September 14, 2011
UPDATED since publication: Read Here>> Redskins owner, Dan Snyder, drops defamation lawsuit against Washington City Paper.
It was a division matchup that was ironic and bittersweet any way you looked at it. On the 10th anniversary of the day simply known in our nation’s history as “9/11”, the football teams of the two cities most affected by the tragedy were united at FedEx Field to do just that – play football. In a billion dollar sport that creates rabid fans while simultaneously picking their pockets with overpriced seats and even more overpriced beer, it could have been easy to lose sight about what the day was really about.
Fortunately, the NFL celebrated and revered the day as they should – from players and coaches wearing commemorative ribbons, to on field tributes and repeated appreciation for our troops from sportscasters. Even the game break commercials echoed the sentiments of the broadcasts – from Budweiser Clydesdales bowing reverently on the outskirts of New York City, to busloads of city children sponsored by State Farm serenading New York fire and policemen with Jay Z’s and Alicia’s Keyes’ “Empire State of Mind”, the day was remembered well.
The Giants were the heavy favorites going into the game and rightly so. The Redskins hadn’t beaten the Giants in a season opening game since 1976. At first, it seemed like predictions were right: the Skins went three and out on their first two possessions, with Rex Grossman unable to complete passes or advance the ball. It didn’t help that the Giants scored early, on a rushing TD from Eli Manning, who — as most people know — isn’t the rushing type (It was his first rushing touchdown in three seasons.). But the Redskins found their groove as the first half wore on, and the two teams were tied 14-14 by halftime.
The second half was where the Giants really fumbled (literally), and the Redskins shined. Super Bowl winning QB Eli Manning looked more like a rookie than Rex Grossman, who hadn’t started in a season opener since 2007. He threw the ball away more times than I could count, at one time even getting a penalty for grounding. It was in the third quarter that it was evident the Redskins were going to win. I knew it when Eli Manning threw a pass near their end zone, and was tipped by the fingertips of Ryan Kerrigan only to land back in the rookie linebacker’s hands. Then he happily took it into the end zone for a pick-six tiebreaker.
The game only got worse for the Giants, down 21-14, who after an unsuccessful third down conversion had their field goal attempt blocked. It was a deafening blow for New York and probably the biggest turning point of the game. By the end, the Redskins had put up 14 unanswered points, successfully beating the Giants 28-14 and making it hard to believe New York had been the heavy favorite coming into the game.
The cherry on the top for Skins fans was probably seeing Eli Manning sacked as time expired. It was a sad, sad sight. While the Skins won the game, and fans are excited that this may finally be the year of change, you have to take note that the Giants played a pretty poor game offensively, and several of their key defensive linemen were out with injuries. The Skins have another fairly easy game next week against the Arizona Cardinals, who finished last season at the bottom of the pack, and who barely beat the Panthers (28-21) during their season home opener. The true tests will be when they face the Eagles, Patriots and Cowboys later this season.
It was nice to see that football didn’t take away from the anniversary of 9/11. Instead, it gave the fans the chance to remember what their country went through and be proud of how far they’ve come. It was nice to see fans not living in fear or wallowing in sadness. Instead, they came out to cheer on their team and celebrate America.