EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Fifty-seven million dollars didn't buy the Washington Redskins what they really needed: the New York Giants' defense.
All-Pro Michael Strahan scored on a 24-yard interception return as the Giants' opportunistic defense either scored or set up three third-quarter touchdowns in a 31-24 win over the error-prone Redskins on Sunday.
The Redskins, second to the NFC champion Giants last season, were picked by many experts to dethrone New York after spending $57 million to shore up the middle of their defense with tackles Dana Stubblefield and Dan Wilkinson.
They helped, but the Giants defense made more big plays, recording eight sacks and intercepting consecutive passes from Gus Frerotte early in the second half to set up two quick touchdowns for a 24-10 lead.
One of the sacks forced Frerotte out of the game in the third quarter with a sprained left shoulder. Third-string quarterback Trent Green, who got to play because backup Jeff Hostetler has a knee injury, came on and completed 17 of 25 passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns to twice get Washington within seven points.
Green got Washington to the New York 38 in the final minutes before the Giants held.
Danny Kanell (15-of-28 for 159 yards) threw two touchdowns for the Giants, who had the NFL's best takeaway turnover ratio last season at plus 25.
Conrad Hamilton, filling in for the injured Jason Sehorn at right cornerback, started the Giants' big third quarter, grabbing the rebound of a pass tipped by fellow corner Phillippi Sparks and returning it to the 2. Fullback Charles Way scored on the next play.
Frerotte, whose shoulder was hurt on a block by Sparks, returned the next series, only to be intercepted by Strahan less than a minute later.
A 62-yard pass from Green to Michael Westbrook set up a 4-yard scoring pass to Larry Bowie, cutting the lead to 24-17.
However, New York regained the 14-point lead just before the quarter ended on a 22-yard scoring pass from Kanell to Amani Toomer. It came one play after Keith Hamilton recovered Green's fumble following a sack by Christian Peter.
Washington closed to 31-24 in the fourth quarter on 1-yard TD pass from Green to Stephen Alexander, a drive set up by Jesse Campbell's interception.
Washington took a 7-0 lead on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Frerotte to Leslie Shepherd. Brad Daluiso cut the margin 7-3 with a 35-yard field goal.
Scott Blanton stretched to lead to 10-3 with a 46-yard field goal before New York tied the game just before halftime on a 5-yard TD pass from Kanell to Chris Calloway. The touchdown came on a drive where Washington blew a coverage on a 45-yard pass and then had an interception nullified by a holding penalty.
The Redskins also hurt themselves with an offensive holding penalty in the first half, one that nullified a touchdown pass to Westbrook with Washington ahead 7-3.