Three things were apparent during the first quarter of the Redskins’ season.
Quarterback Rex Grossman can be made to feel very uncomfortable with a decent pass rush. The Giants put some pressure on Grossman, and he didn’t handle it well. To be fair, he had some nice throws, but the bad outweighed the good.
Second, Graham Gano may have vanquished the minimal competition in preseason, but coach Mike Shanahan probably needs to keep an updated Rolodex for available kickers. Gano missed a 39-yarder on the drive after the Giants’ touchdown.
Finally, the deep ball could be a problem. It looked like Reed Doughty got beat on a 68-yard pass from Eli Manning to Hakeem Nicks that set up the Giants’ score. LaRon Landry, the regular strong safety, is susceptible to the deep ball, too.
With a little help from his friends up front, Grossman looked like a different quarterback. Taking advantage of better protection (and perhaps processing things a bit quicker), he was the central figure in the Redskins’ two scores.
He was helped by a beauty of a catch by Anthony Armstrong early in the quarter, an 18-yard completion that set up Tim Hightower’s first touchdown as a Redskin. After the two-minute warning, Grossman had a brilliant stretch with a 39-yarder to Jabar Gaffney followed by a 9-yarder to Hightower followed by a 6-yarder to Armstrong for a TD with 37 seconds left.
For the quarter, Grossman completed 8 of 10 passes for 114 yards. His 13 completions in the half went to six different receivers.
The Giants’ touchdown in the quarter came on the ground, a 6-yard run by Ahmad Bradshaw.
This was a defensive period, in a big way for the Redskins. At the start, top draft pick Ryan Kerrigan batted a Manning pass, then caught it and ran into the end zone from 9 yards out for the only touchdown of the quarter. The last rookie to score on an interception return for the Redskins was Champ Bailey (59 yards) on Oct. 17, 1999.
Later in the quarter, the Giants went for it on fourth-and-1 on the Redskins’ 31. Ahmad Bradshaw took the handoff, only to be stopped for no gain by London Fletcher and Josh Wilson. On the final play of the quarter, Manning was sacked back to his own 2 by Fletcher and Chris Neild. It could have been worse, as Manning fumbled but recovered it himself.
The Redskins’ offense didn’t put up any points. It didn’t matter because the Redskins defense scored a touchdown and kept the Giants from doing the same.
The final quarter of the Redskins’ season-opening victory was a cross section of their highlights of the day, with the offense and the defense taking turns in the spotlight. The defense continued to shine, holding the Giants without a point in the second half. The unit’s big moment of the period came after Grossman fumbled while being sacked, allowing the Giants to take over on the Skins’ 27. The defense forced a field goal try that was blocked by Brian Orakpo.
The offense, silent like the Giants up to that point in the half, went right down the field to score the game’s final touchdown. Grossman directed a 70-yard drive that took 5:33 off the clock and culminated with a 4-yard pass to Gaffney. The Giants gained a mere 25 yards on their final two drives. New York gained 213 yards in the first half, and only 102 in the second.
The obvious choice is rookie Ryan Kerrigan’s 9-yard interception return for a touchdown. The less obvious choice, and the winner here, is a tackle made by running back Tim Hightower in the fourth quarter. The Giants’ Michael Boley picked up a Rex Grossman fumble and looked like he might be end-zone-bound. Hightower somehow got to Boley and pulled him down on the Redskins’ 27. The defense held, Brian Orakpo blocked a field-goal try and the Redskins went down the field and scored again.