That's about what one would expect from a Giants/Redskins game. Physical football, good defense, hard hitting, and personal fouls. Great stuff there, so I'm gonna take a huge homer moment and dig into the game a bit.
(Editor's Note: All stats taken from nfl.com, because I'm too lazy to keep track myself)
Steve Smith: All offseason, we've read about "Which WR is going to be Eli's go-to guy?" I think Smith answered that in emphatically Toomer-like fashion. All this cat does is catch first down passes on third down, and that makes him extremely valuable. Third and 4? How about a five yard catch. Call Steve Smith the Mail Man (Karl Malone, anyone?), because he delivers.
6 catches, 80 yards
Ahmad Bradshaw: With the defense completely geared up to stop Brandon Jacobs (which they did moderately well), they were caught with their pants down by Bradshaw. Number 44 cut through the Skins' defense repeatedly, and was faster and more physical than they expected, and his hard-earned 5 yards per carry evidence the effort. 12 carries, 60 yards, 5.0 avg
Osi Umenyiora: Good to see the old boy back, and in excellent form as well. A classic sack/forced fumble/touchdown...this guy just brings it. The defense showed some nice energy with Osi back in the lineup. 4 tackles, 1 sack, 1 FF, 1 F Rec, 1 TD
Bruce Johnson: Who? Exactly. Johnson is the Giants' undrafted rookie cornerback from Miami (Fl), and was forced into a LOT of playing time with the injuries in the secondary. Expected to be nothing more than a special teams player, his play was rock-solid in his first pro game. The Redskins have a good, deep receiver group that presented a great challenge for him. While he didn't have any huge impact plays or interceptions (one forced fumble, though!), he also didn't make any glaring rookie mistakes. I didn't see him draw a single flag, his coverage was solid, and he had a few good, timely tackles. This kid just might keep the Giants from drafting a DB high next year, which is good news with a lot of other needs. 3 tackles, 1 FF
Corey Webster: Poor guy has come a long way from being benched for poor play and effort in 2007 to making an INCREDIBLE interception on the sideline. He must have studied being a receiver from Amani Toomer the way he touched those toes down. Is this the year he steps up to Pro Bowl level? I doubt it, but he could have 5-6 picks this year.
Eli Manning: 20 of 29 for 256 yards, a touchdown, and an interception is probably way better then anyone expected of him in his first game with all his new, young receivers. It sure looks like he's going to enjoy working with Manningham and Smith, and if Nicks gets healthy, this offense could be very effective. There's a lot of trust with Eli and Kevin Boss, too, and they're starting to look a little like Simms-to-Bavaro out there. He'll never be great, he'll never be Peyton, but the dude can win games. I've previously been an Eli doubter, but he's gradually making a believer out of me.
Jason Campbell: Not a superstar stat line from Cambpell (19/26, 211, 1TD, 1INT), but he put on a solid, if unspectacular, performance after a tumultuous offseason. After all the trade rumours, public doubting of his leadership and abilities, and insincere supportive platitudes, Campbell played a very decent game against a very aggressive defense. He's the enemy, but I have to salute his performance.
Hunter Smith: Excellent fake on the faked field goal, and good running with a nose for the endzone on the second half of the play. I hate you for doing it, but well done, sir.
Tackling in the secondary: This was an issue in the preseason, and it appears to be lingering. The Redskins made a heck of a game out of yards-after-catch, which will become a real problem as the season goes on. I can hope that this gets a bit better when Aaron Ross and Kevin Dockery come back, but it's a definite area of concern that new DC Bill Sheridan NEEDS to address.
NYG Special Teams: Fooled on a fake field goal? Really? That sort of Madden crap should never work in the NFL. That unit needs to be more aware than that, and show better pursuit to the ball. It's bad enough they bit so badly on the fake, but there was some lackluster effort on the back end to get the ball carrier. Tom Coughlin will let them have it for that, so I can hope we don't see many more breakdowns like that.
Giants Punt Return Unit: I'm calling this group out specifically, because they've disappointed for a long time. Hixon is a very good returner, but the gunners and blockers gave the poor guy no time to break off a decent run. If this stays consistent throughout the season, this will cause us major problems against the better teams out there. Field position is always a big deal in NFC East games, and they need to give Hixon a chance.
Albert Haynesworth: For $1oo million, you expect a guy to make a big impact in every game. Four tackles for a DT isn't slacker stuff, but this guy needs to do more. He didn't affect our running game (103 net yards), didn't register a sack, and I didn't even notice him pushing the pocket back all that much. Granted, he saw a good amount of double teams, but for the money he's making, he needs to beat those a few times.
Santana Moss: I might take this Lowlight back later in the year, because maybe Corey Webster is actually that good, but Moss had basically zero impact on this game (2 catches, 6 yards). He has consistently been The Guy in Washington for a while, but aside from a nice little fight, did nothing of value today. If Corey Webster is a Pro Bowl corner this year, I'll forgive Santana, but if not, shame on him for not completely abusing a banged up Giants secondary.
I like Domenik Hixon, so I hope this doesn't get taken the wrong way, but he needs to fall a bit on the WR depth chart and go back to returning kicks full time. Hakeem Nicks (when healthy) is as good or better than Hixon, and Manningham has better upside, but Hixon is the best returner on this team. I think of him like a poor man's Devin Hester; a high quality returner, and an average or slightly better receiver. Look, his routes are good, he's pretty fast, and has okay hands, but we have other good receivers. We can't have Danny Ware getting hurt on kick returns, if only for depth reasons. That doesn't even take into account the fact that Hixon is a dynamic returner, and I think that's where he helps this team the most.
For all the hype the new defensive line got, I was somewhat underwhelmed. Not that they were bad, or didn't impact the game, but I was expecting a much more intense attack. I'm sure a little of it has to do with Sheridan's schemes and such, but this group could show a little more. They'll probably get better as they work together more, but it was a somewhat inauspicious debut. That said, I think DL Chris Canty will turn out to be an impact player before too long.
Sure, personal fouls, late hits, and unnecessary roughness are technically bad, but as a fan I like to see that intensity. Watching Corey Webster and Santana Moss beating each other up was downright inspiring, and it's always great to watch Brandon Jacobs get in someone's face. This is a hungry, angry (hangry?) team, and they showed it today.
All in all, two good defensive teams beat each other up pretty good, but I never expected the Redskins to really mount a decent challenge. They're getting some good talk as a dark horse this year, but the Giants just played like the better team. The 23-17 end result doesn't reflect just how close this game wasn't.