Everything goes stunningly right in Giants’ destruction of Redskins

LANDOVER, Md. — At the start of the fourth quarter, it was not Eli Manning on the field, in the huddle and directing the Giants on offense. It was rookie Kyle Lauletta going against the Redskins’ defense Sunday at FedEx Field.

The Giants were thrilled. So was Eli.

Lauletta made his NFL debut not because Manning was struggling or the Giants were laboring. Far from it. Manning, thanks greatly to rookie sensation Saquon Barkley, did more than enough in the first three quarters to warrant a break, instructed to take the rest of the game off.

Manning, with star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. injured and not on the trip, fired three touchdown passes, Barkley ran for 170 yards on just 14 rushing attempts and did not step foot on the field in the fourth quarter. He did plenty, though, in building a 40-0 lead that ended up being an easy 40-16 rout, giving the Giants their first victory of the season against an NFC East opponent.

It was the fourth win in the last five games for the Giants (5-8) and this one put on display a team playing its best against a sagging team playing its worst. The Redskins (6-7) lost their fourth consecutive game to continue their fall after losing quarterbacks Alex Smith and backup Colt McCoy.

This means the Giants this weekend cannot be eliminated from playoff contention — at least not mathematically. If the Cowboys beat the Eagles later Sunday afternoon, the Giants are eliminated from winning the NFC East and their on-respirator postseason hopes would rest on getting an NFC wild-card berth. Do not bet on that either, as the Giants do not match up well in any tiebreakers with the Falcons and Panthers, teams that beat the Giants earlier this season.

If the Eagles defeat the Cowboys, the Giants would be two games behind the Cowboys and Eagles with three games to play.

Lauletta did not complete a pass, going 0-for-5 with one interception.

With Beckham sitting home watching, left behind because of a bruised quad muscle, Barkley took over. By halftime, he had 159 rushing yards, including a 78-yard touchdown sprint and a 52-yard run in which the rookie running backs ran to his right, cut to his left and used a downfield block from Sterling Shepard on cornerback Josh Norman — wonder if Shepard whispered “Odell says hi’’ as he nailed Norman?

Barkley came into his 13th NFL game needing 56 yards to reach 1,000. He had it well before halftime as he continues make the Giants look good for taking him with the No. 2 pick in the 2018 draft.

The Giants led 7-0 after one quarter, 34-0 at halftime and 40-0 after three quarters. The Giants actually did not score on their first three offensive possessions and Manning was getting harassed and pressured by Ryan Kerrigan. It was merely a momentary delay in the festivities for the Giants. Manning finished 14-of-22 for 197 yards and touchdown passes to Sterling Shepard, Bennie Fowler and Russell Shepard.

The Redskins did not cross into Giants territory or convert a third down (they were 0-for-8) until late in the third quarter, after poor Mark Sanchez was replaced by Josh Johnson. Sanchez had been 6 of 14 for 38 yards and two interceptions — one returned by safety Curtis Riley for a touchdown — and was sacked five times for a passer rating of 10.7. He was bad, his blocking was worse and his teammates did nothing to help him with several drops. Knowing the Redskins would not lean too heavily on Sanchez, the Giants loaded up against Adrian Peterson and limited him to 16 yards on 10 rushing attempts. Peterson had a 12-yard run and only four yards on his other nine carries.

Sanchez was mercifully pulled after getting sacked twice on the first series of the fourth quarter. Journeyman Johnson, signed last week, led the Redskins to two touchdown drives.

Without Beckham, Barkley took matters into his own hands. And legs. His start was not auspicious — his first reception lost three yards and he dropped the next one thrown his way — only his second dropped pass of the season. After that, he was, quite simply, too much for the Redskins to handle. Remember when general manager Dave Gettleman said Barkley “was touched by the hand of God’’ after taking Barkley with the No. 2 pick in the draft? Well, Barkley was touched by the hand of no one on a stunning fast (12 seconds) 78-yard touchdown run that made it 17-0 with 8:54 remaining in the second quarter.

Barkley got a step thanks to a block by Nate Solder and caught the Redskins with safety O.J. Swearinger on a blitz. As he reached full cruising speed, Barkley’s motion was so piston-like perfect his shoulders never moved as he traversed the final 30 yards.

For the second consecutive week, the Giants’ defense reached the end zone and scored before its offensive counterpart. Unlike last week, when Alec Ogletree’s interception and touchdown return came on the opening series, this time it took until the fourth defensive series to put up points. Thanks to a 49-yard punt by Riley Dixon, the Redskins were pinned back on their 1-yard line when Kareem Martin got a hand on a Sanchez pass intended for Michael Floyd. The slight deflection sent the ball directly to Riley, who caught it in front of teammate Michael Thomas and then took a casual 9-yard stroll into the end zone to make it 7-0.

Manning dropped an absolutely perfect pass into the hands of Corey Coleman on the left sideline for a 30-yard gain to the Washington 3-yard line. Kerrigan, again showing he is too tough for second-year right tackle Chad Wheeler to handle, raced in for a 14-yard sack and the Giants had to take an Aldrick Rosas 35-yard field goal to take a 10-0 lead.

By the end, Lauletta was in the game and finishing up. His first NFL pass was not hauled in by Russell Shepard and his second was late and behind Russell Shepard and intercepted by linebacker Mason Foster.

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