- The Washington Times - Monday, September 24, 2007

For coach Tom Coughlin and the New York Giants, an 0-2 start was about to get gloomier.

But after trailing the Washington Redskins by two touchdowns at halftime yesterday at FedEx Field, the Giants rallied for a 24-17 victory over an NFC East rival and potentially saved a wayward season.

“I can’t even explain it,” said defensive end Osi Umenyiora, who took part in the Giants’ game-ending goal-line stand. “To win it like that, you couldn’t have written a better script.”

The Giants took the opening kickoff in the second half and promptly went on a 61-yard touchdown drive that took 10 plays and 5:10. New York established control of the line and used a powerful performance by receiver Plaxico Burress (five catches, 86 yards, one touchdown, all in the second half) to come back.

“We were really fed up about the things that have been said about us,” said Umenyiora, whose team lost 45-35 to Dallas in its opener and then was embarrassed 35-13 by Green Bay. “We knew we were better than we had played.”

While Burress and tailback Derrick Ward (94 yards rushing on 26 carries) thrived with the help of a dominating offensive line, the defense also took over and did not yield a second-half first down until the Redskins’ final two drives.

New York could not celebrate its first win until the dramatic goal-line stand. The Redskins got to the New York 1-yard line after a 20-yard catch by Antwaan Randle El. Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell spiked the ball on first down, and Washington could not convert on its next two plays, resulting in a fourth-down situation with time running out.

It was fourth-and-1, and the Redskins went into a power set with offensive lineman Mike Pucillo lining up as a tight end on the left side. Tailback Ladell Betts got the ball and ran toward Umenyiora, who stuffed the line. Linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka pushed Betts back, while safety James Butler made the stop for a 2-yard loss to ensure the win.

“We lined up and smashed them,” defensive end Michael Strahan said. “You don’t know what is going to happen in overtime. This isn’t like college where each team gets the ball. To stop them and win the game — it was a relief.”

New York’s defense kept the Redskins from getting a first down on four straight drives. Meanwhile, the Giants were able to sustain lengthy possessions as Burress made big plays. None was bigger than the game-winning 33-yard touchdown with 5:32 left, when he caught a jump ball at the line of scrimmage, made cornerback Carlos Rogers miss at the 30, juked Sean Taylor and strode into the end zone.

“It was all-out blitz,” said Burress, who felt he let his team down in the first half with no catches and a downfield drop. “I was the hot read on that play. Eli [Manning] put it in there for me to make a play. I kind of snatched it from [Rogers] and made a touchdown.”

And the Giants snatched an unlikely victory to avoid starting the season 0-3.

“In the second half we turned it around,” Manning said. “The defense did a great job getting us the ball, and we got into a rhythm. As a team, the things that happened tonight, hopefully we can build on.”

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