EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — All the Washington Redskins needed to avoid a dreaded 0-3 start was a couple of fourth-quarter interceptions by backups and five field goals from a guy who had never made that many in a game.
Dustin Hopkins kicked a 37-yard field goal with 1:51 to play and the defending NFC East champion Redskins got a much-needed 29-27 win over the penalty- and error-prone New York Giants (2-1) on Sunday.
“We needed to get that first win bad,” said cornerback Greg Toler, who played most of the game after starter Bashaud Breeland hurt an ankle early. “We couldn’t lose the first three, and we hung in there and got some real contributions from everybody. You get everyone stepping up. The coaches treat all of us the same, coaches us up whether first- or second- or third- or fourth-string like we are starters.”
The guys who really stepped up were linebacker Su’a Cravens and cornerback Quinton Dunbar.
After Hopkins put Washington ahead, the Giants got a first down at their own 39 with 69 seconds to play. On the next play, Manning went over the middle to Shane Vereen and Cravens dived in front of the halfback and picked it off.
Earlier in the quarter, Dunbar jumped a seam pattern pass to tight end Will Tye in the end zone and intercepted it, ending a Giants drive at the Washington 15 courtesy of an Odell Beckham catch-and-run. It kept Washington ahead 26-24.
Josh Brown would put New York ahead with a 30-yard field goal midway through the quarter, but Washington came back.
It was a game marked by Giants mistakes. They turned the ball over three times and had 11 penalties for 128 yards.
“Any time you lose against any team, no matter where they are at, it is a tough one to swallow,” receiver Victor Cruz said. “Especially one like this where we had some opportunities to put some points on the board, but you win some and you lose some, you have to learn from the losses and move on.”
The worst of the Giants’ penalties was a third-down hit to the helmet by Olivier Vernon that kept the Redskins’ game-winning drive alive.
“Everyone loves touchdowns. I love touchdowns,” Hopkins said. “When they call on me, I do the best I can to put the team in a position to win, whether they send me out there five times or once, it’s OK.”
Shane Vereen scored on a 1-yard run, Manning threw a 23-yard TD to Shepard and Orleans Darkwa scored on a 2-yard run for New York.
Kirk Cousins threw touchdown passes of 44 yards to DeSean Jackson and 55 to Jamison Crowder as the banged-up Redskins handed new Giants coach Ben McAdoo his first loss.
This was an NFC East matchup that see-sawed the entire second half after Washington rallied from a 21-9 deficit.
BECKHAM VS. NORMAN: The fourth quarter was wild with the matchup of Beckham and Redskins cornerback Josh Norman, leading to big plays by Beckham, an ejection of Giants center Weston Richburg and a personal foul against Norman for a big hit on Sterling Shepard.
“We got it in us. We are fighters, fighters to the end. Scrapping. Savagery as they come,” Norman said. “Real gritty, all the way down to the bone and gristle. Fight, fight, fight.”
In the end, Washington made the big plays in avoiding the 0-3 start. Only three teams since 1990 have made the playoffs after losing three in row to start the season.
INJURIES GALORE: The Redskins lost four players to injuries in the game: C Kory Lichtensteiger (ankle), G Shawn Lauvao (calf), CB Bashaud Breeland (ankle) and S DeAngelo Hall (knee). The Giants had CBs Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (groin) and Eli Apple (hamstring) leave.
SPECIAL TEAMS: It was an exciting day for the guys from specials. Crowder’s 50-yard punt return and a 31-yard fourth-down pass by punter Tress Way to Dunbar set up two of Hopkins’ field goals. Dunbar, however, muffed a punt that led to Vereen’s TD early in the game. The
Giants had a blocked punt by Romeo Okwara nullified with just over 11 minutes to play by a personal foul against Andrew Adams, who was added to the roster Saturday.
NEAR-COSTLY GAMBLE: The Redskins lost a cheap-shot field goal at the end of the first half when they elected to run a play from the Giants 4 with 6 seconds left. Jason Pierre-Paul had a sack and forced fumble on Cousins and the clock ran out.
NUMBERS: Cousins finished 21 of 35 for 296 yards. Manning was 25 of 38 for 350. The Giants gained 457 yards in failing to gain their 700th franchise win. The Redskins gained 403 yards and had the ball for 33:26.