Defense Leads Way As Giants Roll Redskins, 23-17

Defensive brilliance, offensive ups-and-downs in Giants win

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    Expectations are a funny thing. If you come into a game with hopes of winning but no real reason to believe you can, a flawed 23-17 victory over a mediocre team will only be remembered for the good things. If you've got designs on going to the playoffs and the Super Bowl, though, it's hard to focus on the positives.

    The Giants are in the latter position which makes today's win against the Washington Redskins something of a mixed bag. We'll start with the unequivocally good. The 23-17 score is deceiving because of a late Washington touchdown. The game wasn't that close and the Giants never let the game out of their control after kicking a field goal on the opening drive.

    Whatever worries there were about the defense because of injuries and grumblings of unhappiness about new coordinator Bill Sheridan are not worth worrying about. The Giants dominated the Redskins from the outset, with Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora teaming up to make life miserable for Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell. The best moment for the defense came followin an Eli Manning interception in the third quarter. The 'Skins had the ball on the 11-yard-line, but Tuck tackled Clinton Portis for a big loss and sacked Campbell to force a field goal. There wasn't much doubt after that point.

    No team in the NFL has enough blockers to assure that both men are taken out of offensive plays, and that is going to make the Giants very hard to score on this season. That's a good thing, because there are still some questions about the offense following their opening performance.

    Eli Manning's stats -- 20 for 29, 256 yards, 1 touchdown -- look very good, but Tom Coughlin is likely to concentrate on other numbers when the team meets to talk about the game. He's going to point out that the Giants only gained 14 yards in the third quarter when they could have put the game safely in their pocket, he's going to point out that the team made three trips into the red zone and didn't score a touchdown and he's going to point out Manning's two turnovers before he starts handing out any lollipops.

    Finally, he'll point out that Brandon Jacobs only managed 46 yards on 16 carries against a Redskins defense that loaded up the box with defenders to stop him. Ahmad Bradshaw had more success, but defenses are going to make Manning keep proving he can put up strong games and kicking field goals might not be enough when teams better than Washington are on the other sideline.

    Still, whether you see the glass half-full or half-empty, the Giants proved they are a good team on Sunday. There are at least 15 more games to figure out how good and how many of those expectations they reach.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.