LANDOVER, Md. – One of Pat Shurmur's core beliefs is that individual players, even great ones, do not win football games.
"Teams beat teams," Shurmur said. "We came down here as a 4-8 team. I feel like we're getting better."
That is indisputable after the beating they administered to the Washington Redskins Sunday afternoon in FedExField. The final was 40-16, but as the old cliché goes, it wasn't as close as the score indicates. The Giants led at halftime, 34-0, and after three quarters, 40-0, before the home team got a pair of window-dressing touchdowns in the final quarter.
The Giants were in such command, their two most valuable players – Eli Manning and Saquon Barkley watched that entire quarter from the sideline.
The victory was the Giants' fourth in five games. They are 5-8, and don't even vaguely resemble the team that was 1-7 prior to the bye week.
"We certainly did not start the year the way we wanted to," Shurmur said. "But I think we're playing more in a way that's evidence that we're getting better and were on the right track. A game like today just re-confirms what we all believe; that if you play hard and you play for the guy next to you, and you're happy for everybody making good plays. It feeds on itself and you can have a day like today."
The players have bought into their coach's message. They dominated offensively in a game in which their best wide receiver, Odell Beckham, Jr. was back in New Jersey with a quad injury.
But everyone else on the roster stepped up. Five different players scored touchdowns, a first for the Giants since Dec. 20, 2015 vs. Carolina. Barkley gashed Washington's defense for a 78-yard scoring run. Manning threw short touchdown passes to Sterling Shepard, Russell Shepard and Bennie Fowler. The defense ignited the scoring surge with Curtis Riley's nine-yard interception return.
There's more. Manning completed 14 of 22 passes for 197 yards and wasn't intercepted. Evan Engram had three catches for a team-high 77 yards. Five different players had a hand in the Giants' five sacks of Mark Sanchez. Alec Ogletree intercepted his team-high fifth pass. Aldrick Rosas kicked a pair of field goals.
"It was a great feeling," Sterling Shepard said of the collective effort. "Everybody got a chance to shine today, and it was just a collective team effort. Everybody came with the mindset that we were going to come in and do this and we were able to execute and get it done."
"We prepared to come out here and play Giants football," Engram said. "That's all it was and we executed, we had great energy, we had fun, we played for each other and when we do that then stuff like today happens."
Of course, it helps that Barkley added another glittering performance to his luminous rookie season. He ran for 170 yards the second-highest total ever by Giants rookie, and blasted through the 1,000-yard barrier for the season (he has 1,124). Barkley typically made it a team accomplishment.
"That's an awesome feeling to be the first one to do that, but even though my name goes down as the first Giants running back to do it, you don't do that by yourself," he said. "Got to give credit to the offensive line all year. Every single guy went out there and we were able to get that record together."
Barkley also added a team-high four catches for 27 yards as he became the first player in history with at least 100 yards from scrimmage in 12 of his first 13 career games.
And the catalyst for it all might have been one of Barkley's few mistakes, a drop of a well-placed Manning pass on the Giants' second possession.
"After the drop I went to those guys, I went to the line, the quarterback and the wide receivers and said 'That series is on me, I'm going to make up for it,'" Barkley said. "'I promise you guys and we were able to do that.'"
He – and they – did, overwhelming the Redskins in a 27-0 second quarter.
It began innocently enough, with a 35-yard Rosas field goal that increased their lead to 10-0. The defense forced a three-and-out, and on the Giants' first play, Barkley took a handoff, stepped forward, cut left and ran untouched for the longest run by a Giants back since Ahmad Bradshaw scored on an 88-yarder 11 years ago.
"We kind of had a feel for what they were doing, and the coaches made a great call on that play," Barkley said. "First and foremost, our line didn't let penetration, got movement. We were playing on their side of the ball the whole game, especially on that play and (Sterling) Shep came back and made an unbelievable block and created space for me. As a running back, you want those one-on-ones and the guy took a bad angle and I was able to use my speed and find a way to get in the end zone there."
Three plays later, Ogletree intercepted a Sanchez pass and returned it 18 yards to the Washington 10-yard line. That set up Manning's three-yard pass to Sterling Shepard. Before the quarter ended, the defense quickly exterminated two more Washington offensive series, and Manning threw a six-yard touchdown pass to Fowler and Aldrick added another field goal.
The final tally was 27 points in 10:58.
"You know, it's fun," Manning said. "Those don't happen all that often in the NFL, where everything is clicking and the defense is getting turnovers. Offensively hitting a bunch of big plays in the run game and a couple in the pass game, and scoring in the red zone. They don't happen much so you've got to take advantage of it, but it's fun to be in those type of games when everything seems to be working."
Manning threw his final touchdown pass, an 11-yarder to Russell Shepard in the third quarter. The Giants were so securely in command, rookie Kyle Lauletta made his regular-season debut by playing all four series in the fourth quarter.
The Giants scored 40 points in a victory for the first time since Sept. 25, 2014, a 45-14 rout of the Redskins in the same venue. That was a week before Beckham played his first regular-season game. He didn't play again Sunday, but in keeping with the theme of the day, his teammates picked him up.
"Everybody was involved, everybody stepped up," Manning said. "Hit a nice deep one to Corey (Coleman), just missed on one earlier in the game, but had a nice one to him. Got Evan Engram going on a nice shallow route in the second half, he had a nice one before halftime that got us into scoring position there. Obviously, Bennie had a touchdown on an over-route, Russell Shepard on a touchdown. Everybody was in there, everybody was playing, and it was good to see everybody getting involved and get going."
If the Giants can keep it going like this over the final three weeks, it will be quite a show.