BY HOWARD FENDRICH
LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — No matter how many injuries they accumulate, no matter how slender their playoff hopes might be, the Washington Redskins at least have this on their side: Each opponent the rest of the way currently owns a losing record.
Starting next week with the NFC East rival Dallas Cowboys.
With a victory against another division foe Thursday night, 20-10 over the New York Giants, the Redskins (5-6) hope they took a step in the right direction after dropping four of their preceding five games.
“Defensively our mentality was to come out here and win this game. It’s like a playoff series for us. We’re trying to stay alive, so every game is a must-win for us,” cornerback Bashaud Breeland said. “It’s that time of year. Crunch-time football. That’s when people remember you.”
Washington’s defense was coming off consecutive losses in which it allowed more than 30 points each time.
But against the Giants (2-9) — a team dealing with as many key injuries as the Redskins — Washington was more stout. It held Eli Manning and the rest of New York’s offense to one first down and 47 yards in the second half.
So what if the game was, in general, rather ugly? So what if the score was 3-all at halftime?
“It’s always very pretty,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said, “when you win.”
Next is another Thursday game, this one at Dallas, which dropped to 5-6 by losing 28-6 to the Los Angeles Chargers. The Cowboys have two TDs in three games without suspended star running back Ezekiel Elliott, who will sit out another three games.
Washington’s schedule after that: Chargers (5-6), Cardinals (4-6), Broncos (3-7), Giants.
Here is what else we learned from Washington’s win against New York:
With their top two running backs done for the season, along with wideout Terrelle Pryor, and No. 1 tight end Jordan Reed sidelined for the past month with a hamstring injury, the Redskins are going to need to count on third-year receiver Jamison Crowder. He had a game-high seven catches for a career-high 141 yards, including a 15-yard TD pass from Kirk Cousins in the third quarter — the wideout’s first score this season. It’s part of a trend in the right direction: After having 19 catches for 149 yards in the season’s first half-dozen games, he has 27 catches 412 yards in the past four. “Jamison and I have had a good rapport since he showed up as a rookie,” Cousins said.
Consistent pressure from Redskins LB Ryan Kerrigan could help mask the fact that the team has two inside linebackers on injured reserve and a third (Martrell Spaight) missed Thursday’s game with an injury. Kerrigan took advantage of New York’s problems along the offensive line to get two sacks and raise his season total to a team-high nine. It was Kerrigan’s 11th career game with more than one sack. “He’s a giant,” teammate Junior Galette said. “He’s been a monster in the league for years.”
THEY MIGHT NOT BE GIANTS
Manning is a two-time Super Bowl MVP, but without targets such as Odell Beckham Jr. or Brandon Marshall, he’s been unable to do much lately. Over the past five games, New York is averaging a paltry 13.4 points — and there isn’t much reason to believe that sort of production will improve any time soon. “Our margin for error is small with the way things are right now,” coach Ben McAdoo said. “We know that going in.”
With RBs Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson among the 15 Redskins on IR, it falls to rookie Samaje Perine to make Washington’s ground game go. And so far, so good: He has run for at least 100 yards in each of the past two games. Against the Giants, he set aside a poor first half — 3 yards on five carries — to finish with 100 yards on 24 carries, plus another 30 yards on three catches.
Rookie TE Evan Engram has been a rare bright spot for the Giants, leading the team with 44 catches, but they’ll want him to avoid the sort of problems that contributed to multiple dropped passes Thursday. “A big concern,” Engram acknowledged. McAdoo said they discussed it. “Evan looked like a rookie playing on a short week tonight,” the coach said. “He needs to get that out of his system. He needs to learn from it, and I’m confident he will learn from it and move on.”
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