"We won, so smile," head coach Tom Coughlin said after the Giants' 32-21 win over the Washington Redskins. "It wasn’t easy. Nobody said it was going to be."
He is right. For the third consecutive week, his team went out and took control of the contest and then allowed the other team to surge back in the later stages of the game. But this time, the Giants made sure they had enough points by staying aggressive for sixty minutes.
"We tried to relate that to them that our whole deal was it’s the fourth quarter," Coughlin said. "We’re going to take it up another notch, take it to another level, and spend all the gas in the tank in the fourth quarter trying to get a win."
That was much easier to do this time around. QB Eli Manning, who has been under fire for his poor play in the clutch this season, did not turn the ball over, but rather turned Washington's miscues into points, and continued to put the pressure on even when the game was out of reach. Coughlin was quick to praise his most tenured, and important, player.
"Very, very steady—did an outstanding job with the post call down the middle obviously to [Odell] Beckham [Jr.] when we needed a big play there between the two of them was outstanding," Coughlin said. "The play on third-and-long for the touchdown to Rueben [Randle] where he stayed with the ball. But I thought Eli was very much in control of the entire game tonight and did a nice job getting us in and out of runs, checking some of the protections, checking even some of the route combinations. So, he was very, very much under control tonight and did an outstanding job."
Manning never takes much of the credit, but rather lauds his teammates' efforts after games. He was asked what was different in the fourth quarter this time. Did the coaches tell him to keep the pressure on, even though they had a comfortable lead?
"Just to keep going," Manning said. "Coach kind of said, ‘Hey, we’re going to elevate our play.’ Everybody kind of put a finger up and said let’s talk about elevating our play, raising the intensity and to go in the fourth quarter. That was the mental approach and we challenged that and I thought the guys accepted the challenge."
Beckham did his thing again, grabbing seven passes for 79 yards and an impressive 30-yard touchdown reception. But it was the first time he was joined on the stat sheet by one of his fellow wideouts.
Randle, finally able to participate in full after a month of dealing with painful knee tendonitis, had seven catches for 116 receiving yards, including a the 41-yard touchdown catch that would put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter, and six other that went for first downs.
The defense played with purpose, posturing early on in preparation for the Redskins' powerful running attack. They played stout up front and held the always troubling Alfred Morris to just 19 yard rushing and rollicking rookie Matt Jones to 38 yards on 11 attempts.
Don't let the stats fool you either, they once again prevented QB Kirk Cousins from getting comfortable, picking him off twice and forcing him to throw sooner than he wanted to or on the run.
So the Giants won't go 0-3 this year, but they also won't go 3-0, which is where they actually should be.