Redskins use energy, trickery to turn tables on Giants, 35-21

Dominating NFC champs avenges previous defeat, soothes 0-5 start to year

NFL Week 7

October 29, 2001|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

LANDOVER - A winning record and the playoffs might be months or even years down the road, but tucked inside yesterday's 35-21 win over the New York Giants, the Washington Redskins got something bigger - a sense of respectability.

Oh, make no mistake. After an 0-5 start had the players talking about trying to climb out of gutters and late-night comedians making sport of them, the Redskins will take every victory they can muster.

It's just that, in dominating the reigning NFC champion Giants for nearly the entire contest three weeks after letting them slip through their fingers in New York, the Redskins feel as though they proved that their relationship to actual football teams is something more than coincidental.

"We've been evolving game by game. We've been telling you all. It's good to see everything coming together like we've been saying, because if it didn't, we'd sit here looking stupid," said receiver Michael Westbrook. "But things are coming together and we're getting better and better week by week. We just showed it."

In their most impressive outing since the season finale last year, the Redskins (2-5) combined sparkling special teams play, opportunistic defense and a big-strike offense - with the occasional razzle-dazzle - for a tasty blend that sent their biggest crowd of the year (80,316) home happy.

The Redskins racked up 353 yards of total offense, with running back Stephen Davis getting his first 100-yard day of the season, and quarterback Tony Banks going 11-for-19 for 190 yards and two touchdowns. A third scoring pass came on a gadget play, as receiver Kevin Lockett found Derrius Thompson on a touchdown pass off a lateral from Banks.

"I told the players when we assembled together on the sideline before the opening kickoff, we've got to bring our energy and with our energy comes the energy from our fans. Those two things together will not be denied," said coach Marty Schottenheimer.

Right off the bat, Washington jumped on the Giants (3-4). Receiver Amani Toomer fumbled a reverse on the game's second play from scrimmage on the New York 17, and Redskins defensive tackle Kenard Lang recovered.

Three plays later, Banks hit rookie Rod Gardner in the back of the end zone on a 12-yard touchdown pass, the Redskins' first red-zone touchdown of the season. Two possessions later, Eric Metcalf - who was signed Wednesday after a season away from football - gathered in Rodney Williams' punt at the Washington 11, darted and turned on the way to an 89-yard touchdown run and a 14-0 Redskins lead.

"I didn't imagine I would get a touchdown the first time I returned the ball," said Metcalf, who grew up in the Washington area, as his father, Terry, played for the Redskins. "I just wanted to get positive yards and good field position. It worked out that the guys were blocking and they knocked the guys off and that gave me an alley to cut back and get up field."

Washington's offense, which has been stymied for most of the season and for three quarters of last week's overtime win over Carolina, was still in dry dock for most of the half, going three-and-out and failing to pick up another first down until 2:38 remained in the half.

Meanwhile, the defense was keeping the Giants, who managed only three field goals and a short-field touchdown at the Meadowlands in New York's 23-9 win over Washington three weeks ago, in check as well, until quarterback Kerry Collins marched his team downfield midway through the second quarter. Collins was aided by a 22-yard pass-interference call on cornerback Central McClellion, which gave New York a first down at the Washington 9.

Two plays later, Collins found Toomer for a 6-yard scoring pass to slice the Washington lead to 14-7. After the Redskins went three-and-out again, Collins moved the Giants 39 yards and tied the score on a 27-yard touchdown pass to Ike Hilliard.

The Redskins responded on the ensuing drive, helped by a 30-yard run from reserve running back Ki-Jana Carter, and moved into field-goal position. Brett Conway kicked a 44-yard field goal with time running out in the first half for a 17-14 Washington lead.

The Redskins took the first possession of the second half and moved 60 yards on four plays, with the capper being Lockett's 31-yard pass to Thompson, who slipped behind the Giants' secondary and was wide-open.

"I couldn't have been too nervous. I mean, he [Thompson] was wide-open. I just didn't want it to slide off my hands and roll out of bounds. It wasn't a perfect spiral, but it did its job and it got there for a touchdown," Lockett said. "It never works in practice, so I was kind of shocked when he [Schottenheimer] called it in a game."

After a field goal boosted the Redskins' lead to 27-14, the Giants moved on their longest sustained drive of the day, a 72-yard, 12-play march that culminated with Collins hitting fullback Greg Comella on a 1-yard play-action pass to pull New York within 27-21 with 13:58 to play.

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