LOB Ryan Kerrigan: The rookie gets top billing because he scored the decisive touchdown. What an athletic play it was. When QB Eli Manning began his throwing motion, Kerrigan was still bent over fending off RT Kareem McKenzie’s attempted cut block.
Let Kerrigan explain how he beat it: “It’s just vision, just seeing where the guy who’s going to block you is going,” he said Monday morning. “If he’s going to your legs, you want to protect yourself and keep him off you and make sure you get your hands on him to keep him away from you. It’s pure reaction.”
Kerrigan has steadily improved since debuting at linebacker in the Pittsburgh preseason game, and that’s a testament to his intelligence and work ethic. He still had his rookie moments on Sunday – he whiffed once when he tried to jam the tight end; another time he took a wasted step toward the sideline on a run and ended up wrong-footed; in the third quarter he missed a tackle in the backfield after shedding the fullback’s block – but they’re decreasing in frequency and impact.
Kerrigan’s perseverance netted the Redskins an intentional grounding penalty against New York. He fought through RG Chris Snee and FB Henry Hynoski to get to Manning. It took him 4.6 seconds to get to the quarterback – quite a long time in the pocket – but he ultimately pressured Manning into committing a foul. He’s clearly on the right course.
CB DeAngelo Hall: It’s ironic – Hall didn’t make one of his prime time plays, but this was one of the best games I’ve seen him play as a Redskin. Overall, Washington’s pass coverage was exceptional. (68 of New York’s 240 passing yards came on one play; the other 172 came on 35 dropbacks.) Hall was a big part of that. His reads were good, and so was his technique. He allowed WRs Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham the usual cushion at times, but that never really hurt the Redskins. Hall never got caught looking into the backfield and never gave up the big play, as he did in last season’s finale against New York.
Furthermore, his tackling was superb. On third-and-18 from New York’s 2-yard line in the fourth quarter, Hall read the screen pass, came off his receiver behind the blockers and dove to wrap up RB D.J. Ware for a gain of 3. On third-and-1 from the Redskins‘ 18 on the next series, he threw himself into traffic to help set the edge against RB Ahmad Bradshaw, and that helped NT Barry Cofield make the tackle from behind. Hall also pressured Manning on a cornerback blitz in the first half.
NT Barry Cofield: Cofield didn’t play well for the entirety of his Redskins debut, which makes the defense’s success even more impressive because he’s the key to the operation. However, the two plays he did make were so critical that they earned him a spot on this list.
He wasn’t as stout against the run as he was in the preseason. Sometimes Giants C David Baas blocked him one-on-one, which created problems for the Redskins‘ linebackers. Cofield failed to stay square on a couple of running plays, as well, which allows linemen to get to the linebackers. Cofield also wasn’t the pass-rushing force we got accustomed to during the preseason.
So why the game ball? The two plays he made in short yardage situations in the second half.
On fourth-and-1 from the Redskins‘ 44, he got off the ball faster than the Giants‘ offensive linemen and penetrated the gap between the center and left guard. That allowed ILB Rocky McIntosh to shoot that gap freely and make the tackle that gave the Redskins the ball back.
In the fourth quarter, the athleticism he displayed on third-and-1 from the Redskins‘ 18 rivaled that of OLB Ryan Kerrigan’s interception. Again, Cofield penetrated the backfield by getting off the ball quickly. And when RB Ahmad Bradshaw tried to run around the right edge, Cofield chased him down from behind and hurled his body at him to make the tackle. The Redskins blocked the Giants‘ field goal attempt on the next play.
ILB Rocky McIntosh: London Fletcher probably deserves a game ball, too, but Rocky doesn’t often represent the inside linebackers here, so Fletcher can wait for another day. McIntosh had one of his best games in coverage. On one first-quarter play, he shadowed the tight end to the right sideline, which contributed to the intentional grounding penalty against the Giants. His run fit was perfect when it had to be on fourth-and-1 in the second half. He shot the gap NT Barry Cofield created with his penetration. McIntosh also hit QB Eli Manning and forced an incompletion on the Giants‘ penultimate drive.