Redskins in thick of playoff chase after 17-16 win over Giants

Now one game out of NFC East lead

Robert Griffin III and London Fletcher were the last two players out of the Washington Redskins‘ locker room shortly before 1 a.m. Tuesday. Fletcher’s cauliflower-blue three-piece suit with white trim was sharp enough for the cover of a fashion magazine. Griffin’s ensemble was more casual; khaki pants, a white button-down shirt over a black Heisman trophy t-shirt, black-framed glasses and, of course, white Adidas shoes. They each wore a victor’s smile, too.

Fletcher’s eyes met Griffin’s in the hallway. “Way to play, baby,” Fletcher said. They exchanged a handshake. “You were battling out there,” Griffin responded.

And they walked out together; veteran and rookie, defense and offense, heart and soul of this resurgent Redskins team on a night worth savoring.

It was an appropriate final scene, considering how Washington’s offense and defense came together in the second half Monday night to come back to beat the New York Giants, 17-16, in a pivotal NFC East matchup at FedEx Field.

The Redskins‘ third straight win saved their season and thrust them into the heart of the divisional and wild card playoff races.

Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) fumbles after scrambling for a 12 yard gain in the first quarter as the Washington Redskins play the New York Giants for monday night football at FedEx Field, Landover, Md., Monday, December 3, 2012. The ball was recovered by Washington Redskins wide receiver Josh Morgan (15) who ran the ball in for a 13 yard touchdown to put the Redskins up 7-3. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)

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Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) fumbles after scrambling for a ... more >

“It was a huge win,” Fletcher said, wearing a walking boot to immobilize his sprained left ankle. “Just made it very interesting for next week and these remaining ballgames.”

Griffin’s 8-yard touchdown pass to receiver Pierre Garcon provided the decisive margin with 11:31 to play, and a slew of defensive adjustments at halftime made the 1-point lead stand up.

The Redskins surged to 6-6, completing the ascent from the hole they dug for themselves last month by losing three straight to fall to 3-6.

Consecutive wins over division rivals Philadelphia, Dallas and New York have positioned them well for a four-game sprint to the playoffs. The postseason, once an ambitious goal for even the most optimistic supporter, is now a realistic outcome in coach Mike Shanahan’s third season.

The Redskins are only one game behind the Giants in the division standings. And they assumed the tiebreaker over New York by improving to 3-1 against division opponents; the Giants fell to 2-3 against the NFC East.

“A lot of hope, a lot of optimism,” nose tackle Barry Cofield said. “Three wins in a row in the division can get you out of a hole quick. It was perfect for us. We’re still not in control, but we feel like if we keep winning, we’ve got enough tiebreakers that we’ll be in a great spot.”

Washington also ensured it will finish with a better record than last season’s 5-11 mark. Fans reveled in the outcome. They chanted, sang and cheered as they filed out of the most important home game in at least four years.

“There’s a lot of excitement around this team,” Griffin said, “and I think everybody feels it.”

The mood was much gloomier at halftime. New York outgained the Redskins in the first half, 273 yards to 156, and had an 11-minute advantage in time of possession. The Giants also converted eight of 10 third downs before halftime.

But the Redskins trailed only 13-10 at intermission because they successfully defended the end zone. Tight end Martellus Bennett’s 4-yard touchdown catch was New York’s only touchdown of the game.

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