EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- This time there would be no Phil Simms' touchdown passes to leave the Washington Redskins drained and defeated.
This time there would be no costly turnover to carry the New York Giants to another improbable victory.
This time, when push came to shove, the Redskins were recipients of a very friendly officiating call that proved to be instrumental in Washington's 17-13 win over the Giants last night.
The Giants had pushed the Redskins all over the field in the first half, opening a 10-0 lead behind the slippery running of Rodney Hampton.
They were on the verge of making it a 17-0 lead in the second quarter when they drove from their own 17 to the Washington 9. On third down, Ottis Anderson skirted left end for a 4-yard gain, but as the play ended, fullback Maurice Carthon gave Redskins linebacker Matt Millen a shove in the back. Nothing flagrant, just a shove in apparent frustration.
It drew a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness, though, and a chuckle from Millen.
Asked if it wasn't a pretty weak shove, Millen said, "Weak? It was pathetic. I didn't even know he did it.
"It was a bad call. Who cares if a guy pushes you?"
The Giants did. The penalty put them back on the 20. After quarterback Jeff Hostetler was chased out of the pocket for a 1-yard gain, the Giants settled for a 36-yard field goal by Raul Allegre, former Colt kicker and former Giant who was signed this week when Matt Bahr was sidelined by a leg injury.
It wasn't the only time the Giants had to take a field goal when they probably should have had a touchdown. On their first drive of the night, Hostetler overthrew Hampton at the goal line on a third-down pass.
Hostetler completed 14 of 21 passes for 137 yards for the Giants, who are accustomed to Simms' heroics for the past decade. Simms had an 11-4 record against the Redskins and a history of pulling out games that seemingly were lost.
Instead of trailing 17-0, or possibly 21-0, the Redskins, down 13-0, regrouped at halftime and dominated the second half. The Giants rolled up 207 yards in total offense in the first half, 119 passing and 88 rushing.
"They were running a wheel play," said Redskins defensive end Charles Mann, "where Hampton starts out one way but ends up coming back the other way.
"We were slanting on defense. We were just overrunning the football. At halftime, we basically put it on every man and said, 'Beat the man in front of you.' "
Brute force won out. The Giants got just 64 yards of offense in the second half, 18 on passes and 46 rushing.
Mann said he felt like a burden had been lifted off his shoulders with the end of the Giants' six-game winning streak. It was a game that not only --ed the Giants' hopes of winning the NFC East, but steered the Redskins clear of psychological danger.
"If we [lost] tonight, it could have hurt us in the upcoming weeks," Mann said. "We've got Houston coming up next week and we might have lost two out of three.
"Any time you can beat the Giants in their own home, you're doing something. This sends a signal to us that this is going to be a special year."