While the Redskins' offense played its best game of the season in Sunday's 31-7 win over the New York Giants at FedExField, the defense put forth the type of stout effort that fans have come to expect week after week.
The NFL's second-ranked defense did not yield a point to the Giants, whose only score came on a 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Derrick Ward in the third quarter.
"We played disciplined defense, which has been our key all year," said linebacker Antonio Pierce, who led the team with seven tackles.
Washington held Giants' running back Tiki Barber to 38 yards on 15 carries, his lowest output of the season. (The Redskins limited him to 42 rushing yards (his previous low) in a 20-14 loss at the Meadowlands on Sept. 19.) Barber has been one of the league's best running backs this season and entered Sunday's game with 1,154 yards rushing and a NFL-best 1,641 yards from scrimmage.
"Our game plan was to take out Tiki, but for some reason they didn't use Tiki the way they normally do on screens and passes like that," Pierce said. "Our goal was to take out Tiki and [tight end] Jeremy Shockey (three catches for 23 yards), and they didn't use them."
Said Giants quarterback Eli Manning: "We were trying to run the ball, but we couldn't get that going. They were stacking eight, nine players in the box."
It took the Redskins' offense only two quarters to surpass the 20-point mark for the first time this season. A 21-0 Redskins' lead at halftime forced the Giants to focus on passing downfield. As a result, the Redskins' defense switched its focus from Barber to Manning.
"I think our defense threw a little bit more at [Manning] than he was ready for," said cornerback Fred Smoot, who made three tackles and broke up a pass.
Several Redskins said that they were impressed by Manning's talent. He was 12-of-25 passing for 113 yards, 48 of which came on a deep pass to Amani Toomer late in the fourth quarter.
Said Smoot: "This guy's arm is unbelievable, if you look at the range on his arm and his quick release."
Assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams's unit blitzed Manning and rattled the rookie. Defensive end Phillip Daniels, in his return from a groin injury, registered the Redskins' only sack before leaving the game with a dislocated left wrist.
Even without sacking Manning more than once, the pressure was enough to force some inaccurate throws.
"You could tell he was a little confused," Pierce said. "You could just look in his eyes. It seemed like they had a little communication problem as far as who to pick up on our blitzes."
In all, Washington held the Giants to 145 total yards. The Redskins limited New York to seven first downs, as opposed to the Redskins' 27. The strong play of both the offense and defense led to a significant advantage for Washington in time of possession. The Redskins had the ball for 40:29 while the Giants had possession for 19:31.
"The offense sustained a lot of drives and gave us a lot of rest," Smoot said. "Anytime they go and do that, we're going to play well."
Smoot said that Sunday's formula is one he and his teammates hope to see more of as the season enters its final stretch.
"I think what we did today was just play off each other--offense, defense and special teams," Smoot said. "If we can ever get the group to come back and consistently do this, we've got a chance to beat anybody in this league."