the game 4-9 and having lost seven of eight games.
Dropped passes, mis-communication and poor individual play in the secondary, untimely penalties, the inability of any lineman other than Jason Pierre-Paul to generate a push against the pass or the run were among the things that plagued the Giants. Similar to what has plagued them throughout the last month-and-a-half as they have seen a promising 6-2 start spiral to a desperate situation where they have to win their final two games to avoid missing the playoffs for the third straight season.
The eerie feeling that this game, like earlier losses at home against Seattle and Philadelphia, would be a struggle for the Giants started in the first quarter.
Trailing 3-0 Hakeem Nicks dropped a perfectly thrown ball from Eli Manning that would have been a 55-yard touchdown to give the Giants the lead. The Giants ended up punting. New York intercepted Washington quarterback Rex Grossman twice in the first quarter, but came away with no points on either turnover.
In the second quarter Grossman hit Santana Moss for a 20-yard touchdown pass, completing an 82-yard, 13-play drive. On the touchdown it appeared rookie Prince Amukamara and safety Kenny Phillips mis-communicated, leaving Moss wide open. Ongoing coverage mistakes were, of course, a source of much discussion with the Giants last week.
Later in the quarter the Redskins drove 41 yards in nine plays with Dorrell Young scoring on a six-yard run. Lawrence Tynes hit a 40-yard field goal with two seconds left in the first half to make the score 17-3.
In the second half Manning was intercepted on the second play of the half, leading to a 43-yard Graham Gano field goal. Tynes missed a 44-yard field goal with 5:38 left in the third quarter. Gano hit a 25-yarder to begin the fourth quarter, making the score 23-3.
Manning has led five fourth-quarter comebacks and six fourth-quarter victories this season, but there was no fourth-quarter miracle this time. The Giants scored a meaningless touchdown on a three-yard run by Ahmad Bradhsaw with 37 seconds left, but that was all.
Manning finished 23-of-40 for 257 yards and three interceptions for the Giants. Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul had 16 tackles and one sack, but got little help from the rest of the defense after the first-quarter interceptions by Corey Webster and Kenny Phillips.