LANDOVER, Md. --OK, just one question about last night's Giants blowout win against the Redskins: Where the heck was this the last two months?
The Giants played the kind of football we'd come to expect from a team not even two years removed from winning the Super Bowl. They obliterated a much-improved Redskins team that had beaten Denver, and nearly upset Saints, Eagles and Cowboys in recent weeks.
How good did the Giants look? As good as they've looked all season. Again, where was this the last two months?
If the Giants had summoned this kind of performance for even a few weeks during a run in which they lost six of their previous eight games, they wouldn't be worried about their playoff fate as they are now.
They'd be prepping for a postseason run and thinking about another Super Bowl run.
Instead, they're left to wonder whether last night's stunningly effective showing will be in vain. After all, even with the win, the Giants (8-6) are still not assured of a playoff berth. They'll almost certainly have to beat Carolina at home and the Vikings on the road to even think about reaching the postseason. And even then, they'll need some help from either Dallas or Green Bay. Or perhaps the Eagles, although only a complete collapse would suffice there.
But at least the Giants know they're capable of playing like they did earlier in the season, when they rang up a 5-0 record against mostly bottom-dwellers such as the Chiefs, Buccaneers and Raiders. Come to think of it, this game was reminiscent of their 44-7 romp over the Raiders in Week 5.
But that was the last time they enjoyed that kind of win; the ensuing two-month slide nearly knocked them out of playoff contention. The defense fell off a cliff, and so did the Giants. After last week's pitiful effort against the Eagles, and after watching the Cowboys upset the Saints on Saturday, the Giants' playoff destiny no longer rested in their own hands.
Fitting that they should play the Redskins on the road. After all, how many other times have we seen the Giants face difficult situations against their longtime NFC East rivals. Consider:
In 2006, the Giants were facing playoff elimination and Tom Coughlin's job was on the line when they visited the Redskins in the final week of the regular season. What happened? Tiki Barber had the game of a lifetime, rushed for a franchise-best 234 yards and the Giants beat Washington, 34-28, to reach the playoffs and save Coughlin's job.
In 2007, the Giants came into FedEx Field at 0-2 after losing to the Cowboys and Packers. One more loss, and who knows how the season would have ended up? The Giants didn't have to find out; they beat the Redskins, 24-17, the first of six straight wins. They went on to win Super Bowl XLII.
And last year, the Giants visited the Redskins the day after Plaxico Burress shot himself in a New York City nightclub. Still shocked over an incident that ultimately ended Burress' career with the Giants, they maintained their composure on the field and beat Washington, 23-7, to run their record to 11-1.
Last night, the desperation was just as palpable. Maybe even more so. And they responded just as they had the previous three years: with the kind of effort that makes them playoff worthy.
This was as dominant a first-half performance the Giants had put together since their 5-0 start. First drive: Eli Manning drove the Giants 80 yards with a mix of midrange passes, solid running and short catches turned into big gainers by Ahmad Bradshaw. Throw in a few Brandon Jacobs bone-crushing runs, and the Giants were off to a 7-0 lead with a drive lasting nearly 10 minutes. It was capped off by Bradshaw's 3-yard run.
Next drive, another touchdown, this one 73 yards that was finished off by another Bradshaw TD run to make it 14-0.
Next possession, a field goal drive to make it 17-0. Next drive, another TD to make it 24-0 with 4:36 to play in the first half.
Too little too late?
We'll soon find out.