Approach to the Game – Washington Redskins at New York Giants, December 16, 2007: The Giants have been in this position before. Facing a key game in December before the regular season finale that would put them in the playoffs or win the division, they have floundered. And it’s occurred each of the previous two seasons under Tom Coughlin.
In 2005, coming off an impressive three-game winning streak where they beat the Cowboys, Eagles, and Chiefs, the Giants traveled to Washington and got clobbered by the Redskins 35-20. The loss forced the Giants to win the following week on New Year’s eve in Oakland to win the NFC East.
In 2006, the Giants had beaten an injury-riddled Panthers team on December 10th. Despite being only 7-6, one or two wins at this point would have assured the Giants a playoff spot in the mediocre NFC. But the Giants lost to the Eagles and Saints and once again were faced with missing the playoffs had they not won in the last game of the regular season.
Everyone knows who the Giants face this season in the regular season finale. The Giants and their fans don’t want it to get to that point.
Get it done. Make it easier on yourself Giants. And please make it easier on us for once.
Giants on Offense: I’ve harped on it before, I’ll harp on it again – the Giants need to start scoring more points again. The days where the Giants were putting up 30+ points on the board in October are long gone. In their last six games, the Giants have averaged just over 17 points a game. There are many reasons for this – injuries at wide receiver and halfback, turnovers, and weather to name a few. Whatever the reason, the Giants will make every game difficult and struggle the remainder of this season if they don’t start scoring more.
Let’s be frank. The Redskins are not a very good football team. But they are a good defensive football team that is exceptionally well-coached on that side of the football. Offensive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride hit the nail on the head on Thursday when he said:
“Well they do a great job defensively of coming after you and mixing things up. They are very aggressive. And so what usually happens is they make it very difficult to be as consistent as you would like to because they are constantly gambling and taking chances. So what you have got to do is when those chances show up, you have to make sure that you take advantage of them because there will be some opportunities in the game where we are going to have a chance to make a play.”
That’s it in a nutshell. The Redskins will come after you, but in doing so, they will take chances. You’ve got to make them pay. This not only means in the passing game, but also in the running game. That’s why Tiki Barber has had some huge games against the Redskins.
The problem is that the weather is supposed to be a mess on Sunday night. Not only cold, but a winter mix and high winds. It won’t be ideal throwing weather. The Redskins will likely crowd the line of scrimmage against Brandon Jacobs and dare the Giants’ passing game to beat them. If my assumptions are correct, then the Giants face a dilemma. Do they play into the Redskins’ defensive tactics, assume that the offensive line and Jacobs can out-muscle the Redskins up front, and attempt to pound the football down their throats? Or do the Giants accept the challenge and attempt to throw the football despite the cold, precipitation, and wind? Obviously the Giants will run and pass, but do they take some shots down the field? Will they be able to take some shots down the field? In my opinion, if the weather is foul and the Giants do pass the ball, they have to get the tight ends and backs more involved in the passing game this week. Short, quick passes. Don’t let the ball hang up there in the wind. The Giants can also use short routes with the wide receivers such as slants and curls. I do get the feeling that Sinorice Moss is on the verge of a big run after the catch.
Despite the death of Sean Taylor, the Redskins still are pretty talented in the back seven on defense. Left corner Shawn Springs is a quality corner. Right corner Fred Smoot is playing much better than he did in Minnesota. Rookie safety LaRon Landry is going to be a very good player for a long time. He can hit. The linebacking corps of Marcus Washington, London Fletcher, and Rocky McIntosh is one of the best in the NFL. They are productive, aggressive, and will come after you.
That all said, I think I would take the macho approach and pound the football. These late-season Giants-Redskins games in bad weather simply demand a huge dose of the running game. The Redskins are not as strong up front. Their best defensive lineman – Cornelius Griffin – was sick earlier this week. Left end Phillip Daniels (knee) is ailing. Get a hat on a hat and drive them into the turf. If Brandon is truly rounding back into form after his hamstring injury, the Skins won’t want to see him 30 times. Obviously, Jacobs has to hold onto the football because Washington will be trying to pry it loose given his fumble issues.
Giants on Defense: The Redskins are not a good offensive football team. That said, this game is a little bit scary for the Giants’ defense because of the unknown capability of reserve QB Todd Collins, who is the new starter with the knee injury to QB Jason Campbell. Collins was extremely impressive off of the bench last week, completing 15-of-20 passes for 224 yards, 2 touchdowns, and no interceptions. That’s about as good as it gets. Collins actually is probably a more dangerous quarterback than Campbell (if he were healthy) at this point in time because Collins came from Kansas City and is very familiar with Offensive Coordinator Al Saunder’s offense. That will enable the Redskins to open up more of the playbook and do some things the Giants haven’t seen on tape yet. The unknown is scary.
Obviously, the same considerations we talked about on the other side of the ball apply here. In bad weather, the Redskins will attempt to run the football. Stop the run and make them one dimensional. If Washington can’t run, they will be in trouble. The Redskins’ offensive line is a hodgepodge right now. Michael Strahan will be facing an undrafted rookie free agent – Stephon Heyer. Jason Fabini has been a fill-in at right guard for the injured Randy Thomas. Obviously, the Skins will have to slide their protection and/or keep in an extra man to help out Heyer. If so, DE Osi Umenyiora has to make Washington pay by winning his one-on-one match-ups against LT Chris Samuels. Samuels is having a good season. The two guys who will really have to stand their ground against the run inside are DT Fred Robbins and DT Barry Cofield. If the Giants can’t stop the inside running game, they will be the ones in trouble.
When the Redskins do put the football up, it’s all about defending H-Back Chris Cooley. He has almost 60 catches and seven touchdowns. He keeps the chains moving for Washington. WR Santana Moss has been hampered all year with injury issues but is starting to flash some of his old self. Tackling him after the catch is critically important.
Watch out for the trick play. This game is the Redskins’ season. If they lose, they are likely out. Because they last played on a Thursday, Washington has had extra time to prepare for this game. WR Antwaan Randle El has taken snaps at quarterback this week in practice. He’s a former college QB that can throw the football. HB Clinton Portis can also be used on the option pass. Be careful Giants!
Lastly, let’s get some turnovers. The Giants haven’t been getting a lot of picks or fumble recoveries lately. Let’s win the turnover battle and give the offense a short field to work on.
Giants on Special Teams: The biggest worry is Antwaan Randle El. His return late in the game in the first Giants-Redskins contest this season almost proved disastrous. Rock Cartwright is a decent kick returner too.
The Redskins do an excellent job of covering kickoffs, allowing less than 20 yards a return. Ahmad Bradshaw and his blockers will have their work cut out for them.