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Redskins Hang On To Playoff Hopes With Monday Night Victory Over Giants

By ZAC BOYER

zboyer@freelancestar.com | @ZacBoyer

LANDOVER, Md. – Robert Griffin III was seven years old the last time the Washington Redskins won a game on Monday night. Mike Shanahan hadn’t yet won a Super Bowl as a head coach.

With the way the Redskins are playing as of late, all of their struggles seem like ancient history.

Griffin III

Griffin continued his rejuvenating play and by setting the record for rushing yards by a rookie quarterback as the Redskins further solidified their place in the NFC playoff picture with a 17-16 victory over the division-leading New York Giants at FedEx Field on Monday.

The triumph means Washington, which has evened its record to 6-6 following a three-game win streak, remains in decent position to capture its first playoff berth since 2008 – if not as the division champion, at least as one of two teams to capture a wild card spot.

It also marks the first time since 2005 the Redskins have won three consecutive games against NFC East opponent, and the first time since Oct. 16, 1997, a span of 10 Monday night games, that Washington was victorious.

Alfred Morris ran for 124 yards, becoming not only the seventh player to surpass 1,000 yards this season but also setting a team record for rushing yards by a rookie. And Pierre Garçon, who did not play in the first meeting between the teams on Oct. 21 because of injury, caught eight passes for 106 yards and a touchdown.

It has been an improbable run for Washington, which won just three of its first nine games before entering its mid-November bye week with a call to rally for a chance at the postseason.

Griffin, in particular, shouldered the burden of lifting the offense after the break, promising to be a better quarterback as his first season winds down.

He did that in the last two games – a victory over Philadelphia, then a win at Dallas – and continued his strong play against the Giants (7-5), who were the first team to get a second look at him.

He went 13-for-21 for 163 yards and gained 72 yards on five carries, including a 46-yard scramble early in the third quarter a seven-yard gain later that moved him past Carolina’s Cam Newton for the most rushing yards by a rookie quarterback.

The flashiest play was, fittingly, the most improbable one. With 4:27 remaining in the first quarter, Griffin, scrambling left on an option play with Joshua Morgan as his pitch man, saw defenders converging near the 15-yard line, tucked the ball in his left arm and tried to slide.

Giants safety Stevie Brown, in an attempt to make the tackle, instead hit the bottom of Griffin’s left hand, knocking the ball loose. Incredibly, it popped upward and directly to Morgan, who broke through three tackles and scampered 13 yards into the end zone for the Redskins’ first touchdown and his first of the season.

The defensive struggles that dogged the Redskins for much of the season returned over the next two quarters, especially in the passing game. Eli Manning started to pick the Redskins apart, leading several prolonged scoring drives while rarely feeling the pressure of a pass rush that has been practically nonexistent for Washington all year.

He went 20-for-33 for 280 yards as the Giants piled up 390 yards of total offense. Plus, New York was able to establish its ground game early, as Ahmad Bradshaw had 43 yards in the first game but 103 on Monday – including 43 yards in the first quarter.

The Giants held a 13-10 lead at halftime behind a pair of field goals from Lawrence Tynes and a four-yard touchdown pass from Manning to Martellus Bennett. They moved ahead 16-10 late in the third after another Tynes field goal, but Garçon, who missed six games because of a torn plantar plate in his right foot, caught an eight-yard touchdown pass with 11:37 left to play.

New York could not respond in its final two drives, while a 17-yard reception by Garçon with just over two minutes remaining and a six-yard run on third-and-3 with a minute left closed the game.

Victor Cruz, who caught the 77-yard touchdown pass to give the Giants a 27-23 victory in the first game, still had 104 yards on five catches but was held without a touchdown reception.

Linebacker London Fletcher, considered questionable to play because of a lingering ankle injury, had 12 tackles to lead the defense.

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