It looked almost impossible as they stumbled into the bye week with six losses. But all of a sudden Monday night, the Washington Redskins were right in the thick of the playoff hunt.
In the locker room, there were fist bumps and smiles aplenty.
“We’re feeling ecstatic. This is a huge win for us,” left guard Kory Lichtensteiger said. “I feel like in my time here as a Redskin we haven’t had a win that’s meant this much at home this late in the year. To be able to have a win in December that means something, it’s huge for us.”
The Redskins have four games left: at home against the Baltimore Ravens, at the Cleveland Browns, at the Philadelphia Eagles and at home against the Dallas Cowboys.
To even get into a position where the word “playoffs” could be uttered, the Redskins had to beat the Giants. A loss would have dropped them all but out of contention for the division title and forced them to hope for a miracle.
No such miracle needed, aside from what Robert Griffin III has shown the ability to do in his rookie season. On Monday night, it was the 12-play, 86-yard drive he engineered to take the lead early in the fourth quarter that got FedEx Field “rockin’ like old RFK [Stadium],” according to ESPN color analyst Jon Gruden.
“This is the loudest I’ve seen FedEx since the Dallas game the last game of the season in ‘07,” linebacker London Fletcher said. “That place was rocking. “
On the night he set the NFL rookie quarterback rushing record with 714 yards, beating Cam Newton’s 706 set last season, Griffin had to outduel two-time Super Bowl-winner Eli Manning, who had plenty of opportunities to pick the Redskins‘ secondary apart. Manning found holes in the defense but couldn’t muster the same magic that lead to a 27-23 comeback win over the Redskins Oct. 21 at MetLife Stadium.
The Redskins‘ magic trick, turning from afterthought to playoff contender, was due in large part to the work of running back Alfred Morris, who rumbled for 124 yards on 22 carries. After losing a crucial fumble in the red zone in the third quarter, the rookie ran like a man possessed on the drive that gave Washington the lead.
“No one’s perfect, but Alfred is going to give you everything he’s got every Sunday,” left tackle Trent Williams said. “Our faith never wavered in him. We knew what he could do.”
Meanwhile, the defense stood up. The same openings that were there for Manning for much of the night closed, giving the Redskins a three-game winning streak for the first time under coach Mike Shanahan and first time since 2008.
With the playoffs now in sight, the Redskins do not control their fate. They still need help to win the division or make it as a wild card, but they’re well-positioned as far as tiebreakers go.
The Redskins ended Week 13 just outside of a playoff position, trailing the Giants and Seahawks, who are both 7-5. At 6-6, though, the Redskins are alive and more than just dreaming about crashing the postseason party.
“We still feel the same pressure. Our backs are still against the wall,” linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said. “That’s how we’re going to treat it from here on out.”