HERNDON, Va. -- For the first 30 minutes Sunday night, the Washington Redskins thought they were watching a bad movie they had seen too many times.
The way the New York Giants dominated them in the first half was reminiscent of the NFC title game after the 1986 season when the Giants stuffed the Redskins' running game, took a 17-0 halftime lead and then blanked the Redskins in the second half to get a Super Bowl berth.
In the second quarter Sunday night, there was even Gary Clark's drop of a possible touchdown catch -- just as in the playoff game. The only difference was that it wasn't windy Sunday night the way it was nearly five years ago.
"There's a tendency to go, 'Oh, my gosh, we've seen this before,' " Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said yesterday, as he relived watching the Giants take a 13-0 halftime lead. "Everybody has a tendency to say, 'Goodness, gracious, here we go again.' "
When Earnest Byner was stopped for a 3-yard gain on the first play of the second half after being held to 9 yards on eight carries in the first half, it brought back memories of the way the Giants held George Rogers to 15 yards in nine carries in that title game.
But Sunday night's game changed on the second play of the third quarter, when Gibbs sent Ricky Ervins into the backfield for the first time in the game.
On Ervins' first carry, he bolted for 14 yards.
The Redskins wound up punting on that drive, but Gibbs decided to stick with Ervins. Byner carried once the rest of the game, and Ervins carried 20 times for 82 yards.
His runs sparked a pair of long drives -- 84 yards in 20 plays and 62 yards in 14 plays -- that resulted in 10 points and helped the Redskins rally for a 17-13 victory that broke a six-game losing streak to the Giants.
"He gave them a spark," Giants linebacker Gary Reasons said. "He's a low, shifty guy. One time, we had him stopped, and he squirted around the other side. He's going to be a good ace in the hole for them down the road."
Ervins has gained 301 yards in 44 carries this season, an average of 6.8 yards. By contrast, Byner is averaging 4.0 yards with 602 yards in 151 carries.
All but one of Ervins' 44 carries this season -- a 13-yard run against the Phoenix Cardinals -- have come in the second half.
A heel injury and Gibbs' reluctance to play rookie running backs -- Ervins didn't play in the opener until the Redskins had a 45-0 lead on the Detroit Lions -- limited his playing time early in the season, but he seems ready virtually to share the job with Byner.
Byner will remain the starter, but Ervins figures to see a lot of action. Gibbs said he'll "step up his role."
Gibbs also said he won't necessarily limit Ervins to second-half duty, but Ervins is just happy to play when he's called on.
"You've just got to be patient and thank the Lord you're on this team," Ervins said.
Gibbs lauded Ervins' running. "He's certainly given us a big boost. He has a knack of finding small holes in there. He has great explosion. We were laughing [in the meetings] that when he gets that head down and he gets his knees so high, there's not that much left [to tackle]. We've just got to hope he can keep doing that," Gibbs said.
NOTES: The Redskins injury report includes DT Eric Williams (neck), TE Ron Middleton (concussion), G Mark Schlereth (broken right thumb) and RB Brian Mitchell (sore shoulder), but they're all expected to play against the Oilers. . . . This will be Oilers coach Jack Pardee's first game against the Redskins since he was fired at the end of the 1980 season and replaced by Gibbs.
Ricky Ervins game by game
.. .. .. .. Attempts.. .. Yards
Detroit.. .. .. 6 .. .. .. .. 54
at Dallas -- Inactive
Phoenix.. .. .. 4 .. .. .. .. 23
at Cinc. -- Did not carry
Philadelphia .. 1 .. .. .. .. 9
Chicago -- Did not carry
Cleveland .. .. 13.. .. .. .. 133
Giants. .. 20.. .. .. .. 82