LANDOVER, Md. – Sterling Shepard was on one knee, pumping his fist, after crashing into Josh Norman 40 yards away from the line of scrimmage. The wide receiver had bolted down the field to throw a key open-field block that allowed Saquon Barkley to pick up another dozen or so yards on his 52-yard run just before the two-minute warning in the first half.
It wasn’t a touchdown – that would come two snaps later – but it was the kind of play that summed up just about every element of Sunday’s Giants-Redskins game: Domination followed by celebration.
The Giants took out nearly three years of offensive frustration on a division rival that spent most of the game in the fetal position, plastering Washington with a 40-16 beatdown at FedEx Field. A team that had gone almost 2 1/2 full seasons without ever scoring 30 points in a game until a few weeks ago erupted for 34 by halftime and scored 27 in the second quarter alone.
A defense that had not been able to hold on to double-digit leads in the previous three contests chased Mark Sanchez from the game. Sanchez was so bad that he was replaced by Josh Johnson, a quarterback who hadn’t thrown an NFL pass since 2011 and was signed by the Redskins on Wednesday.
And all that occurred in a game in which the Giants were without Odell Beckham Jr. and Landon Collins.
“Everybody got a chance to shine today,” Shepard said. “It was a collective team effort. Everybody came in with the mindset that everyone was going to do this, and we were able to execute and get it done.”
The Giants improved to 5-8 with their fourth win in five games. More importantly, it kept their still-slim playoff hopes alive with three games to play. That chance did take a hit when the Cowboys beat the Eagles, eliminating the Giants from contention for the NFC East title, but they remain in the running for an NFC wild-card berth.
“Somebody will do the math,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “I’m just happy for our team. It’s rare that you have these types of wins.”
It was a stat-padding kind of day for the Giants. Eight defensive players had either part of a sack or a takeaway. Seven offensive players caught passes. Eli Manning completed 14 of 22 for 197 yards and three touchdowns before yielding the stage to backup Kyle Lauletta, who went 0-for-5 with an interception in his NFL debut.
No one piled up the numbers like Barkley, though. The rookie running back finished with 197 yards from scrimmage, 170 of those on 14 carries (including 159 on 10 carries in the first half). He topped 1,000 rushing yards for the season on a day when it felt as if he might be able to do it in a game if he played the entire day. It was the 12th time in 13 games that he posted at least 100 yards from scrimmage and the fourth straight game with at least 100 rushing.
“It seemed like a defensive game at first, like it was going to be a low-scoring game,” right tackle Chad Wheeler said. “And then out of nowhere I see Saquon 50 yards down the field a couple times. He just took off.”
His first explosive run came with the Giants already ahead 10-0, thanks to a 9-yard pick-6 by safety Curtis Riley and a field goal. On first-and-10 from the Giants' 22, Barkley took a handoff up the middle, then cut to the left behind a block from tackle Nate Solder while Shepard picked off the safety. From there, it was a relatively straight path to the end zone and a 78-yard touchdown run that made it 17-0.
The rout was on.
But it was far from over.
Alec Ogletree intercepted Sanchez and returned it 18 yards to the 10 to set up a 3-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Sterling Shepard. On the next series, Barkley had the 52-yard run – aided by Shepard’s block -- in which he took a toss left behind a block from Scott Simonson, juked Pro Bowl safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and was run out of bounds at the 6. Two plays later, Manning hit Bennie Fowler for a 6-yard touchdown and a 31-0 lead.
Barkley even added a one-handed catch in the third quarter on a drive that ended with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Russell Shepard, making it 40-0. Aldrick Rosas missed the extra point, his first miss of the season.
The Redskins replaced Sanchez with Johnson and scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns. They were 3 yards away from a third when Michael Thomas picked off a pass at the goal line with 4:24 left. The Giants never gave the ball back to Washington.
Sterling Shepard, who was in the middle of several very demonstrative celebrations both with teammates and by himself, was told that he seemed pretty fired up for this game.
“Man, I’m always like that,” he said. “That’s how I always am.”
He just hasn’t had many games like this one to display it.