EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP)—Don’t write off the New York Giants’ defense just yet. For that matter, don’t write off the defending division champions, either.
Shrugging off intense criticism and the always treacherous bye week, the Giants rediscovered the team that won a division title a year ago. For at least a week, New York also renewed its own hopes that this team is still capable of big things.
Michael Strahan and the much-maligned defense limited Washington to 164 total yards, and Eli Manning threw a touchdown pass and set up three of Jay Feely’s four field goals with long passes to lead the Giants to a 19-3 victory over the Redskins on Sunday.
“It’s something to build on,” Strahan said after the Giants (2-2) dominated Washington (2-3) in every phase in their first game since tight end Jeremy Shockey said New York was outcoached in a loss to Seattle. “It’s something to get excited about. It’s about we time we came out as a team and defensively played the way we’re capable of playing. We just went out there today and played good football.”
The victory was only the Giants’ fourth in 18 post-bye week games. It snapped a five-game skid in the week after the bye and was only their second in the last 11 post-bye games.
“This team is getting better,” said Arrington said after his first game against his former teammates. “We brought a lot energy to the bye week. It was tough, getting grinded on by the media. … The whole team stayed focused enough to push through.”
The big surprise of the day was the play of Tim Lewis’ defense, which was allowing an average of almost 31 points. The revamped secondary, which left four receivers wide open for touchdowns in a 42-30 loss to Seattle, limited Brunell to 109 yards on 12-of-22 passing. Strahan got his first sack of the season and Fred Robbins and Osi Umenyiora added sacks against a Redskins offense that averaged nearly 500 yards in winning its last two games.
New York had two sacks in its first three games.
“Obviously, the Giants’ backs were against the wall,” Brunell said. “They came out fighting, and they outplayed us in every way. They stopped the run. They stopped the pass.”
Linebacker Antonio Pierce, who dropped a potential interception, said the key was the Giants’ success on third down defense. Washington was successful on 3 of 11 chances. Opponents converted on 59 percent in the opening three games against Indianapolis, Philadelphia and Seattle.
“We’ve been underachieving,” Pierce said. “We weren’t being accountable to one another. There came a point in time when coach (Tom) Coughlin pointed out what everyone was writing about us. It comes to a point, where you’ve just had enough.”
Manning, who was 23-of-33 for 256 yards, drove the New York into Washington territory on each of its first six possessions in the first three quarters using a balanced attack that got 123 yards rushing from Tiki Barber. The offense also helped the defense, controlling the ball for almost 35 minutes, with a 69-45 edge in plays run.
“We won a game we needed to win,” center Shaun O’Hara said. “We all knew where we were at.
Feely missed a 47-yard field goal on New York’s opening drive, but Manning and the Giants scored on their next four times they got the ball.
Manning’s 44-yard pass to Amani Toomer set up a game-tying 24-yard field goal by Feely early in the second quarter. A 46-yard pass to Plaxico Burress set up a 34-yarder, and then a 27-yard pass to Tim Carter late in a 14-play, 84-yard march just before halftime set up a 32-yarder that gave New York a 9-3 halftime lead.
The Giants, who beat Washington 36-0 in their game at Giants Stadium last year, took the air out of the Redskins at the start of the third quarter with a 15-play, 69-yard, eight-minute drive that Manning capped with a 2-yard TD toss to Burress, who finished with seven catches for 69 yards.
John Hall, who had made a 39-yard field goal in the first quarter, had a chance to get Washington back into the game on the next series, but he missed a 42-yard attempt in the closing minute of the third quarter.
Santana Moss, who caught three touchdown passes in an overtime win over Jacksonville last week and was named the NFC offensive player of the week, was limited to three meaningless catches for 39 yards. Clinton Portis had 76 yards on 19 carries. ^NOTES: Shockey left the game late with an undisclosed foot injury. … Redskins DE Phillip Daniels injured his shoulder during the game. … Giants opened with a nickel defense, taking Arrington off the field. … With Carlos Emmons (chest) out, Brandon Short started at weakside linebacker for the Giants. … Kenny Wright replaced Shawn Springs (groin) at cornerback for the Redskins.