Inside the beltway, the blame will certainly fall on Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, because that’s just how it works.
But the Giants coming back for a 24-17 win over the Redskins had much more to do with defensive end Justin Tuck showing up for the Giants.
In the first half, Griffin sat comfortably in the pocket, throwing short passes safely.
But when Tuck began his siege on Griffin in the second half, collecting 4.0 sacks, all that changed.
As things began to get hurried, Griffin looked less and less sharp. And as he frayed, so did the Redskins’ chances.
The 5-7 Giants haven’t been consistently anything this season, and Tuck is on that list. He had 2.5 sacks entering the game.
That kind of now-you-see-it performance is why so many were willing to believe New York’s four-game winning streak was a sign of something greater.
They have individual talent scattered across the roster, but too much of it sat dormant for too much of the year, which explains how such a group could lose six in a row.
Here are five more things we learned during Sunday Night Football:
1. No one’s happier about the Redskins season than Rams coach Jeff Fisher.
Because with every loss, that pick they’re getting from the Redskins in exchange for Griffin gets better and better.
With the Redskins sitting at 3-9, only the Texans have a worse record. That leaves four weeks for them to jockey with the Falcons and Jaguars and Buccaneers and Vikings for a top-five pick they won’t even get to enjoy.
That’s money for nothing for Fisher and Rams General Manager Les Snead, who collected their bounty two years ago.
2. Not many players have had worse contract years than Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks.
After staying away from much of the offseason work in hopes of a deal that never came, he missed his first game last week. He still hasn’t played 16 games in a season, and he hasn’t been productive this year.
He had caught 42 passes for 620 yards (and no touchdowns) entering Sunday, and added two receptions for 34 yards. He’s fairly well off the radar at this point, with Rueben Randle transitioning into his old role already.
3. It’s not the first thing you think of in terms of the Redskins salary cap penalties, but the biggest impact might have been on their special teams.
That’s where depth and experienced backups can make a big difference, and the Redskins don’t have enough of them.
So as tempting as it might be to make special teams coach Keith Burns a scapegoat, it’s hard to blame him alone for all the problems. He probably didn’t instruct the injury replacement long snapper to dribble one to Sav Rocca.
Although, if they need a replacement kicker, Pierre Garcon might be able to help.
4. The Giants have plenty of problems that won’t be solved until the offseason, but they may have accidentally found an answer to one.
By taking Jon Beason’s contract off the hands of the Panthers for a seventh-round pick, the Giants have found a productive linebacker with a knack for the kind of leadership they need.
After a round of injuries with the Panthers (which kicked in right after a lucrative contract extension) and the drafting of Luke Kuechly, Beason was a man without a home. The Panthers tried him outside, but his ability and his instincts are those of a middle linebacker.
Beason’s not the same player he once was, lacking the same sideline-to-sideline burst he once had. But if allowed to play in an alley, something the Giants can offer but the Panthers couldn’t, he can still be more than a serviceable replacement.
His contract was restructured to void after the season, but with some former Miami teammates in place and something to prove, it probably wouldn’t be hard to convince Beason to hang around.
5. The Giants have plowed through six starting running backs this year, but their inability to establish an identity has more to do with the absences up front.
They’ve struggled to keep a healthy five in front of Manning all year, with Chris Snee and David Baas on IR, and then even promising replacement Jim Cordle joined them.
Of course, paying left tackle Will Beatty only to see him abused by Brian Orakpo all night doesn’t help.
But when an offense is collapsing from the inside out, there’s no surprise that they’ve struggled as a team.