Reporting David Elfin
It’s a sweet Monday in Washington for the first time in 10-1/2 months. That’s because after whipping the NFC East rival New York Giants 28-14 yesterday, the Redskins have a winning record for the first time since last Oct. 30.
The game was especially memorable for several folks clad in burgundy and gold.
Start with coach Mike Shanahan, whose rebuilding project has been lampooned by critics some of whom forecast as ugly as a 2-14 season for the Redskins. Shanahan is now 14-5 in openers, 2-0 in Washington.
Next comes Rex Grossman, the much-mocked quarterback, whose last opening day start had come in Chicago’s listless 14-3 loss at San Diego in 2007. After missing his first four passes yesterday, Grossman was superb – other than his near-mandatory loss of a fumble on a sack — completing 21 of 30 for 305 yards and two touchdowns and coming oh so close to a third. The 31-year-old looked like a 21-year-old in joyfully leapfrogging receiver Anthony Armstrong after the latter connection set up Tim Hightower’s touchdown run on the next snap.
Then there were the rookies: first-round draft choice Ryan Kerrigan, whose adjustment from college defensive end to pro outside linebacker looked pretty smooth when he tipped and caught Eli Manning’s screen pass and then took it nine yards to paydirt; and seventh-round backup nose tackle Chris Neild, who debuted with two sacks, just one shy of his total the past two years.
Longest-tenured Redskin Chris Cooley overcame his lingering sore knee to become Washington’s career leader in catches by a tight end, surpassing the late Jerry Smith, while backup Fred Davis enjoyed the first 100-yard day of his four seasons.
All those men were mobbed by the media. That wasn’t the case for Rocky McIntosh. The inside linebacker had his usual quietly competent seven tackles and a hurry and was left alone in the locker room.
However, when I saw McIntosh chatting with a military photographer (it was Sept. 11 after all) by one of the exits, I knew I had to talk to him.
McIntosh arrived in Washington as a second-rounder in 2006, just four months after the Redskins had blasted the Giants on Christmas Eve en route to their first playoff berth in six years. The only time Washington had beaten New York during McIntosh’s five seasons was the windblown victory in the Meadowlands in December 2007, 10 days after he suffered a season-ending knee injury against Grossman and the Bears.
So after going 0-9 against Big Blue, the low-key McIntosh relished Sunday’s two-touchdown triumph.
“I think back to ’06 when (then-Giants running back) Tiki (Barber) ran through us in both games,” McIntosh said. “Ever since then, it’s just been nightmares. It’s a relief to finally go out there and beat ‘em.”
Indeed. As Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw said, the Redskins deserved to win yesterday because they were the better team.
This game wasn’t decided on one play like the 2010 opener when DeAngelo Hall returned Tashard Choice’s fumble for the touchdown just before halftime that doomed Dallas. Washington had the superior offense, defense and was even on special teams against New York. And after five years of being dominated by the Giants, being able to claim that makes this Monday a very sweet one for the Redskins and their fans.
David Elfin has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the author of the new book: “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan during the 2010 Redskins season, he returned to the station as its blogger in March.