Streak: Giants, two games
Last time Giants 23, Redskins 9, Oct. 7, 2001 at Giants Stadium. The Redskins were in this one until the fourth quarter — through no fault of their own. Mistakes and miscues by both teams had the game knotted at nine until the Giants scored the only offensive touchdown of the game on a 1-yard pass to tight end Dan Campbell with 13 minutes remaining. Giants corner Jason Sehorn added another TD late in the game on a 34-yard interception return. The numbers weren't pretty for the Skins: 57 yards rushing, 181 total yards, 1 for 13 on third down (8 percent conversion rate), four sacks allowed, two interceptions, five fumbles (three lost).
Overview New York entered the season having displayed the same formula it used last year to reach the Super Bowl: a strong defense mixed with a good-enough offense. Which is exactly how the Giants defeated Washington in their first meeting. New York is like a finesse pitcher in baseball: the Giants leave opponents thinking they could have won. Yet they didn't. That's because New York does enough things well at the right time. Like intercepting timely passes, as the Giants did in their 23-9 win over Washington in Week 4. But the offense still needs to match last year's productivity.
The return of running back Tiki Barber would help, giving New York a versatile threat. He would take pressure off quarterback Kerry Collins to always look downfield. If nothing else, the Giants have been tested. They've already played on the road at Denver, Kansas City and St. Louis — only a last-minute fumble prevented a win at the Rams — and they've hosted Philadelphia and New Orleans. That's four likely playoff teams and a fifth, Kansas City, who's always tough at home. With upcoming games against Washington, Dallas and Arizona, the Giants are ready to start their playoff run.
Giants on offense The Giants will never make anyone forget St. Louis with its offense. They win ugly, which means ball-control and not many points. Sure beats losing ugly. But they are consistent, ranking 19th overall—16th rushing the ball and 22nd passing it. New York tried to hammer running back Ron Dayne at Washington in the first game, but it hardly worked as Dayne didn't even average three yards a carry. Dayne dropped weight and is quicker, but he still stutter steps through holes way too much for a bigger back. But Damon Washington nearly gained 100 yards in the second half of that game. Tiki Barber didn't play and his presence will make a difference.
The Giants' passing game has sputtered thanks to quarterback Kerry Collins' struggles. Too often he tries to force passes to receivers, rather than settle for dumpoffs and short gains. He's making poor decisions and, at times, even worse throws. Collins had only completed 55 percent of his passes entering the Eagles game and had a QB rating of 73.7, hardly the stuff of champions. But he started slow last season en route to a strong finish. Collins hasn't looked for the tight ends much, which is unusual for a Giants quarterback. But give Collins credit for this: all six of his touchdowns have come on third down, when his rating jumps to 99.7, good for third in the NFC. No other quarterback, in either conference, had thrown more than four touchdowns.
Receiver Joe Jurevicius has finally broken through with 21 catches through five games, matching teammate Amani Toomer, who caught seven passes for 93 yards in the first meeting. Both can make big plays downfield, thanks to size and athleticism. Receiver Ike Hilliard is a solid third-down wideout, who was slowed by injuries earlier this season. He, too, can make plays downfield.
Fullback Greg Comella is another threat, as the Redskins discovered in the first game when he grabbed three passes for 30 yards. Injuries have led to inconsistency along the line and are one reason Collins was sacked 13 times through five games. But guard Glenn Parker's return will help stablize the line, though his replacement, Jason Whittle, played well against Washington. The Giants love to run to their right side, more so than most teams — which is one reason Redskins end Kenard Lang was so active in the first game. That means going behind guard Ron Stone and tackle Luke Petitgout, who has struggled at times. Stone is an excellent guard. Center Dusty Zeigler is a good athlete while left tackle Lomas Brown, 38, has shown he can still pass block.
Key Matchup: Redskins LBs vs. Giants RBs.
In the first game, Washington's linebackers played their best game of the season, especially MLB Kevin Mitchell and SLB LaVar Arrington. They'll need a similar effort. Mitchell stuffed the middle and Arrington made plays all over the field. But the guy on the hot seat will be WLB Antonio Pierce, who will be responsible at times for covering Tiki Barber. If Pierce can't handle him, it will be a long day.
How to beat Giants' offense: Washington managed to stop the Giants' offense in its first meeting by slowing the running game. The Redskins must do it again. New York rushed for 142 yards, but needed 46 carries to do so and it only scored 16 points. The Giants will try to pound the ball again, given the injuries along Washington's line. Even if Marco Coleman and Bruce Smith return, they'll test the Redskins up front. But Washington must stop the run without using much safety help. Otherwise, Toomer and Jurevicius will hurt them deep.
Offensive player to watch Running back Tiki Barber Ht.: 5-10 Wt.: 200
Injuries have slowed Barber, limiting him to 94 yards rushing and 92 more receiving. But, if healthy, he makes this offense click. Thunder is a lot more daunting when accompanied by lightning. Barber helps QB Kerry Collins' efficiency, giving him someone to dump the ball to when things break down elsewhere. And Barber can turn those dumpoffs into big gains with his slithering runs.
The other Giants running backs, Ron Dayne and Damon Washington, have combined for just six receptions. They're only threats to run the ball, Barber can do both. That forces the linebackers to work even harder.
Giants on defense The statistics don't truly measure how good this defense is, and can be. After five games New York ranked only 18th — but the Giants were third against the run, while 28th against the pass. The line sets the tone as three of the four are Pro Bowl caliber, starting with ends Michael Strahan and Kenny Holmes. Strahan is off to a great start with 8.5 sacks in the first five games, including 1.5 in the first meeting. Holmes, a key free-agent signing, has not posted big numbers yet. But his presence has helped Strahan as teams must concentrate on both ends. Holmes also is a good run defender. It's only a matter of time before he has a big-sack game.
Underrated tackle Keith Hamilton is a late-bloomer who plugs the middle and will pressure the passer. Hamilton has caused more problems for Washington the past two seasons than any other Giants lineman. Sore ankles have slowed tackle Cornelius Griffin, making him a target in the running game. But Griffin posted 1.5 sacks against Washington on Oct. 7.
The linebackers, led by Jessie Armstead and Michael Barrow, are quick and able to make plays because of the line. Barrow is an active player and effective blitzer. He caused trouble in this role in the 23-9 victory. But Armstead has not had a typical season and the Giants still are waiting for him to have a huge game.
Linebacker Brandon Short is a first-year starter still learning how to play. The front seven's ability to stop the run gives the back four a chance to concentrate mainly on the passing game.
Corner Jason Sehorn hasn't lost much despite several surgeries. He's still fast and physical and, as the Redskins know, capable of turning around a game. His two interceptions ruined a possible upset in the first game. Rookie corners Will Allen and Will Peterson have solidified this position and passed a major test with excellent games at St. Louis. Their inexperience has caused some growing pains —
Washington's Rod Gardner was able to beat Allen a few times. But they're helped by free safety Shaun Williams and strong safety Sam Garnes, who is a force against the run. It also helps the corners to have the pass rush they do, forcing them not to cover as long as other corners.
Key Matchup: Washington's OL vs. New York's DL. It starts with RT Jon Jansen against DE Michael Strahan. The latter recorded 1.5 sacks in the first game, but those came off inside stunts and not against Jansen. In their five meetings, Jansen has mostly quieted the chatty Strahan. But the trouble doesn't stop there. LG Dave Szott has a tough assignment against DT Keith Hamilton and LT Chris Samuels has the same in DE Kenny Holmes. If the Redskins can't at least neutralize this unit, watch out.
How to beat Giants' defense: Stop the pressure up the middle. In New York's last two games against Washington, the Giants have dominated the Redskins in this area, mostly by blitzing. The Redskins have failed to stop this pressure, leading to short runs and little time to throw. Washington must stop it to have a chance.
The Redskins need to complete more screens or flares to loosen the pressure. They did have some success throwing downfield, but the receivers were inconsistent. Any dropped passes in this game will lead to another futile day.
Defensive player to watch Cornerback Jason Sehorn Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 215
In the first meeting, Sehorn saved the game for New York with two interceptions. On the first, he beat receiver Kevin Lockett to the corner of the end zone and hauled in an errant pass. Later, he ended Washington's comeback hopes with a 34-yard interception return.
Those were Sehorn's only interceptions through five games, but he hasn't been tested that much. Of course, it would have helped on both throws had Washington QB Tony Banks noticed the receivers weren't open. Sehorn can still blanket receivers. With the pressure generated up front, Sehorn can be even more aggressive, which makes him more dangerous.
Special teams New York has struggled in the return and coverage units. The Giants' Ron Dixon averaged only 20 yards per his first 11 kickoff returns, far below the league average. Tiki Barber is a dangerous punt returner, when healthy. But Amani Toomer only averaged 5.1 yards on his first eight punt returns. The coverage units were equally shabby, partly because of rookie kicker Owen Pochman's short kickoffs.
Opponents average 24.8 yards per kickoff return, but their average starting field position is the 32-yard line, ranking them last in the NFL. Veteran Morten Andersen made five of his first six kicks, missing only a 51-yarder. Punter Rodney Williams, cut by Washington last season, has become a consistent kicker, averaging 46.2 yards per punt with a net of 39.6 yards.