By Shawn Clarke, NFL Contributor
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) – Invited or not, the New York Giants have crashed the NFC party of elite teams.
It would be blasphemy not to think of the four-time Super Bowl champion Giants as one of the conference’s best, but a 7-9 record a year ago and two straight losses to start 2014 put them in the land of the forgotten.
Now, with back-to-back impressive wins, the Giants deserve to be mentioned with NFC beasts Seattle, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Green Bay, Arizona and Detroit. The Giants lost to the Lions and Cardinals, then defeated Houston last Sunday and Washington Thursday on a short week.
It’s incredible how a coaching staff and players adjust with a short week and little time to prepare for an opponent. New York showed no signs of angst or fatigue in a 45-14 beatdown of rival Washington at FedEx Field, where Eli Manning shook off some rust and lit up the Redskins for 300 yards and four touchdown passes. He also ran one in to add insult to injury.
The Redskins went toe-to-toe with the Eagles in a loss last weekend and couldn’t solve the Giants’ defense. Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins, who said he wants to hand injured QB Robert Griffin III a strong team when the former Heisman Trophy winner returns, was intercepted four times last night.
Prince Amukamara, Quintin Demps, Antrel Rolle and Trumaine McBride each had a hand in making Cousins’ night a forgettable one with their INTs. Redskins receivers Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson blew up against Philadelphia, but were held to a combined three catches for 37 yards. Jackson had one reception for nine yards and Washington couldn’t do anything offensively.
“It was an outstanding performance by everybody, by defense up front in terms of the pressure,” Giants head coach Tom Coughlin said. “It goes to the entire defense. They are two outstanding football players. The week before with 11 catches and DeSean with his 81-yard touchdown. That’s something to come away without them hurting us.”
New York’s defense, which had three picks last week versus the Texans and totaled six turnovers Thursday, capitalized on its opportunities and the coaching staff put the players in position to win. It was all about technique and applying pressure up front that enabled the Giants to come out on top. Rolle was asked how it felt going against a struggling quarterback.
“It’s Christmas. That’s what it is. You want games like that. You want games where you’re playing ahead and the other team is trying to play catch up,” Rolle said. “You know, they have to force the ball. They’re trying to make the long throws and complete long passes and it gives the defense more opportunities to create turnovers.”
For how well defensive coordinator Perry Fewell’s unit performed, it was Manning and the offense that took advantage of good spots and turnovers. The Giants had 31 first downs, nearly 40 minutes of possession (37:17) and racked up 449 yards against what was supposed to be an intimidating Redskins defense. Manning was only sacked once and hooked up with rising tight end Larry Donnell for three touchdowns.
Donnell is the first Giants tight end with three touchdown receptions in a game since Oct. 28, 1962, when Joe Walton caught three. That’s amazing because the Giants had a stud tight end named Mark Bavaro at one point. Coughlin talked about the play of Donnell and his meteoric rise.
“I just keep saying, let’s just keep him getting better, and he’s gotten better each week. He’s an outstanding athlete, obviously,” Coughlin said. “He has the size. He can get up over the top of people, so he had a very good game, a very good first half for sure. A good ballgame tonight and we just hope he keeps getting better.”
Rolle gave his take on Donnell being in the spotlight.
“Larry will be fine. He’s a star, man. He’s a star,” Rolle said. “I think he’s worked his butt off all through training camp to be in the position that he is today. While other people may not know what he’s capable of, you know, we know. We see him out there every day. And it started in training camp with him winning the position and he’s earned that right. So I told him to just keep climbing, keep climbing. He’s a very humble guy. He’s a low-key guy. He doesn’t say much at all. He just goes out and there and performs.”
The 6-foot-6 Donnell may speak softly, but does carry a big stick. He will surely be targeted by defenses for the rest of the season. Donnell didn’t save any of the touchdown balls because he said “there is more coming.”
It’s obviously better for the Giants to be 2-2 instead of 1-3. They have another tough matchup on Oct. 5 at home versus Atlanta and will have to forget about this game in Washington with 12 more to go. After hosting Atlanta, the Giants have a chance to prove themselves with Philadelphia, Dallas, Indianapolis, Seattle and San Francisco next on the slate.
“This is a long season. Everyone is impatient. I think we’re more impatient than anyone else,” Rolle said. “Of course we want to go out there and win right away, but unfortunately it wasn’t on our side. It wasn’t our time. Right now we’re still jelling and we still have a long ways to go. Right now we’re just finally putting together some good football on both sides of the ball. We’re working collectively as a group. We’re benefiting from one another.”
The NFL is now on alert after what the Giants were able to do in DC.