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LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — The New York Giants caught 32 passes. Twenty-eight were thrown by Eli Manning, and four came from the arm of Kirk Cousins.
Manning is starting to find his rhythm in new coordinator Ben McAdoo's offense, while Cousins is sinking fast as the placeholder for Robert Griffin III. Manning's four touchdown passes equaled Cousins' four interceptions Thursday night in the Giants' 45-14 win over the Washington Redskins.
After struggling in his first two games, Manning has mastered enough of the West Coast dink-and-dunk to lead the Giants (2-2) to consecutive victories. He is supposed to complete 70 percent of his passes in this offense, and he surpassed that mark against the Redskins, going 28 for 39 — including three simple open-field drops — for 300 yards with one interception.
"When he's locked in like that," said Giants wideout Victor Cruz, who had six catches for 108 yards, "when he understands exactly what's coming to him, when he's throwing the ball all over the field and getting first downs as they come, moving the ball, I think it's just indicative of how he sees the field and sees the game. And it was good to see him like that."
Manning's quarterback rating in the Giants' first two games was 69.2. Since then, it's 119.9.
The top beneficiary has been Larry Donnell, who had similar, twisting touchdown catches of 5, 6 and 6 yards. The 6-foot-6 tight end finished with seven catches for 54 yards. He had only one career touchdown catch entering the game, but he now leads the Giants this season in TD catches (four) and overall receptions (25).
Not bad for a second-year player who wasn't drafted out of Grambling State.
"You set your goals high," Donnell said. "I didn't expect it to come so quick, but it has."
Cousins, who has the starting job while Griffin recovers from a dislocated ankle, was responsible for five of Washington's six turnovers. He went 19 for 33 for 257 yards with four interceptions and a fumble.
"On certain routes, he was staring down his targets," Giants cornerback Antrel Rolle said.
Here are some other noteworthy takeaways from the Giants' highest scoring day since December 2012:
WHAT IT MEANS: The loser of this game was going to fall 2 1/2 games behind the unbeaten Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East, a big hole even for this early in the season.
"That was the whole thing, to be able to leave here tonight and be 2-2 and 1-0 in the division. That was huge," New York coach Tom Coughlin said. "It's exciting to be in the hunt."
SLAP OR KNOCKOUT?: First-year coach Jay Gruden called the performance by his Redskins (1-3) "abysmal," ''a total team debacle," and a "slap in the face." Safety Brandon Meriweather's take? "I don't know if I'd use the word 'slap.' It's more like a knockout."
The hard-to-believe part is that some Redskins spoke about feeling good about the quality of their team heading into Thursday — even though they had won four of their preceding 19 games.
"We know we have a good team, but we've got to show up every day. We didn't show up today. It's good that this happened to us," running back Alfred Morris said. "Like, 'We're good, but we're not as good as we think we are.'"
TURNOVERS MATTER: Manning's progress helps, but the Giants also are winning because they are taking away the ball. They created zero turnovers in the 0-2 start; they've had nine in the 2-0 resurgence.
MORE PAIN FOR WASHINGTON: Things won't get any easier for Washington, which next faces the reigning Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks on Oct. 6. And the injuries keep accumulating: Left tackle Trent Williams (knee), tight end Niles Paul (concussion) and defensive lineman Jarvis Jenkins (bruised ribs) left Thursday's game.
SIMMS ON CBS: Phil Simms referred awkwardly to "the Washington team" early during the CBS broadcast of the game, and the TV analyst slipped and said "Redskins" in the fourth quarter before correcting himself. Otherwise, his decision to avoid the NFL club's nickname was not very conspicuous. Simms first told The Associated Press last month that he would refer to the team only as "Washington" while on the air.
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