Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Washington Redskins, December 24, 2005: This is another critically important game for the Giants. If Washington wins their last two games and the Giants lose their last two games, the Redskins will win the NFC East and the Giants may not make the playoffs.
The Redskins played their most impressive game of the season last Sunday in their blowout of the Dallas Cowboys. Toward the end of that game, their fans were shouting, “We want the Giants!”
Bring it on Washington. Let’s see what you got. Let the better team win.
Giants on Offense: The Washington Redskins’ defensive game plan cannot be anything different than this: stop Tiki Barber, particularly on the cutback run; make Eli Manning beat you.
If it is anything different than that, I’d be shocked.
Barber torched Greg Williams’ defense early this for 206 yards rushing. In 2004, Barber rushed for 42 yards (on 18 carries) and 38 yards (on 15 carries) against the Redskins’ defense. So there is precedent for both extremes, that is, Barber having a huge day and the Redskins almost completely shutting him down. It is doubtful that Barber will have anywhere near a 200 yard rushing game again. You’ve got to believe that Redskin defenders have been preached to all week about not getting burned on the cutback run like they did in the first game.
It looks like Luke Petitgout will be back at left tackle this week and David Diehl at left guard. Since Kareem McKenzie (hamstring) hasn’t practiced, expect Bob Whitfield to start at right tackle. This once-again re-mixed offensive line will have to deal with a very aggressive and confusing scheme that likes to both run and pass blitz. The Redskins’ defensive line is the healthiest it has been in some time and defensive tackles Cornelius Griffin and Joe Salave’a can be disruptive against the run. RDE Phillip Daniels is coming off a big game. LDE Renaldo Wynn will like face Whitfield, who does not have a lot of experience at right tackle.
If the Giants are going to win this game, the Giants’ offensive line, tight ends, fullback, and running backs will have to play a very physical and aggressive game. This is going to be an old-fashioned NFC East slugfest and the toughest and most determined team in running the football and stopping the run is going to win the game.
One of the big keys will be limiting the damage that LB Marcus Washington does. He is a play-maker against both the run and the pass. The Redskins love to send him on the blitz, where he is very effective.
If the running game struggles, which it very well could, then the Giants’ fate will be in the hands of Eli Manning. That’s bad news if he doesn’t get his head out of his ass and start hitting open receivers. He’s got to stop thinking so much and focus on delivering the football quickly and accurately to THE MAN THAT IS OPEN. Period. Keep it that simple. Easy progression – if Plaxico or Shockey are covered, dump it off to Tiki. Dump, dump, dump. Tiki will break it. If they cover Tiki, get it to Shockey. If Shockey is covered, get it to Plaxico. They can’t all be covered. I know the game is much more complicated than that, but I really think “Easy Eli” is pressing because he won’t just relax and play his game. Make some plays kid. Be consistent. It’s time. Your team needs you to step it up.
Giants on Defense: As I mentioned above, the team that runs the ball and stops the run will prevail. The bad news for the Giants is that they have been dreadful against the run the past two weeks. And the Redskins sure can run the football with HB Clinton Portis – much more effectively than when the Giants first faced them earlier this season. Making matters worse are the injuries: Pierce (out), Emmons (doubtful), Phifer (questionable + no clue about the Giants’ system and personnel). Torbor, Greisen, and Blackburn are not the most athletic group in the world and the Redskins are going to test them not only on the edges, but run right at them – just like Chiefs did. This is a scary match-up for New York.
Life can be made much easier for the linebackers if the defensive line shows up this week. Last week, they were practically invisible. Strahan will once again battle one of his toughest foes, RT Jon Jansen. DE Osi Umenyiora had a good game against Chris Samuels earlier in the season, but he was terrible last week. The Giants need him to rebound in a big way, particularly against the run. Inside, the Redskins will miss OG Randy Thomas, who suffered a broken ankle last week. The defensive tackles, particularly Clancy, need to take advantage of this. Be tough and physical. Get mean and nasty. The Redskins think you are soft – prove them wrong. Stuff that running game!
The keys to defending the Redskins’ passing attack are (1) watch out for the bootleg passes by Brunell (Patrick Ramsey burned the Giants with these in DC last year), (2) focus your secondary coverage on Santana Moss, particularly on the wide receiver screens (sure tackling is absolutely critical), and (3) cover TE/H-Back Chris Cooley. Moss is the big play man. He can beat you deep on a fly pattern or catch a short pass and break it on those wide receiver screens. But it is Cooley who keeps the drives alive and who scores in the red zone, along with TE Mike Sellers. Cooley and Sellers have a combined 12 touchdown receptions and both always seemed to get lost in traffic on the goal line. Shut down Moss and Cooley and you shut down the passing attack.
And if the Redskins are going to pull out a gadget play, this is the game to do it. The defense must be aggressive, but disciplined.
Giants on Special Teams: PK Jay Feely is going to be on the spot to hit pressure kicks in a hostile environment again.
Antonio Brown has given the Redskins a real spark as a returner, particularly on kickoffs. He can do a lot of damage. The Giants must keep him under control.
I have no idea what has happened to the Giants’ return game, but Chad Morton has a shot here to hurt his former team. Let’s give the guy some room to operate! It’s time for that wedge to start creating some big lanes for Morton…let’s see the big guys up front knock some folks out of the way.