LANDOVER, Md. -- This was how the New York Giants played when they were starting 5-0, back when they looked like a solid Super Bowl contender.
The dominant version of the Giants showed itself again Monday night, only this time as a desperate team clinging to its playoff hopes.
The Giants controlled every facet of the game in a 45-12 rout that wasn't as close as even that margin of victory would indicate, embarrassing a Washington Redskins coach and team that failed miserably in an attempt to make a good first impression for its new general manager.
"We felt we can play at that caliber that we were playing at the beginning of the year," said Ahmad Bradshaw, who ran for two first-half touchdowns. "We came out fired up. This was a must-win. I told everybody before we went out: 'I need the whole team to come with us.' And that's how we played -- together."
The Giants (8-6) don't control their destiny, but they moved one game behind Dallas and Green Bay in the race for wild-card spots with two weeks remaining in the regular season. A loss would have left New York with only the faintest of postseason hopes.
"We were the team that had more at stake, obviously -- and played that way," New York coach Tom Coughlin said. "We always talk about being the team that demonstrates greater purpose. And we did."
In theory, the Redskins (4-10) should have had a great purpose -- a desire to put on a good show for Bruce Allen, hired on Thursday in a major front office shake-up. Instead, they did a good job of showing Allen that maybe everyone ought to be fired.
"You've got a new boss to impress," cornerback DeAngelo Hall said. "This is an audition. These last couple of games is an audition. Bruce Allen pretty much got a head start on evaluating talent. If he looks at what he saw today, he'll scrap this whole thing."
Redskins coach Jim Zorn didn't do much to help whatever slim chances he had of returning next season. Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth sounded ready to cast a vote for someone else.
"I don't think really this team is that bad. The players ain't that bad," said Haynesworth, who drew a personal foul for throwing a haymaker at Brandon Jacobs in the fourth quarter. "The score, the record, [they] say that we're horrible, that we don't know how to play football. But I've been around these guys a lot and I think they know how to play football. I think we're just all going in different directions, and we need somebody to lead us in the right direction."
Eli Manning played seven possessions before taking an early seat in the fourth quarter. New York scored on six of them. He completed 19 of 26 passes for 268 yards and three touchdowns. His 26 scoring passes this season are a career high.
The Giants marched downfield at will to take a 24-0 halftime lead. At one point in the second quarter, they held a 226 to minus-2 advantage in total yards, a 16-0 dominance in first downs, and the time of possession gap was roughly 21 minutes to 4½. The Redskins went three-and-out on their first three possessions, finally got a first down on the fourth, then tried to pull a ridiculous-looking fake field goal on the fifth -- a play that produced a Giants interception to end the half.
Even when the Redskins scored their first touchdown -- with the game already out of reach in the third quarter -- the Giants blocked the extra point.
The Giants defense, with its habit of giving up big plays, had largely been the culprit as the team lost six of eight games to waste the 5-0 start. The unit was stout, however, against the Redskins -- even with defensive backs Corey Webster and Aaron Ross inactive with injuries.
"They came out ready, and played awesome," Manning said. "They kept giving us the ball and we kept going down and scoring. We just set the mood for the night very early."
Terrell Thomas got his fifth interception of the season and turned it into his first NFL touchdown with a 14-yard runback. Osi Umenyiora temporarily forced Jason Campbell out of the game late in the first half with one of five sacks by five players. Campbell sprained a shoulder on the play but returned to start the second half.
Bradshaw had touchdown runs of 3 and 4 yards and was greeted both times with snowballs thrown from the stands. The Redskins had to remove an estimated 25 million pounds of snow from the stadium and their parking lots just so the game could be played two days after a historic East Coast storm.
The Giants took the opening kickoff and drove 80 yards in 16 plays. The second drive was 63 yards in 11 plays.
The holes were there even though the offensive line was a patchwork job. Right tackle Kareem McKenzie missed the game with a left knee injury, so rookie Will Beatty got the start. Left guard Rich Seubert limped off with a right knee injury after Bradshaw's first touchdown run; he was replaced by Kevin Boothe.
"We ascended tonight," Coughlin said, "and we have to continue to do that."