NFL

NFL AM: Giants Get Back on Track

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The New York Giants needed something positive, anything positive really, to happen after an 0-2 start to their season, and they got it and then some on Thursday Night Football.

After two consecutive gut-wrenching losses to open the season, where they seemingly snatched defeat from the jaws of victory twice, a Thursday night date with the Washington Redskins was just what the doctor ordered for the Giants. Their 32-21 victory put New York right back into the thick of things in the wide-open NFC East.

“We needed a win bad, and it was in the division and another home game,” quarterback Eli Manning told CBS’ Tracy Wolfson after the game. “We’ve come off two close loss, we’ve been there at the end and haven’t been able to hold on, so that was a big emphasis this week, win the fourth quarter.”

It’s arguable whether the Giants actually did that, they were actually outscored 15-14 by Washington in the final quarter, but though the final score indicated a close game, that was mostly due to some late-game shenanigans. For the most part, New York dominated the contest, holding Washington without a touchdown until the final four minutes of the game.

The Giants got off to a quick start thanks to their special teams and defense.

Running back Rashad Jennings made arguably the play of the night in the opening minutes of the game. After New York forced a Washington three-and-out on the first drive of the night, Jennings, inserted on special teams for his speed off the edge, got to Redskins punter Tress Way not once but twice. After being whistled for running into the kicker the first time, a penalty that offset with a Redskins foul and forced a re-kick, Jennings blew up his blocker again and got his hand on the punt, knocking it back through the end zone for a safety to give the Giants a 2-0 lead.

It was the first of many Washington mistakes on the evening that New York took full advantage of. Two plays after the Giants punted away their ensuing possession, Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins was picked of by Prince Amukamara, setting up the Giants in the red zone. They pounded the ball in from there with Andre Williams to take a 9-0 lead. The game was effectively in hand for New York from there.

On the offensive side, the Giants looked as good as they have all year. They struggled to get their run game going against a stingy Washington defense, which limited the trio of Jennings, Williams and Shane Vereen to just 84 yards on 31 carries, but that was enough to balance the offense and open things up for the passing game. Manning was good, if not great, putting together a mistake-free evening of 23-32 for 279 yards with two fourth quarter touchdown passes.

His top two receiving targets were outstanding. Rueben Randle emerged from hibernation to haul in seven passes for a game-high 116 yards receiving, including a 41-yard tip drill touchdown for New York’s final score. Odell Beckham Jr. also had another outstanding game with seven catches for 79 yards, including another circus touchdown catch early in the fourth quarter that made the score 25-6 and essentially put the game out of reach.

“The goal was to get a win. That was the only thing on our mind, was to win,” Beckham Jr. said on the Thursday Night Football set afterward. “This is the best 0-2 team I’ve ever been on, and it just felt like we didn’t really lose [the first two games]…we were all very high-spirited. Being 0-2 but knowing you should have been 2-0, you can’t do anything about it, you gotta keep going on. It’s a 16-game season, you gotta keep pushing, and that’s what we did, we came out and got a win tonight.”

What that win says about the Giants remains to be seen. They weren’t all that impressive in victory, especially late in the fourth quarter, where they again struggled with clock management and gave up two touchdowns in less than a minute of game time, which briefly cast doubt on the result. But they got a victory they desperately needed in a division that is there for the taking with the NFC East leading Cowboys looking suspect, at least for the next two months, due to the injuries to Dez Bryant and Tony Romo.

If the Giants can string together a few wins, ugly or not, they could find themselves at the top of the East before too long.

Mistake-Prone Redskins in Regression

You didn’t really believe the Washington Redskins were legit after last week’s win over the St. Louis Rams, did you?

Much of the talk this week around this matchup centered around whether the Redskins, the only other team in the NFC East besides Dallas with a win heading into Thursday night, could be the team that could take advantage of the Cowboys’ misfortune and rise to the top of the division.

Washington answered that question with a resounding “No!” on Thursday night.

These are the same bumbling Redskins as they’ve been for some time, finding any and every way to lose a game that was there for the taking. The tone was set early when they had their first punt of the evening blocked by New York’s starting running back, and things just kept on going downhill from there.

Kirk Cousins threw a stat-padding 50 passes and looked terrible on most of them. The pick by Amukamara on the second drive of the game was an egregiously bad throw. He had ample opportunities to make up for it in the first half, including a pair of drives to the fringe of the red zone. But he missed an open Jordan Reed on both of them, and Washington had to settle for a pair of field goals. Still the Redskins trailed just 15-6 at halftime, the game well within reach.

The Giants added a field goal early in the third quarter to make it 18-6, but Cousins had a chance to drive the Redskins down the field and keep them in the game. Instead he made another bad decision, trying to force the ball to a well covered Derek Carrier on 1st and 10 from the New York 34. The ball was tipped in the air by Devon Kennard and hauled in by Uani Unga. The Giants then moved down the field on a drive capped by Beckham’s touchdown to put the game out of reach until the final few crazy minutes of the game.

In addition to their passing game falling apart, the Redskins also struggled to run the ball. Alfred Morris had just six carries for 19 yards and didn’t get a single touch after the first drive of the second half. Matt Jones had 11 carries for 38 yards, and made perhaps Washington’s most egregious mistake of the game. After Beckham’s touchdown made it 25-6, the Redskins quickly drove down the field looking to answer and stay alive. They got all the way to the 7 on first and goal and Jones bounced outside for what looked like a sure touchdown run. But on the way to the end zone he inexplicably coughed up the ball, without much contact to cause it and watched it bounce through the end zone for a touchback to give the Giants possession.

Washington’s only redeeming quality on offense was the play of second-year running back Chris Thompson, who totaled 29 yards on two carries and also hauled in a game-high eight passes for 57 yards, including the Redskins’ only offensive touchdown with 3:40 remaining.

On defense, Washington remained stingy against the run, their front seven clearly the strength of the team at this point. But they couldn’t get pressure on Eli Manning, who looked as comfortable as possible in the pocket and went unsacked. They played “bend but don’t break defense” for most of the game, but broke early in the fourth when Manning and Beckham burned Bashaud Breeland. Later in the fourth, after Washington had scored their first offensive touchdown, Manning went back at Breeland, who was one-on-one with Rueben Randle and Breeland did a nice job of sticking with him and making a play on the ball, but inexplicably tipped it up in the air, allowing Randle to haul it in on the bounce and walk into the end zone for New York’s final score of the night.

Breeland was only in position to be burned because, to add the injury to the insult, the Redskins lost defensive back DeAngelo Hall to a non-contact foot injury in the third quarter. Hall’s initial reaction to the injury made it seem fairly severe, as he had to be helped off the field without putting any weight on his right foot. But initial reports suggest he may have avoided serious injury and he was diagnosed with a sprained toe. He’ll have a MRI on Friday to determine the severity of the injury. Over the course of the night the Redskins also lost guard Shawn Lauvao to an ankle injury, guard Josh LeRibeus to a hamstring strain and defensive end Kedric Golston to a broken hand.

The litany of injuries were just another gut punch to the Redskins on a night full of them and four days after looking like a possible contender in the NFC East, they revealed their win over the Rams to be merely a flash in the pan, as the same old Redskins returned on Thursday Night Football. You can go back to expecting a long season in Washington.

INJURY REPORT: Revis, Murray Among Week 3 Question Marks

With Thursday Night Football out of the way, it’s on to the rest of Week 3, with several teams trying to figure out if they’ll have star players in uniform on Sunday.

The 2-0 New York Jets are unsure if they’ll have the services of cornerback Darrelle Revis, who is currently listed as questionable for their game against the Eagles with a groin injury. Revis, who leads the league in takeaways with four (1 interception, 3 fumble recoveries) sat out practice on Wednesday and missed Thursday due to the injury. Revis told reporters he is taking the injury one day at a time, but coach Todd Bowles sounded like a man prepared to go to battle without his top defensive player.

“He’s a playmaker and he’s a heck of a player,” Bowles said. “Anytime you lose a heck of a player you’re not going to be the same. We have a bunch of guys who can go out there and play so I’m confident that they’ll go out there and perform.”

The unbeaten Jets could also be without wide receiver Eric Decker, who has a sprained knee and running back Chris Ivory, who has a quad injury. Both players missed practice on Thursday and look to be game-time decisions against Philadelphia.

On the other side of that matchup at the Meadowlands, the Eagles could be without running back DeMarco Murray, who suffered a hamstring injury in practice on Wednesday. Coach Chip Kelly termed the injury a “tweak” but said Murray is still being evaluated and did not participate in Thursday’s practice. Murray has been one of the league’s biggest disappointments this season, the defending rushing champion has logged just 11 yards rushing on 21 carries through the first two games with his new team. If he can’t go Sunday, the Eagles will likely split their backfield touches between Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles.

While one former rushing champ is on his way down, another appears to be closing in on a return. Arian Foster continues to practice with the Texans after suffering a groin injury during training camp that was initially expected to cost him half the season. Foster doesn’t appear likely to suit up in Week 3 vs. the Buccaneers, but could be back sooner than later.

“I feel wonderful,” Foster told reporters Thursday. “[But] I’m going to make sure I’m 100 percent, so I’m not jeopardizing myself or my teammates.”

The Texans are more optimistic on the status of wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins for Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay. Hopkins is dealing with a concussion and is currently in the league’s concussion protocol, but Texans coach Bill O’Brien reported significant progress on Thursday.

It’s also looking good in that regard for Indianapolis cornerback Vontae Davis, who suffered a concussion in Monday night’s loss to the Jets. Davis passed the league’s concussion protocol on Thursday, clearing him to return to practice and he expects to play on Sunday as the winless Colts looks to get off the schneid against the Tennessee Titans.

“I feel a lot better,” Davis said. “Just getting back in practice and working with my teammates.”

Also returning to practice on Thursday was Ravens wide receiver Breshad Perriman, who has missed two months with a PCL sprain. Baltimore’s 2015 first round draft choice suffered the injury in training camp and has been coming along slowly. But Thursday marked his first practice since July, a significant step in the road to recovery. The rookie receiver still has quite a bit of conditioning to do, but could be ready to help the Ravens before too long.

On the quarterback front, New Orleans Saints signal caller Drew Brees was limited in practice on Thursday with a rotator cuff injury suffered in last week’s loss to the Buccaneers, but remains confident he’ll be able to suit up on Sunday to face the Carolina Panthers. Sean Payton told reporters on Thursday that there is a “good chance” Brees plays. But that the team and the quarterback won’t know his true status for Sunday until Brees throws later this week.

“He wouldn’t go all the way until Sunday and then pregame is his first throws,” Payton told the media. “In other words, he would throw at some point. We’ll see where he throws. It’s a process that really starts with warming up and testing it out how it feels. We’ll see where it’s at.”

If Brees can’t go, Luke McCown would get the start for the winless Saints against the unbeaten Panthers in Carolina on Sunday afternoon.


About Devon Jeffreys

Devon Jeffreys