EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - It is a time-honored formula for Giants' success once the calendar turns to December: steamroll the opposition defense with a relentless rushing attack and stonewall the offense with a dominant defense.
The Giants adhered to the blueprint perfectly on Sunday and rolled to a 31-7 rout of the Washington Redskins in New Meadowlands Stadium. By winning their second game in a row, the Giants moved back into a first-place tie with Philadelphia in the NFC East with an 8-4 record.
Brandon Jacobs (103) and Ahmad Bradshaw (97) combined to rush for 200 yards (the Giants' had a net total of 197 yards). They scored two touchdowns apiece as the Giants scored four times on the ground for the first time since Oct. 31, 2004 at Minnesota.
"Out here in New Jersey, that's what you have to do," guard Rich Seubert said. "It's Giant football – good defense, physical, win games. Run the ball, physical, all the clichés that you can hear about winning football games, but that's us. That's what we have to do to win."
"We put 200 yards on a good defense," said Jacobs, who started but had just eight carries. "I think they're a big defense, they're stout. They're probably the biggest and strongest that we're going to play. I think our offensive line is doing a wonderful job now opening holes, and guys are just getting to them."
Tom Coughlin was asked if the running game becomes more important late in the season when weather is a bigger factor.
"It always has and it always will," Coughlin said.
So is having a strong defense on your side. Washington's yardage total of 338 yards was respectable. Donovan McNabb threw for 296 yards. But the Redskins were shutout in the first half and did not score until they trailed by four touchdowns. The Giants' defense sacked McNabb four times and forced six turnovers (four fumbles and two interceptions), its highest number of takeaways since Sept. 19, 2005 vs. New Orleans.
"I felt we had a great game plan that enabled us to play well against the run and the pass," linebacker Keith Bulluck said. "They made a couple of plays here and there, but for the most part we were able to keep them under control. We would have liked to have the shutout, but we will definitely take the win."
"It's an important win for us, a very dominating game on our part, four quarters of football again," said cornerback Terrell Thomas, who had one of the Giants' interceptions (Corey Webster had the other on the game's final play). "I'm proud to say we're back on track."
The Giants again played without several injured starters, including wide receivers Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith and offensive linemen David Diehl, Shaun O'Hara and Shawn Andrews. But they overcame the absences with several noteworthy performances.
Start with Jacobs (his first 100-yard game in more than two years) and Bradshaw (who increased his season rushing yardage total to 1,013 yards to become the eighth player in Giants history to rush for 1,000 yards). "To have 1,000 yards in the NFL is a big dream," Bradshaw said.
"The two running backs did outstanding," Coughlin said. "Our running game was good for quite some time."
Eli Manning completed 15 of 25 passes for 161 yards and was not sacked for the fifth consecutive game, a Giants record. Derek Hagan, playing only his third game since being recalled from unemployment, caught a game-high seven passes for 65 yards.
Rookie Jason Pierre-Paul had his second two-sack game in a row. Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora each had a sack and combined for three forced fumbles. Barry Cofield led the Giants with seven solo tackles.
The special teams got a 28-yard field goal from Lawrence Tynes, prevented dangerous return man Brandon Banks from doing any damage and got a boost from former Redskin Devin Thomas, whose first game in a Giants uniform included two special teams tackles, a punt downed at the five-yard line and a blocked punt.
"I'm happy for him, for him to have that opportunity and come through like that," Coughlin said.
Washington, 5-7, got its only score on a 33-yard touchdown pass from McNabb to Anthony Armstrong with 4:35 remaining in the third quarter.
The Giants took control of the game almost immediately and never let go. Touchdown runs by Jacobs and Bradshaw on the first two offensive possessions gave the Giants a 14-0 lead at the end of the opening quarter.
Jacobs started the scoring with an eight-yard run up the middle with just 3:34 elapsed in the game. On second and goal, Jacobs took a handoff, stepped right, then reversed direction and stepped into the end zone without resistance for a 7-0 lead.
The score completed a seven-play, 59-yard drive that was highlighted by Jacobs' season-long 39-yard run on the second snap of the game. His previous long was a 38-yarder at Seattle on Nov. 7.
The long run gave the Giants a first down on the Washington 18-yard line. Bradshaw followed with runs of seven and one yard sandwiched around a two-yard pass to Hagan.
"Me and Ahmad talked all week and we knew that it was going to be cold," Jacobs said. "A lot of people don't like to tackle in the cold. We just had to come out, go downhill, no dodging, come right down the hill and whoever is in the way is going to feel it."
When Jacobs scored, it was the first time the Giants ended their opening possession in a game with a touchdown since Dec. 21, 2009 at Washington (the last time they played the Redskins), where Bradshaw scored on a three-yard run. The Giants had gone 13 games without scoring a first-possession touchdown, the NFL's longest streak.
"That was nice," Manning said of the early touchdown. "Last week we had a field goal and it was the first time we had scored on an opening drive so we kind of said, 'Hey, we are getting better now so let's take it to that next step and get a touchdown.' That is a big help, just to set the tempo for the game. When you get the ball and go down and score a touchdown the defense is all of a sudden fired up when they get back on the field and the offense is feeling great with the way we ran the ball."
Bradshaw's four-yard run gave the Giants a 14-0 lead with 5:22 remaining in the quarter. On third-and-two, Bradshaw took a handoff and bulled his way off right tackle and into the end zone for the touchdown.
The Giants' scoring drive again covered 59 yards in seven plays. It began with Manning's 21-yard pass down the middle to Kevin Boss. Jacobs then ran for 11 yards to the Redskins' 27-yard line. Two Manning passes to Hagan gained 15 yards before Bradshaw gained the final 12 yards on runs of six, two and four yards.
With the back-to-back early touchdowns, the Giants reached the end zone on each of their first two possessions for the first time since the game in FedEx Field last Dec. 21. In that game, the second touchdown was also a four-yard Bradshaw run.
Bradshaw's 10-yard touchdown run increased the Giants' lead to 21-0 with 1:55 remaining in the second quarter. On first down, Bradshaw took a handoff, made a move at the line to find daylight then powered his way past linebacker Andre Carter and safety Kareem Moore at the goal line.
The score capped a short 39-yard drive that began after the Giants recovered a fumble by Armstrong that was forced by Thomas and recovered by Bulluck, who returned the ball 10 yards. Washington Coach Mike Shanahan challenged the ruling of a fumble, believing that Armstrong was down by contact prior to losing the ball. But after review, referee Walt Coleman upheld the ruling on the field.
The Giants needed only five plays to travel the 39 yards. They got five before snapping the ball when Redskins linebacker London Fletcher was penalized for delay of game (he kicked the ball, apparently to bide time so Shanahan would challenge the fumble). On second down from the 25, Bradshaw ran off left guard for 15 yards. He scored the touchdown on the next play.
The Giants' 21-0 halftime lead tied for their second-largest of the season. On Oct. 10, they led after two quarters at Houston, 24-3. Their biggest halftime lead of the year was at Seattle, 35-0.
Both teams missed scoring chances in the first half. Washington's Graham Gano was wide left on a 43-yard field goal attempt. In the second quarter, the Giants had a first-and-goal at the four, but Manning's pass into the end zone for Kevin Boss was intercepted by Fletcher.
Jacobs' 28-yard score with 6:36 remaining in the third quarter increased the Giants' lead to 28-0. On first down, Jacobs took a handoff, took a step to his right, broke away from Reed Doughty's tackle attempt and broke into the clear for his second score of the game.
The touchdown ended a three-play, 46-yard drive that took just 56 seconds. The Giants gained possession of the ball when Corey Webster recovered a McNabb fumble that was forced by Dave Tollefson. Eli Manning threw a 13-yard pass to Mario Manningham on the first play of the series. After an incomplete pass, Jacobs ran in for the touchdown.
Washington scored on its next possession when Armstrong's touchdown completed a four-play, 72-yard drive. On first down, Armstrong found a large opening in the Giants' secondary and caught McNabb's pass just past the goal line to end the Giants' shutout bid.
After the Giants punted, McNabb threw into the end zone on the second play of the fourth quarter, but he was picked off by Thomas.
Tynes ended the scoring with his field goal with nine minutes left in the game.