EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Washington Redskins receiver James Thrash picked himself up off the turf, balled his fist and flung it wildly toward the ground after his 46-yard completion from quarterback Brad Johnson early in the second quarter of last night's game against the New York Giants.
He wasn't showing up the defensive back. Just expressing relief that a missing piece from last year's explosive offense had returned.
A play later, the Redskins made sure everyone knew their big-play capabality was definitely back. Johnson, who has taken the brunt of the criticism for the Redskins' ineffective offense this season, hit Irving Fryar for a 23-yard touchdown to put the Redskins up 7-0 with 12 minutes left in the second quarter.
Before the final gun sounded, the Redskins' had five more plays of over 19 yards and a 16-6 win over the New York Giants in front of 78,216 last night at Giants Stadium.
"Our receivers came up with some huge grabs," Johnson said. "The biggest difference is that we got some individual matchups. The receivers got open.
"I haven't worried about what has happened the past few weeks. I've made some good reads, some good throws. When we've had mistakes, they've been bad."
The convincing win relieved many of the doubts some Redskins' players expressed last week. More specifically, those two pass plays in the second quarter answered questions about the offense - at least for now.
"Most of the one-on-one situations, I think I can win," Thrash said. "Big-time."
The two receptions served as the longest back-to-back passing plays this season. In fact, the Redskins' (2-2) longest pass play of the year before those two was only 26 yards.
"Brad, I don't think looked downfield more than he has," Redskins coach Norv Turner said. "I think we got some things up the field, from a coverage standpoint, we haven't been getting."
But the deep ball returned last night. On the Redskins' possession after the touchdown, Johnson hit wide receiver Albert Connell down the middle of the field for 48 yards, to the Giants' 17.
That play helped set up a 25-yard Michael Husted field goal that put the Redskins up 10-0 with just over six minutes left in the half.
The first-half netted just 10 points, but it did stop any thoughts of Turner turning to backup quarterback Jeff George, as had been speculated he would do if the offense struggled.
Johnson went 8-of-11 for 158 yards in the half, but more importantly, did not toss any interceptions. He looked a little more like the quarterback that threw for 4,005 yards in the Redskins' second-ranked offense last season. Johnson finished 14-of-20 for 289 yards and two touchdowns.
Connell finished with four catches for 122 yards.
"I don't think we had been consistent across the board," Johnson said. "I know I haven't. I felt like we could take it to another level. For the last six months it seems like people had been pointing the finger at me. I play with passion. I love to play. I work hard. Whatever happens, happens. I feel like over my career, I've had more good days then bad."
Last night was definitely a good one, as it was for the Redskins' defense.
The Giants (3-1) combo of Tiki Barber and Ron Dayne had moderate success running the ball, gaining 55 yards between the two in the first half. Washington did, however, force New York into four third-and-long situations in the first half.
The Giants' crowd sounded much like the one at FedEx Field last week with its displeasure of the offense's performance. Then Johnson and the offense silenced them further with a little more than a minute gone in the second half.
Johnson again went deep to Connell, who made a leaping catch down the sideline, fell down, got up and finally was tackled at the Giants' 21 for a 53-yard completion.
A play later, Johnson hit Andre Reed for a 21-yard touchdown pass to put the Redskins up 16-0. Husted missed the extra point.
"You can say what you want, I'm just going out there playing ball," Connell said. "I don't look at it as us having a breakout game. Just playing ball."
Then the Redskins' defense used New York's ball-control offense against it. The Giants went on an 13-play drive that ate up over five minutes off the clock and netted no points midway through the third quarter.
The key play came on a third-and-nine from the Redskins' 39 when defensive end Kenard Lang sacked Giants quarterback Kerry Collins for an 11-yard loss. New York punted, and the Redskins marched down to the Giants' 12 behind Davis' legs.
Husted missed a 30-yard kick but the Redskins' chewed the remaining four mintues off the third quarter and a couple off the fourth.
It forced the Giants into an all-pass mode, which moved them from their 20 to the Redskins' 23 rather quickly. But with eight minutes remaining, Collins tried to force a pass into Ike Hilliard in the end zone, which allowed Deion Sanders to make his first interception as a Redskin.
Sanders brought the ball out 32 yards, ending any threat of a Giants' comeback and sending many of the fans home early. The Giants scored a late touchdown on a 7-yard Collins-to-Hilliard pass but failed on the two-point conversion.
Washington 0 10 6 0 - 16
N.Y. Giants 0 0 0 6 - 6
Second quarter Was-Fryar 23 pass from B.Johnson (Husted kick), 12:33. Was-FG Husted 25, 6:27. Third quarter Was-Reed 21 pass from B.Johnson (kick failed), 13:06. Fourth quarter NYG-Hilliard 7 pass from Collins (run failed), 2:25. A-78,216.
First downs 17 21
Rushes-yards 39-110 22-93
Passing 284 168
Punt Returns 3-15 1-6
Kickoff Returns 1-00 4-64
Interceptions Ret. 1-32 0-0
Comp-Att-Int 14-20-0 21-44-1
Sacked-Yards Lost 1-5 4-42
Punts 5-34.6 8-42.1
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 0-0
Penalties-Yards 4-25 6-59
Time of Possession 31:22 28:38
Rushing-Washington, Davis 30-89, Murrell 5-22, Sellers 1-2, B.Johnson 3-(minus 3). New York, T.Barber 16-65, Dayne 5-23, Toomer 1-5. Passing-Washington, B.Johnson 14-20-0-289. New York, Collins 21-44-1-210. Receiving-Washington, Connell 4-122, Reed 4-37, Fryar 2-32, Alexander 2-28, Thrash 1-46, Sellers 1-24. New York, Hilliard 7-85, T.Barber 6-41, Toomer 3-31, Comella 2-11, Mitchell 1-18, Dixon 1-14, Jurevicius 1-10. Missed field goal-Washington, Husted 30 (WR).