The (5-6) Washington Redskins host the (7-4) Super Bowl Champion New York Giants on Monday Night Football at FedEx Field with kickoff set for just after 8:30 PM ET, and extensive all-day coverage live from the stadium beginning at NOON, on ESPN 980.
The Giants beat the Green Bay Packers, 38-10 to snap a two game slide last Sunday night at MetLife Stadium. The Redskins have won two in a row, defeating the Dallas Cowboys 38-31 on Thanksgiving Day. Clearly, they are the much more rested team - as they were given four full days off since that game, along with five practices in the interim. The Giants took Tuesday and Wednesday off.
With the stage set, let's go "Inside the Numbers" for this huge showdown, and the most important regular season game for the Redskins since December 2007.
***The Giants beat the Redskins in Week 7, 27-23 as Victor Cruz blew past Josh Wilson and Madieu Williams for the game winning 77-yard touchdown with just over a minute left. It was the beginning of a three-game losing streak for Washington, and put the defense's total yardage allowed at 393 yards for the day. Without the score, (realizing the Giants were going to get other yardage) the Redskins defense would have only allowed 316 yards.
Washington allowed just 64 yards on 19 rushing attempts by New York, and forced two turnovers (Rob Jackson & Josh Wilson Interceptions) and had just one sack.
While everybody focused on the secondary meltdown - the primary reason the Redskins lost was because they turned the ball over four times, including three times while driving inside the NYG-40 yard line. Robert Griffin had an interception, and a lost fumble on a blown-up zone read. Alfred Morris had a costly lost fumble, and Santana Moss' had a fumble that ended the game. Morris had 94 of his 120 rushing yards in the first half. Griffin had 42 of his 89 rushing yards in the first half, when the Redskins did NOT turn the ball over.
If you take away the four turnovers, the Redskins only have SIX during the rest of the season, in TEN other games. Bottom line - if the Redskins do not shoot themselves in the foot - they have a great chance to win.
***Speaking of turnovers, overall the Redskins turnover differential is a sparkling + 12 (22 takeaways, 10 giveaways) to rank 3rd in the NFC/tied for 3rd in the NFL (Baltimore). That's the good news. The bad news is the Giants are Tied for 2nd in the NFL/Tied for 1st in NFC in turnover differential at + 13 (29 takeaways, 16 giveaways) . It goes without saying, that the next two Redskins home opponents are just as good (slightly better) as they are - so you can't count on turnovers winning a game for you.
***Giants Head Coach Tom Coughlin is 13-7 against the Redskins, 12-5 with the Giants. Mike Shanahan is 3-5 against the Giants, 2-3 with the Redskins. Shanahan is 15-16 as a head coach on Monday Night Football, (0-2) with the Redskins. Shanahan is tied for 13th on the all-time winningest coaches list, at 170-130 overall (162-125 regular season) and with a win on Monday, would tie legendary Redskins coach Joe Gibbs for 12th on the overall list at 171. Shanahan has 29 more losses however. Coughlin is tied for 16th overall, at (161-125).
***Eli Manning surpassed Phil Simms for most touchdown passes (200) in Giants franchise history last week, but some important numbers to keep in perspective for Monday Night. He has led 23 regular season game-winning drives including the touchdown pass to Cruz that won the first matchup. He has one other game-winning drive against the Redskins in his career. He is (13-12) when he's thrown for over 300-yards in a game, including the victory in October (26-40, 337, TD, 2 INT). He has only one other 300-yard passing performance against Washington (11/30/08 @ FedEx), which makes him (2-0) against the Redskins when topping the 300-yard mark.
Manning is (16-19) as a starter in December overall, including a loss to the Redskins last year in East Rutherford. Eli is (3-3) in December against the Redskins. He's (7-3) on Monday Night Football, but only (16-16) in prime time. He's (42-45) as a starter when he was intercepted at least once. Out of his 200 career touchdown passes, 42 have been thrown to Hakeem Nicks (25) and Victor Cruz (17).
Manning is 11-5 career as a starter against Washington. His stats line looks like this (299-535) 55.9%, 3,587 yards, 13 TD's, 15 INT's, 24 sacks, and a 73.0 rating.
***Victor Cruz leads the Giants in receiving with 63 catches for 779 yards, 8 TD's and a 12.4 average - including the 131 yards against the Redskins. In that game, Josh Wilson pretty much trailed Cruz the entire game, with DeAngelo Hall matched up for the most part on Hakeem Nicks (41-542, 13.2, 2 TD). While it is true as Wilson asserted after the game that Cruz outside of one big play (beat Wilson from right slot in press) did not have a big game (6-54), Cruz was wide open and EASILY beat Wilson from Eli Manning's left for what should have been a easy slant pitch and throw. Manning threw it well behind the wide open speedster. It should have been a touchdown. I wouldn't be shocked to see more of DeAngelo Hall matching up on Cruz, with the taller and more physical Cedric Griffin trying to trail Hakeem Nicks more. Griffin had just returned to the Redskins secondary after a 3 + game absence due to a hamstring.
***Besides not turning the ball over, and remaining unpredictable yet dynamic on offense - it's beyond obvious that the Redskins have to do a good job against the Giants talented front. They did a hell of a job in the first half in the first matchup, but struggled in the final 30 minutes. Overall they allowed 3 sacks, but two came on one series in the fourth quarter (Pierre-Paul & Umenyiora) and then Pierre-Paul blew up Griffin's read-zone fake that fooled nobody for a forced fumble/run loss of two yards. Technically, another sack but much like the intentional grounding on the first series in Dallas last week - did not count in that category. Umenyiora is one sack away from 75 in his career. Justin Tuck is 1.5 sacks away from 50.0 and Jason Pierre-Paul is 2.5 sacks away from 30.0. Safe to say - if all three hit their individual career milestones - the Redskins are in a lot of trouble. if all three hit their marks - that would be a hard to manage, five total sacks just from that three-man wrecking crew. The Redskins offensive line officially has yielded 27 sacks over 11 games - or 2.45 per game. Washington's O-line did allow 4 sacks last week, technically 5.
***The Redskins have some individual milestones they can accomplish on Monday night. Alfred Morris is 18 yards away from becoming the first Redskins 1,000 yard rusher since Clinton Portis in 2008. He needs 82 yards to break the franchise rookie rushing record, at 1,063 - set by Reggie Brooks in 1993. Morris is also 28 rushing attempts away from the Redskins mark for carries by a rookie (Mike Thomas -235 - 1975).
DeAngelo Hall is one interception away from the 40th of his career. and when he gets it - he would become the sixth active player to reach that number. Ryan Kerrigan is one sack away from tying his rookie mark (7.5) in 2011. Robert Griffin III has eight touchdown passes in his last two games, four in each win - but another four scoring passes wouldn't put him in rare air. Drew Brees just did it late last year, but it would certainly improve the chances for a win. Santana Moss has 7 touchdowns (2 @ NYG) and with another two-score night - he would match his Redskins high season mark at nine in 2005.
**A Redskins win would make three in a row over NFC East opponents in three consecutive weeks, which hasn't happened since 2005. They haven't won 3 in a row overall since Weeks 2-5 of the 2008 season.
***As for the numbers that really should mean something on Monday Night Football. The Redskins are finally on the move when it comes to third down conversions at 31.85% (43-125). The defense is still yielding a mostly obscene rate at (64-148) 43.24%. The Giants are almost exactly the same on offense, as they are on defense. Manning's unit is converting 38.41% on the money down and allowing 38.64% on third down defense.
The Redskins have scored ten less points than the Giants have this year (305-295), but have more passing touchdowns (hard to believe, 17-15) and have more yards from scrimmage (4,234-4,064) in less total plays run (693-NYG, 688-Wash). They also are averaging 6.4 yards per play - compared to the Giants 5.9. The ultimate neutralizer? Penalty yards. The Giants only have 48/368, while the Redskins are an ungodly 93/770. The Redskins are still the worst in the NFL at 8.5 penalties/game, while the Giants are 2nd in the league at 4.4/game. Washington is the worst in penalty yards per game at 70/game, while the Giants are 2nd at 33.5/game. In the October matchup, Washington had 7/55 (including a lost TD) and the Giants were 3/30.
The Redskins have 57 10+ rushing yard plays this year as a team, and are still averaging 162.9 yards per game on the ground, per Redskins public relations. NFL.com has them at 163.5 per game, which is # 1 in the NFL by a hair over San Francisco. The Giants were gashed for 248 yards on the ground by Washington on October 21. Overall the Giants are allowing 113.2 yards per game on the ground, and have yielded 31 rushes of 10+ yards.
***For those worried about the Redskins defense - I completely understand. However, it is important to remember that last week after going nearly seven quarters without surrendering a touchdown in the span of five days - they were kind of ripe for the picking. That also happens when you are up 28-3 and 35-13. Tony Romo threw the ball an astounding 62 times. The Redskins yielded 423 net yards passing for an average of 6.8 yards per attempt. He completed 37 of those attempts, which meant he averaged 11.4 yards per completion.
For a comparison, I was prompted to take a look at Peyton Manning's numbers from his game last Sunday against Kansas City. It was a somewhat (by Peyton's standards) pedestrian performance (22-37, 285, 2 TD, INT) in a Broncos win, 17-9. Nothing special right? Exactly. However when you look at the numbers - Manning had 273 net passing yards over the 37 attempts for a 7.37 yards per attempt rate. He also averaged 12.4 yards per pass completion.
Here's the point, Manning on a very pedestrian day for him would have thrown for 457 yards if he threw the ball as much as Tony Romo did. Tom Brady in the nightcap of Thanksgiving Day against the Jets, threw for 323 net yards on 28 attempts. That's a pretty cool rate of 11.5 yards per attempt (much higher than Manning or Romo). If he threw the ball 62 times last week, he would have thrown for 713 yards. To make the point even further, Robert Griffin III threw for 311 total yards on 28 attempts, for a rate of 11.10 yards per attempt. If you take Griffin's net passing yards, it's still 28 attempts/295 net yards or 10.53 yards per attempt. Just to provide perspective, Griffin III would thrown for 653 yards if he had 62 pass attempts, like Romo did.
It's part of the problem and blessing of having a highly efficient offense and a big lead.
Before we get a chance to watch the game over again, and after getting a chance to slow down some highlights - these are some 'Quick Snaps' thoughts I have on the Redskins 27-23 loss at Met Life Stadium yesterday.
***The rookie had a largely brilliant day - but the two turnovers for Robert Griffin III (four turnovers overall for the Redskins offense) have to be considered crucial. Griffin hesitated and pump faked on his third interception of the year, on a pass intended for Logan Paulsen. He took the blame after the game, saying the "interception was bad," as I felt he should have. He talked about how he should have gone to his next read. It's OK, this is all part of the learning process.
***Griffin was sacked three times, but the killer play was officially ruled a run loss, and not a sack. Griffin motioned like he was running a bit of a draw, off the read option, and he got popped by Jason Pierre-Paul for the turnover, a third consecutive series that Washington gave away their possession. The first one was a fumble by Alfred Morris at the NYG-41, the interception intended for Paulsen was picked off at the NYG-24, and the fumble occurred at the NYG-30. Santana Moss' fumble occurred on the Redskins side of the field, but they were desperately on the move and searching for a crazy comeback win. Turnovers are one thing, but to give away the ball three times inside the NYG-41, along with having four points taken off the scoreboard on a somewhat questionable penalty that negated Joshua Morgan's touchdown, that was the real problem.
***On the game-winning TD pass from Eli Manning to Victor Cruz - the Redskins had double coverage and Cruz with his blazing speed just split Josh Wilson and Madieu Williams. It happens. It's not Jim Haslett's fault, and I will say this - it's not even Josh Wilson or Madieu Williams fault. The Redskins were playing their safeties in two deep over the numbers, to help try and take away the long ball. Maybe they weren't playing deep enough, with Williams' lack of big speed vs. Cruz or perhaps Josh Wilson could have got a jam off the line, and I thought I saw him take a bad step out of his break.
It's just a great talent in Cruz who was stifled most of the day (6 -54 before TD), making a great play in rhythm with his QB, Eli Manning, despite a twist by Barry Cofield & Stephen Bowen, that led to Manning getting popped. Oh and there is this - these guys won a Super Bowl last year, and Eli has won two -- tip your cap to them -- champions make big plays when they need them the most.
***Chris Cooley will replace Fred Davis (as expected) on the roster, with Davis out for the year. Cooley told Rich Campbell of the Washington Times & ESPN 980 that he is in "real good shape." It's a consolation prize for the pending free agent to be -- but he said (we'll wait for official word) that it was only a partial tear as opposed to a full tear. It has to be slightly easier for Davis to come back off of, than a full tear & might also increase his value to both the Redskins and other teams. Before Sunday, and after the game, he was leading the Skins in receiving (catches/yardage) and finished at (24-325), with no scores.
Every week - statistics tell us something and sometimes tell us very little when it gets boiled down. You never really know how a game is going play out for sure.
They often give us a peek at trends and shape our way of thinking - and being that the American public has a fascination with these items, thought it would be a good post to combine some of the facts and figures we get during the week, leading up to the Redskins first NFC East game of the year, and their first place showdown with the Super Bowl Champion, New York Giants.
All statistics are compiled via Redskins PR, Giants Pr, ESPN 980's Chuck Sapienza and myself, Stats INC., Stats.com, the Elias Sports Bureau and NFL.com.
**So far this season, the #Giants have allowed 80 yards rushing and 1 TD (3.6 yards per carry) to opposing QB's. Robert Griffin III already has 379 rushing yards/55 carries (6.9 AVG) with six rushing TD's in under six full games on the season.
**Robert Griffin III's 76-yard TD run is the longest rush by a Redskins Quarterback in the team's history. The next longest for a Redskins QB? Frank Filchock ran for 51 yards in 1941.
**Robert Griffin III's 76-yd TD run is tied for 5th longest in Redskins history: Wells 88yds/1954, Brooks 85/1993, Goode 80/1950, Portis 78/2009, S. Davis 76/1996
**On long passes (passes over 10yds), Robert Griffin III has completed 57%. Only E. Manning (59%) & A. Smith (59%) complete a higher number of long throws.
***Robert Griffin III ran for two second-half touchdowns, including a 76-yarder to cap the scoring in the Redskins' 38-26 win over the Vikings. Griffin, who threw an 88-yard TD pass in his NFL debut last month, became the first player in NFL history with both a passing TD and a rushing TD of 75 yards or longer in the same season.
**Over his last 4 games vs. the Redskins, Eli Manning has 6 INTs & a QB Rating of 63.9. Since 2010, Manning TDs in divisional play : Dallas - 12; Philadelphia - 13; Washington - 1
**Through six games, the Redskins have more points off turnovers this season (49), then that had all over last season (43).
**The Redskins are +9 in turnover margin this year. Last time they were +5 or better was 2001. From 2002-11 (10 seasons), the Skins were a -51.
***The Giants and Redskins have scored the same amount of points so far on the season, each at 178. The Redskins have allowed 59 more points.
***More exact statistical matches between the Giants & Redskins besides total points. Average per play, both teams are at 6.3/play (Tied # 1 NFL) and both are 3/3 on 4th downs.
***If the Redskins rush for 125 + yds for 9th straight game ('11-'12) it would be the longest streak for the franchise, since 10 straight games, covering Weeks 13-17 of 1990 - Weeks 1-5 of 1991.
**The Redskins currently have 996 rushing yards in six games, for an average of 166/game. Last year, after six games they totaled just 641 yards. Just to put in perspective the year over year numbers, the Redskins did not go over the 1,000 yards team rushing mark in 2011 until December 4th (NYJ).
In 2010, after six games, the Redskins were at 556 yards yards rushing after six games & did not eclipse the current 996 yard mark until November 28th, with a total of 998 Net rushing yards.
***Robert Griffin III has been a model of consistency against the different looks NFL defenses have put in front of him so far this season. Griffin is completing at least 60% of his passes against four splits of oncoming pass rusher according to Stats.com -http://www.stats.com/emails/accordingtostats/nfl_ats_1018.html
Att Comp Comp% TD INT 3 or less pass rushers 9 6 66.7% 0 0 4 pass rushers 126 88 69.8% 2 2 5 pass rushers 16 12 75.0% 2 0 6 or more pass rushers 8 5 62.5% 1 0
***According to Pro Football Focus (www.twitter.com/PFF) grades for the Redskins offense in the win over the Vikings - W. Montgomery + 1.5, T. Polumbus +1.1, S. Moss +1.6, RG III - + 5.1. On the negative side, B. Banks -2.3, L. Hankerson -1.4.
For the Redskins defense - @PFF grades were as follows : P. Riley + 1.5, L. Fletcher +1.3 , L. Alexander + 1.7. On the bad side, B. Cofield -3.7, R. Kerrigan -4.9, D. Hall -4.5, S. Bowen-2.8.
**The offensive line has paved the way for the NFL's 2nd most prolific rushing offense, and while the pass protection has been far from great - it has been better than expected. The Redskins have allowed 13 sacks in six games. A guy many Redskins fans wanted the team to draft over Kirk Cousins, and certainly over Josh LeRibeus is not fairing so well according to STATS -- Cardinals RT Bobby Massie, has given up 9.5 sacks, most in the NFL.
**Punter Chas Henry will be in Washington on Friday, to work out and possibly sign with the Redskins (as of Thursday night, it was unclear) with Sav Rocca's knee ailing. In three games with the Eagles this year, Henry averaged 48.5 with a net of 38.3 over 16 punts. Rocca is averaging 44.6/37.3 Net with 30 punts.
In 2011 - Henry had an AVG of 42.9/36.9 NET over 66 punts, with 19 punts (INSIDE-20). Rocca in 2011 was 43.1/39.0 NET over 66 punts. with 28 punts (INSIDE-20).
**It is incredibly hard to win a game in the NFL after a win on the road, especially while playing on the opposite coast the week before. The Giants won a very emotional rematch for everyone involved in San Francisco last Sunday, in mostly dominant fashion, but let's look at some recent trends that might favor the Redskins.
For example, the Giants beat Arizona 31-27 in Week 4 in 2011 - and lost Week 5 at home to Seattle. The Giants lost at San Francisco last year in Week 10, then came home the next week, and lost at home to Philadelphia - 17-10. So even when they don't win, on the road, in this scenario - they lost at home.
Also the Giants won a hugely emotional game on Sunday Night Football in Dallas (not exactly opposite coast, but a 3 + hour plane trip) in Week 14, then came home and laid an egg to the Redskins in Week 15 in 2011. Another Giants example of win on road, on the west coast and then lose at home the next week? Try Week 9 at Seattle in 2010, followed by a loss at home in Week 10 to Dallas by 13.
Just like the Undertaker rose from the dead on "Monday Night Raw" last week in the scripted world of World Wrestling Entertainment, the New York Giants dusted off the ashes, six feet of dirt, and two bad losses to the Washington Redskins, then defied logic to go on an amazing six-game win streak.
The New York Giants are Super Bowl XLVI Champions, because they were and are the best when it matters. In December, January and February is how you are measured in this sport.
No offense, but what happened on September 11th or in early October against the Seattle Seahawks really doesn't matter. The Green Bay Packers proved it last year, the Giants proved it in 2007, the Steelers somewhat underachieved during their Super Bowl run that ended in Detroit. The Colts were a big question mark heading into their Super Bowl Championship run in the postseason.
It proves the NFL season to be a marathon, but a sprint all rolled into one. The Redskins can say some of the things that the players have, that they beat the Giants twice - and that is certainly true.
What any player, media or member of the fan base should be more worried about is losing twice to an average Cowboys team, getting stomped by an average Eagles team and of course getting trounced by an awful Vikings team and a Bills team that never did anything else, after the Redskins left Toronto.
The Giants did not play well on that Sunday in mid-December, but it was the cold slap in the face they needed. They woke up, just in the "Nicks" of time.
As for their stirring, gut wrenching Super Sunday win against the Patriots - here are my "Quick Snaps" thoughts after the Giants 21-17 win in Indianapolis.
**Mario Manningham's 38 yard catch up the left sideline was an absolute beauty. The footwork, concentration and effort all amazing. Four things that are not getting anywhere close to the attention that it deserves are:
1. Manningham caught that ball in stride, with the defensive back Sterling Moore giving a tomahawk chop to Manningham's right shoulder as he caught it. Manningham could have easily dropped the ball or not secured full and complete possession.
2. The throw by Manning was brilliant, in stride and in perfect rhythm. Manningham and Manning have been on target in the post season, with Mario catching a touchdown pass in every game the Giants played in order to get to the Super Bowl. What struck me, was the confidence Manning had to go right back to Manningham after the receiver blew a golden opportunity on the series before, on a similar play. Manningham again beat Moore, this time on the right side but didn't give Manning any room to throw the ball with lead, and Manning actually threw it as good as you could. However, Manningham was a half step out of bounds. The point is Manning had CONFIDENCE that his guy could get it done, and he was rewarded with a brilliant catch and a play that will live forever in Super Bowl lore.
3. The call by Offensive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride was just tremendous. The Giants were down 17-15 with PLENTY of time left, 3:46 and one timeout left - at their own 12 - to be exact. You don't have to be super aggressive there, and it could have backfired, but I am a guy (and I know Kyle Shanahan would do the same thing) that likes to push the envelope in situations where the opponent is not expecting it. Nobody was expecting the Giants to run a go route, and neither were the Patriots who were playing inside technique, expecting a slant or a dig -- and as a result, Manningham blew right past Moore in a cover 2 shell. That's the other thing that was brilliant. The Patriots were playing their safeties back on the hash's almost the entire game to take away the deep ball, and the Giants would run out of it. Not this time. BRILLIANT!
4. Because of where the play was located, and the bang bang nature of it, the Patriots had to challenge the call and lost a timeout in the process. That would be EXTREMELY COSTLY in the final minute of the game, when New England only had one timeout left.
***Anybody that criticized Ahmad Bradshaw for running the game winning touchdown into the end zone (including apparently Eli Manning) is just flat out -- off their rocker. YOU DO NOT TAKE ANY CHANCES!! As the Redskins and the Ravens found out this year, sometimes at the worst times - NO KICK - is a sure thing. You score, and you take your chances with a suffocating defense.
In post game interviews on both NFL Network and ESPN, Giants coach Tom Coughlin (who at 65 + became the oldest head coach to win a Super Bowl) said he did not give specific instructions on what to do. Bradshaw apparently said that he tried to stop before getting into the end zone, but his momentum carried him in. Fine.
The Patriots would have been forced to use their final time-out and the Giants would have kicked a field goal, or possibly even scored the touchdown. Perhaps, the Giants could have fumbled the ball or missed the field goal. Oh yeah, you forgot that was a scenario right?
You do not mess around. You score and force them to go the length of the field and score a touchdown. The Giants had the 21-17 lead, after a failed two point conversion. It was mind blowing how many people screwed up something, that was so simple to understand. Get off the sauce, people.
**Justin Tuck should have been the Co-MVP. His forced grounding for a safety, on the Patriots first offensive play of the game set an ominous tone, and think about it - without those two points -- the Giants would have only been up 19-17, and would have gone for an extra point, instead of the two point conversion to keep it to a field goal game. That would have absolutely changed some of the strategy for the Patriots and Tom Brady.
Tuck also finished off a sack, that reserve defensive lineman Dave Tollefson really should have been given a lot of credit for, but Tuck cleaning it up -- forced the Patriots off the field and also somewhat injured Brady's shoulder.
Tuck then had a monster sack, in which he drove and slipped/pushed off of two blocks as he did on the intentional grounding call, and this time buried Brady to force a last ditch 4th/16. Even though the Patriots converted, Tuck's sack forced Brady to use New England's final timeout with :36 left.
**I will have more as time allows on Monday - as I have a notebook full of observations and key plays - but I will leave for now with this. If I hear Tom Brady trashed because he has not won a Super Bowl since 2005, I am going to SCREAM.
Brady did not play great on Sunday Night (he threw a bad interception, and turned Wes Welker around on a huge incompletion), but he was brilliant at times, especially on the final drive of the first half and the first drive after halftime. He had a couple of balls that he absolutely could have thrown better, and should have. Football has a razor thin margin. As many shaky throws as Brady had, he could have been given a lot more help from the likes of Aaron Hernandez, Deion Branch and Welker - specifically on the final two drives by the Patriots.
Four more games down, only three left in this season that almost never was. While the Redskins can only hope to play in a game of this relevance in the next year or two -- the Giants, Ravens, 49'ers and Patriots all took care of business, with two teams making a statement (Patriots, Giants), the 49'ers providing us a game to remember for the ages, and the Ravens hanging on for dear life to beat a valiant Texans squad - a team that should give you a little glimpse of what the Redskins hope they can turn into.
The Texans proved that if you BUILD A TEAM, you can still be extremely competitive without a superstar at the Quarterback position, and you can even withstand two critical injuries at that one position, while losing your stud receiver for 8 games.
It has taken Gary Kubiak (Kubiak was not the original coach) and the Texans a long time to get to this point, because they did it the WRONG WAY when they launched the franchise. When you take a guy like David Carr and surround him with very little talent (Offensive line & defense to start, Redskins WR Jabar Gaffney was Houston's 2nd franchise pick) you often are set back years and that is exactly what happened to Houston.
You can have Jesus Christ (no offense, Tim Tebow) at the helm -- but if you don't have the right talent and enough of it surrounding him - you are done-ski. When teams will learn this, I have no idea.
Thankfully, while not the popular route with the fan base that doesn't think of common sense items like this -- Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen, along with their scouting department, seem to realize that you need so much more than just a guy who you think is a 'franchise' guy.
Finishing up on the Baltimore Ravens and the Houston Texans -- a couple of thoughts. Ed Reed had a brilliant interception to basically end things, but landed awkwardly and his status has to be a major concern for the Ravens heading to New England and Tom Brady.
I would be really worried about the Patriots ability to sneak in some big chunk runs, despite being limited in talent at the running back spot. Arian Foster is terrific, but with a limited option (T.J. Yates) throwing the ball -- Foster (27-132, TD) ripping off some of the runs he did (28 yards off the left edge, 19 yards right up the middle to name a few) was a sign that clearly the Ravens defense is not what it used to be. Yates was ok (17-35, 184, 2 INT) but as you would expect -- made some big mistakes including a bad telegraphed INT in the first quarter to Lardarius Webb, who had Yates passing attempt to Andre Johnson in his eyes the entire time.
As for the Ravens offense - I really liked a couple of the throws Joe Flacco made to Anquan Boldin - hooking up in some tight windows, while also finishing off a touchdown drive on a nice pass to Boldin - a ball that was thrown only where Anquan could catch it. Flacco also sold a 3rd/1 tight run formation for a touchdown after a terrible turnover on a punt by Houston's Jacoby Jones.
Bottom line, the Texans made 3 huge mistakes and still had a chance to win the game -- I would be worried about that if I was the Baltimore Ravens.
**New York Giants @ Green Bay Packers
What else can you say about the Giants - who the Redskins left for dead a week before Christmas, only to be resurrected by Rudolph and Santa's elves to smash the Jets, Cowboys and Falcons in consecutive weeks all at Met Life Stadium.
This was a true test. Lambeau Field in January, the # 1 seeded Green Bay Packers and all-world QB Aaron Rodgers.
Once again, the Giants proved that you win games in many ways. Eli Manning has been fabulous for the most part, but it takes two to tango and then some. Hakeem Nicks is just fantastic, using his size and speed to shield and wall off defenders for two touchdowns.
The back breaker was the hail mary at the end of the half, which was a perfect example of Nicks size and bodyshielding ability, but the more impressive score was Nicks' 66-yard catch-and-run as he bounced off of Charlie Peprah, spun away from Tramon Williams and raced to pay dirt.
It also helps that the Giants front-seven is simply insane. Just when you think you have your hands more than full with Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora -- linebacker Michael Boley -- who many Giants consider the heart and soul of the defense, had two huge sacks.
Boley had a monster sack on 4th down, and also a key take down of the elusive Aaron Rodgers on a 3rd down. The 4th down sack, came a play after Rodgers missed a wide open Jermichael Finley for a first down that would have put the Packers in great scoring position. The other sack -- Boley jacked up James Starks in pass protection, shed his block and brought down Rodgers.
Just because Boley was outstanding, it did not mean that Umenyiora was a non-factor. Umenyiora made perhaps the defensive play of the year on the first drive of the 2nd half, with the Giants up 10. Rodgers had just completed a big play to Donald Driver for a 16-yard gain on 3rd/5, and had momentum.
Green Bay dialed up a perfect play call for a "SLUGGO" or a slant-and-go, should have been a relatively easy six points for the Packers, but Rodgers fake pumped to sell the slant, and by the time he could reload again - Umenyiora who missed half the season -- swatted the ball out of Rodgers right hand and forced the turnover, while taking away a potential easy six.
Greg Jennings had a drop in the end zone for what could have been another touchdown for the Packers over Antrel Rolle, as the Packers had several other key drops throughout the game, including Tom Crabtree on a critical 3rd down.
Green Bay also was terribly sloppy with the football from the start, fumbling their opening kickoff return, andit never got any better, although they did catch a few breaks. On the Packers opening kickoff return, Reggie Cobb fumbled and it appeared that the Giants would have the ball in great field position. The call was a fumble, which was incorrect (a bad sign on a terrible day for the officials, there were a few other terrible calls) and was overturned on review. A bad precedent was set however.
A couple of series later, Greg Jennings would clearly fumble the football before his knee or elbow were down, it was somehow ruled down by contact, before fumbling and the call was upheld. It was as clear as you are ever going to see, and the only thing I can think of is Grant's calf was down. FOX's Mike Pereira did not point that out, and I have never heard of the calf being a marker, but hey - I only watch the games. The non-reversal led to a touchdown for the Packers.
John Kuhn had a true fumble (no dispute or blown call), Ryan Grant had another critical fumble that led to a Mario Manningham touchdown, after the Rodgers-Umenyiora incident and the dropped passes all added up to the perfect storm for the Giants.
A note on the officiating - besides the call that outraged everyone, officials also call a personal foul on Osi Umenyiora for a late hit/UNR to Aaron Rodgers. The hit forced an incompletion on third down, which would have forced the Packers to punt. Umenyiora hit Rodgers square in the back (legal and not late) and his momentum of the collision, forced his helmet to 'ride' up Rodgers back and for the two to bump helmets. I can't see how the NFL would fine Umenyiora when they slow it down.
We mentioned the other fumbles (one called incorrect on the field, then reversed & the Jennings fumble) but on one particular 3rd down incompletion to Jake Ballard of the Giants in the Packers end zone, officials missed a clear defensive pass interference call and also an illegal hands to the face by one of the Packers lineman trying to get to Eli Manning. It happens, but two clear fouls on one play? I saw both live at regular speed, so I don't buy the excuse.
Denver Broncos @ New England Patriots
What else can you say in this game - other than Tom Brady is GREAT and Tim Tebow STINKS. That's being kind. This is a family friendly website.
Tebow is a fraud at this level. He CAN NOT get appreciably better. He will never be anything more than a 50/50 prop bet and that is being kind.
Trust me, John Fox sees it. John Elway knows it. The entire 'smart' free world can seperate his relative unique ability for what he is as a passer - and that is a JOKE.
I'm DONE. For now.
New Orleans Saints @ San Francisco 49'ers
WOW, what a game! One that we will always remember. Who can forget Drew Brees spinning it to the three different targets (Sproles, Graham, Colston) for over 100 yards each. Brees throwing the ball 63 times, because the Saints had no running game with an injury on the first drive of the game to Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram already done for the year.
Brees did make a couple of mistakes..a big interception to Dashon Goldson and one to Tony Brown. Quite honestly, he was outplayed by Alex Smith, who was nearly perfect.
Smith, the former # 1 overall pick who has played under a different coordinator in just about every year he has been a pro, threw for 299 yards, along with three passing touchdowns and who could forget his 28 yard rushing touchdown on 3rd/8 around left end, with Joe Staley leading the way in space on a cut block from the left tackle spot.
Of course, the play that will be burned in everyone's memory - will be the game-winning touchdown to Vernon Davis who was popped as he crossed the end zone line. Great play, but it was so many other big plays leading up to that final throw and hook-up. Don't forget -- about Davis on a go-route up the left sideline beating Malcolm Jenkins (who had a rough day). Or the first touchdown of the day to Davis who broke free of a bad tackle attempt by Jenkins, and ran to pay dirt.
For those criticizing former Redskins defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams, for playing tight coverage on the final drive...please....you don't suddenly change the way you have been playing for years - because you are scared of Vernon Davis.
Well -- he's in all honesty, not very good as a consistent professional Quarterback, but he's a hell of a competitor, and has a leadership quality that is hard to deny.
He also has 99 lives, and probably has used most of them in his brief two-year NFL career.
Yet, it took Tebow less than two full years to win his first playoff game. It took everybody's darling (except for me) -- Peyton Manning -- FIVE full seasons to win his first playoff game. Manning won his first playoff game in 2003, at the end of his 6th regular season.
So maybe I am wrong, maybe we're all wrong. All I know is this - ONE play and for that matter ONE game against a top ranked defense missing three huge components does NOT tell us anything that we did not already know.
Tim Tebow is consistently capable of being consistently inconsistent. That's it, in a nut shell! Lost? Work with me for a minute.
His game winning touchdown throw, on the first play of overtime, to fellow 2nd year WR DeMaryius Thomas for 80 yards was a stroke of brilliance. Everything about the play was perfect from a Broncos point of view. It was a first down; and Denver showed a heavy run look (2 TE). Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy had called an inside trap, play-action, Quarterback keep criss-cross several times throughout the game, and the Steelers failed to stop it.
The formation was almost exactly the same, the play action was executed on the fake inside trap, but instead of running it to James Harrison's side, as they had done a few times -- Tebow fired a bullet to Thomas who ran his route to perfection from the left side, getting inside leverage on his post/cross route.
Thomas broke away from a tackle attempt by Ike Taylor who was beat in coverage (and had a terrible day) and raced away from Taylor and Ryan Mundy (filling in for former Redskins S Ryan Clark) and even with the new overtime playoff rules - it was GAME, SET, MATCH!
By now, you know the magic of Tebow, both on Sunday and in several other games this year. Of course, you probably know how he struggled woefully against Kansas City, New England and Buffalo. I can recite every statistic known to man kind to prove my point, but the one thing I can't overcome -- is every once in a while (usually in a huge spot) you get a big dose of Tebow magic.
That will be the story of the night, the week ahead and certainly of the entire season, no matter when this magic carpet ride comes to a crashing end.
However, the story of this game -- was the Steelers complete inability to generate a pass rush without Casey Hampton and Brett Keisel along their usually great defensive line. Without the normal push, James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley were reduced to merely average players and played like it.
The Broncos only had 8 total yards of offense in the first quarter, while the Steelers were pressing the line and had Keisel and Hampton for at least a small part of the game. Once they were gone, Dick LeBeau went conservative like a wet noodle.
Taylor was burned for a big play to Thomas, early in the 2nd quarter, on a 3rd/12 without getting his head turned around, after Pittsburgh could not generate any kind of heat on a three man rush. William Gay was beat with a perfect pass for a touchdown, without even TRYING to make a play on the ball, by turning his head. Again, it was a limited rush (four) and Pittsburgh generated no heat. Taylor was also beaten badly by Thomas on a 58 yard pass catch and run.
The other huge component to this game, that nobody outside of Pittsburgh will be bemoaning is Jerricho Cotchery's huge drop on a difficult catch, but one he has to make - that could have been a huge gain in the first quarter. Mike Wallace, also had an enormous non-catch on a 51 yard bomb down the middle that would have put Denver on their heels. The play was initially ruled a catch, challenged by John Fox and properly overturned, albeit a very difficult call.
Another part of the game that won't be discussed, is that Pittsburgh had a chance to win the game late in regulation after tying it up at 23-23. Ben Roethlisberger made a few big plays, but was also sacked by Von Miller deep in his own territory, for a four-yard loss and then was sacked by Elvis Dumervil for an 11 yard loss, while also fumbling and recovering the ball. Big Ben also took a delay of game and was sacked for a third time on the series - plus missed a wide open Emmanuel Sanders on a crossing route that would have put Pittsburgh in field goal position, and possibly more.
The point is - a lot of bad things had to happen for the Pittsburgh Steelers to lose this game, on the road, in dramatic fashion. It wasn't just Tim Tebow. No matter what the blow hards in the media will spout about all week long.
Before it is even asked again -- NO -- the Redskins would not have been a playoff team this year with Tim Tebow at the helm. Forget it.
The Giants destroyed the Atlanta Falcons (24-2) because of one reason. They converted on 4th and inches deep in Atlanta territory, which led to their first touchdown - and because they stopped the Falcons not once, but twice on the ultimate money down.
The first time, at the start of the 2nd quarter, came AFTER the Giants stuffed Jason Snelling on a 3rd/1, inside the Giants 25-yard line. For some reason, Mike Mularkey called a Matt Ryan QB sneak, instead of pounding Michael Turner for the conversion. The Giants blew it up rather easily. I liked the decision to go for it, I don't like using your best players. Simple.
New York had their own opportunity inside the Atlanta-6 and wisely called Brandon Jacobs number who was initially stopped but deftly spun out of contact and plunged forward for the first down. Manning then used play-action to fire a scoring strike to Hakeem Nicks.
Once again, in the 3rd Quarter - down 10-2 with plenty of time and the ball inside the Giants-25 yard-line, Mularkey and Mike Smith rolled the dice again and tried Matt Ryan for a 2nd time on the QB sneak, and it was promptly stuffed by Jason Pierre-Paul and Chris Canty.
You go back to the decision to go for it in overtime against the Saints, deep in their own territory - which backfired - and because it was a STUPID decision, you get gun shy about using your best weapon?
Turner wasn't even on the field for the 2nd attempt on fourth-down. According to AdvancedNFLStats.com, teams usually convert on 4th/1 about 74% of the time. You use your best weapon, period. Or, you at least have him on the field as a decoy on play action, or to keep the Giants honest. It also did not help that the Falcons offensive line had no push at all, the entire day.
The Giants had their usual flair through the air on a couple of big plays, specifically a Mario Manningham perfect touchdown strike from Eli Manning, but it was the running of Brandon Jacobs and at time Ahmad Bradshaw, along with the complete domination of the Falcons offense that pushed them into a 2007 playoff rematch with the Green Bay Packers.
***Houston rolled to their first ever win in their first ever playoff game as the Texans on Saturday with a win over a fairly tough Bengals team. Of course, I was impressed as always with Arian Foster. Andre Johnson got into the act as well, finally looking like the Andre Johnson we all know.
It also helped that J.J. Watt had a tremendous Ryan Kerrigan-esque Interception and touchdown return near the end of the first half that changed the fortunes for both sides.
I will have more on the performance of top free-agent offensive-center Chris Myers, along with a review of Matt Flynn in a post coming in the next day or so.
**The Saints, outlasted the Lions and the tag-team duo of Matthew Stafford and Calvin "MegaTron" Johnson down in New Orleans on Saturday night. Is anybody surprised? The only thing that you take away -- the Lions actually had a chance to prevent 14 points from the Saints, but dropped easy interception opportunities. Sean Payton also rolled the dice a couple of times, converting two key fourth downs. The most interesting call was Drew Brees leaping over the top of the pile on 4th/1 inside the Saints-40 to get the first. He got popped pretty good, and while I didn't love the decision to go for it or to expose Brees on a QB leap, the Saints (unlike the Falcons) do not have a weapon like Michael Turner.
Their other 4th down conversion was a left toss-sweep that was executed brilliantly, after a key block by King George, VA native Jermon Bushrod, at left-tackle.
Bottom line - some coaches have major onions. Some just don't know how to slice them.
The Washington Redskins dominated the New York Giants 23-10 last Sunday at MetLife Stadium. How did they do it? Read the highs (a refreshing amount) and the lows (surprisingly, not many) of a statement win for the future of Mike Shanahan's guys in Burgundy and Gold.
**1st play from scrimmage, run heavy I-Form, flea flicker INT intended for Moss underthrown and picked by Webster. Good pick up by Helu on blitz to buy time, well underthrown as Santana had beat CB. WSH gets 15 yard break because of PF by Canty. NYG ball at 18. **Rex misses wide open Santana in left flat on 3rd/8 in red zone, total late overthrow. **Rex fires bomb to Gaffney into double coverage, safety never left (Phillips) with Amukamara as Moss split them. Aaron Ross launches shoulder first high into Rex at release. ***Rex makes another big 3rd down/11 throw to Santana on twist & turn, in stride as he is hit helmet to helmet by JPP on inside bull rush (W. Smith). **Rex misses Gaffney wide open for 1st down on 2nd/10 after 2 min warning. Throw too low/off. ***Next play 3rd/10 - Rex hits Logan for 9 just short of first down over middle. Good p/u by Helu. **Rex perfect pass to Gaffney on modified PA, I-Back set..Jabar ran a curl route in zone and spin for 17 to NY-34 **JPP gets out of RDE stance, stands up, loops around and blows into Rex's face on 3rd/5 INC. Smart to throw away and live another day **** Scat set no back behind Rex for pickup as Helu crossed in route. Hurt chipped left, rubbed right on JPP and not good enough. **Rex and Kyle dialing deep with 4:12 on 3rd down in stride in end zone for AAA, perfectly broken up by Webster who stupidly celebrates down 20 ***** Gutsy aggressive call, well worth the shot.
** + 4 on first carry, little jab step cut to buy an extra yard. **Toss pitch left with great DY cut block to spring + 7 **Helu toss middle, behind Logan middle shift and Chester. **9th run in 11 plays for 2 yard toss right. **9 yard toss run up middle, dragging defenders and churning with Byrd & Willie plowing the way. Hurts eye as helmet pops off****** **3rd/1 conversion for two off left side. DY nice collision block with JPP. **Toss left strung out for 1 yard loss, as Byrd gets blown back at POA on block. **Helu + 5 on toss right with good downhill power, and next carry + 4 and missed HUGE cut back lane. **Gets knocked back on 3rd/1 but nowhere to run. No gain. Willie and Mo beat. **Broken screen right with confusion, but Roy squeezes 9 yards out of it. **+ 5 on toss left, maybe could have turned downhill faster behind Donte' & then + 1 on next play, with no room behind Byrd.
**Fights for a first down on a 3.5 yard carry, with JPP tied around leg. Pretty good block by Logan **After DY takes FB lead for 1st down, Evan charges ahead for 6 on toss right behind Chester. **No gain, runs into wall on right side at NYG 14. **Big first down on final drive at 5 min mark to help ice on toss pitch left, behind PULLING Willie Smith to left flat. Havent' seen or remember that.
*** + 15 on play action crosser from left. **4th/1 conversion on square out, good seperation and break. Rex first read all the way. ***3rd/14 perfect dig and spin vs. Amukamara to 6 to set up DY touchdown. ***2nd - 17 yard gain on drive on 2nd/7 (2nd/6 earlier) reading outside leverage on a tight curl inside vs zone of Ross. **Big 3rd/6 conversion for 13 on last drive to keep defense off field.
***Wide open 20 yard TD out of triple bunch left with Armstrong wide open in left flat, with Tana running a corner route.
**3rd/12 on perfect strike from Rex 2nd/3rd progression in between 2nd/3rd levels on dig for + 19. **3rd/17 shallow drag/cross for +16 with good extra blocking for a few yards by Logan Paulsen. Broke tackle dive by Antrel Rolle, looked like got bad spot to force 4th/1. Rex wanted a challenge.
**14 yard toss pitch to Helu, reverse to AAA, who out runs and bounces off of defender in space to get extra yards. Helu with a nice block after handoff to AAA, O-Line caved right. DY layed a big pop at end.
**Another PA fake to Helu, reverse from left to right for Niles Paul for 7 yards + 15 yard PF face mask on NYG (Phillips) against DY who was blocking big time.
**Play action to right side of Rex, with uncovered pressure/sack by JPP to left. Miscommunication on blocking scheme. Niles Paul no chip/rub - but he was NOT assigned to do that acc. to Niles. **DY first down on 3rd/1 upback FB lead - after Helu toss and Royster for combined 9. **Another first down on 2nd/1 out of I - great disguise and sell and nice cut to right for DY. ***6 yard touchdown run breaking tackle of both JPP and # 26 (Rolle?). JPP totally fooled. ***JPP blows up DY on block and sheds for stuff of Helu for no gain. **Gets first down on 2nd/1 in 3rd Q, on tough FB lead draw.
***Blown up by Kiwanuka on minus 4 yard loss at right end, on first down toss sweep to Helu. **Returns squib KO that Devin Thomas got bad neck stinger on.
**Helu gets stuffed as Polumbus gets beat bad inside by Tuck on 2 yard loss. Helu was stumbling a bit. Tuck gets re-injured. **Next play, Willie and Helu rub and pound down JPP, while Polumbus saves a sack at last second on dump for no gain to DY. **Willie Smith beat by JPP on pressure to force completion for no gain to Helu. **False Start by Polumbus. ***Will Montgomery gets major hold and blown over on rush by NYG on 4th/1 long incompletion to Donte on broken play. **Chester on pull gets no push along with Montgomery on Helu run for no gain, on previous play - Royster off right side gets nothing, inside 15.
**Runs into Darrel Young on block on first KO return to 18 from -2. (Running into own guy consistent) **Fumbles punt upon contact (should have fair caught it) and recovers after contact by Devin Thomas.
**36 yard FG from right hash, good hold by Rocca, snap by Sundberg. ***44 yard FG right down the middle by Gano, tip blocked by JPP. You can hear Sundberg yelling "YES" Formation L-R (82, 97, 75,74,57,58,63,66, 56) **25 yard KO (same formation) from right snap. Good snap and hold by Sundberg/Rocca.
**Nice stop on KO return off to side.. **2nd nice stop on KO return from side, hanging on and dragging down. **Assists on tackle on opening KO of 2nd half (Jernigan) with Byron as Lorenzo flies in. **Flies in with Westbrook and combines on KO tackle (4th of game)
**Very good rush up the middle on stunt to flush Eli and force INC. **Big pop on Bradshaw run, after initially getting blocked out. **Had great rush and big hand in face of Eli on DHall INT. **Anchors and plants and shuts down Jacobs for 1 yard run after 11 yard run.
***Great wide bull rush and push, plus hit of Eli as he throws INT to Atogwe. ***3rd/6 - just mauls Petrus to death and blows into Eli for huge sack from nickel w/ Cofield. Leads to MFGA. ***Goalline huge rush on Eli, after shedding tackler to force throw away INC. **Playing inside left on goal D, just blows and shoves the LOS 4 yards back with :45 left.
**Terrific bull rush near end of first half, forces long INC - just plowed the guard 5 yards back. **Explosive rush on twist runs/gets pushed past Manning but altered release. Next play, a twist to right and Barry tries to swat ball down, but good penetration.
**Good pass deflection on rush forces INC, with London hand down and Cofield at LE - wide. **Draws the lasso collar on 4th Down TD to Nicks, from wide stance. ***1st full sack in NFC East play in 3 years,
**Huge sack on 4th down, in 4 point stance on line - torching Mckenzie after Orakpo hold/wipe out TD. Good direction to Eli, rarely over runs or pursues. Orakpo had inside push and forced Eli to spin out/away.
**After tipping/forcing INT, and several other stops and coverages -- London forces fumble on Jacobs that was recovered by Cruz. DJ Gomes took good angle and funned BJ inside. **Blows up Bradshaw for no gain to stop momentum and help force FGA. **Huge collision and hit under 3 with Bear Pascoe. Playing hard core, clean late .
**Good late pressure on 3rd down, first series INC w/ coverage under by DHall. HUGE 3-out. **Beat by Bradshaw on circus, down on back freak catch.
**Great one handed INT on under trail converage with DJ Gomes over Nicks..Big 26 yard return and setting up blocks by Gomes, who did a great job in coverage and blocking for return. **DHall bites up on comeback route on Eli roll/flush and is turned around underneath for 33 yard lob toss to Manningham. Carriker was again at RDE, and Kerrigan/D Scott chased. Not much DH could have done. **Nicks beat DeAngelo on a clear push off (could/should have been OPI) in end zone, right thru hands on play before Josh break up at goal line..
**Great breakup on 1st play from scrimmage, reaching hand in. **Gets knocked on head on Cruz knee, scrambling for loose football on Fletcher FF. **Back pedaling INT on back corner of end zone, early 4th Qtr. -- on loft pass fade - bad overthrow by Eli, but tremendous recognition on feet for Josh. 2nd game in a row with INT in end zone. Eli throws fade corner, Mario broke inside slightly. Bad breakoff. **Hurt on hurdle by Pascoe to head/neck. **Big hit on Ware at goal line as he is rotating hips and body across the goal. Has solid, no movement of football as he crosses - but never completes the motion with foot.
** Westbrook/DJ Gomes beat deep bad by Nicks who doesn't catch easy TD off facemask. **Long bomb to Cruz forces INC. Troy thinks he contacted him. It was bang-bang. Westy did not have head turned around, and was beat on the route. Haz thinks great coverage. I thought good coverage.
**Great read and tackle on jump of back side screen for loss of 2, as Fletcher races over and cleans it up. **Beat in coverage and misses tackle on spin by Nicks on 3rd/4 for 14 yards. Orakpo had good rush up middle.
**Great sprawling INT with loose ball, gets hand under it on bat up/deflection by London. DHall gives him caravan down sideline for 26 yards and springs extra block. Great bull rush by Bowen. Return to 41. **Big hit on Ballard with push from Riley, after Riley falls down on Ballard break and reception. **Great breakup with Josh on sideline out route by Hakeem Nicks in hurry up. Terrific timing at WSH 20. Nicks HAS to make that catch. Josh swiped ball, OJ jarred arms.
**Saves TD on Jacobs huge hole and run, with shoulder hit to thigh/leg but makes play for only 5 yards. HUGE** **Zone coverage over top (DHall), but Nicks wide open for 20 yards to WSH-13. Good sideline tackle. **Called for big DPI at goalline on Nix. Turns head to look for ball, incidental contack with some hand checking. Shaky call.
**Cofield gets doubled, London gets blocked out on 17 yard gain by Bradshaw. **Byron Westbrook/DJ Gomes beat deep bad by Nicks who doesn't catch easy TD off facemask. **Redskins playing soft zone, on Manningham cross/angle for 13 yards past Cofield. Pressure from Kerrigan. **Quick smoke to Nicks...DHall badly overplays, Kerrigan misses tackle right after and Doughty gets stiff armed for 12 yard gain. BAD **Redskins on short pass to Barden have Kerrigan at ROLB in coverage, Rak at LOLB, with Cofield and Fletcher hand down in middle on line...Carriker is super wide at RDE. Unique look.
(AP) -- Now that the New York Giants have ended their losing streak, they have a clear path to the NFC East title.
The next step comes Sunday at home and the Giants will have to contend with a number of injury problems as they try to avenge a season-opening defeat to the Washington Redskins.
New York (7-6) held a two-game division lead after starting 6-2, then fell a game behind Dallas thanks to a four-game slide. Eli Manning, however, guided the Giants to two touchdowns in the final 3:14 to rally them to a 37-34 road victory over the Cowboys last Sunday and a share of first place before Dallas' win at Tampa Bay on Saturday dropped New York one-half game back.
"We knew that we couldn't afford to fall further behind Dallas when we went into the game," offensive lineman Kevin Boothe said. "We are in a playoff-type atmosphere from here on out. We have a big division game this week and we have to take it one game at a time and see what happens. We have to give Washington our best shot."
New York can clinch the division by winning one of its next two games along with the regular-season finale at home against Dallas.
The Giants, though, are dealing with numerous injuries.
Pro Bowler Justin Tuck failed to record a tackle against the Cowboys and could sit out with a toe injury while fellow defensive end Osi Umenyiora could miss a third straight game with a sprained ankle. Safety Kenny Phillips missed the Dallas game with a sprained left knee.
Tuck and Umenyiora were both injured when they sat out a 28-14 loss at Washington (4-9) in the opener. Rex Grossman continued his success against the Giants with 305 yards passing and two touchdowns as the Redskins ended a six-game slide in the series.
That loss didn't stop Giants safety Antrel Rolle from saying earlier this week that New York could beat Washington 99 out of 100 times.
"I know what the outcome of the game should be come Sunday," Rolle said. "It is up to us to go out there and put it on film and make sure the outcome is what we plan."
Three of Grossman's six best games in terms of passing yards have come against New York. He didn't sound too worried about Rolle's comments.
"It is the NFL and nobody is going to beat anyone 99 out of 100 times," Grossman said. "I am confident about where we are. We haven't finished games lately and we need to finish and everything should take care of itself."
Grossman was sacked four times in the first meeting, twice by Jason Pierre-Paul. The Giants defensive end had two more last week to bring his season total to 12 1/2, and he blocked Dan Bailey's tying field-goal attempt near the end of regulation.
Pierre-Paul has come on strong after he registered 4 1/2 sacks in 2010 as a rookie.
"I'm not thinking as much as I was last year," Pierre-Paul said. "Last year, I was on and off and I wasn't sure about all of the calls so I was playing slow."
Pierre-Paul and the Giants' pass rush will be looking at a patchwork Washington offensive line that is far different from what they saw in Week 1. Right tackle Jammal Brown missed last week's 34-27 loss to New England with a groin injury as Tyler Polumbus replaced him while left tackle Trent Williams continues to serve his suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy.
Manning failed to throw a touchdown pass against Washington in the opener - one of two times that has happened this year. He recorded his third 400-yard effort of the season last Sunday and is fourth in the league with a career-high 4,105 passing yards and sixth with 25 TD passes.
Manning has totaled 1,153 yards with seven touchdowns and three interceptions over his last three games.
"Eli has taken it upon himself to throw the ball well, and exceptionally well for the last three games," Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said. "But he's played well the whole year."
A major reason why Manning's numbers are up is that New York owns the NFL's worst rushing attack at 85.8 yards per game.
There is reason for optimism. With Ahmad Bradshaw suspended for the start of last week's game due to a violation of team rules, Brandon Jacobs gained a season-high 101 yards on 19 carries with two scores.
"Nobody wants to hit that guy running like he's running other than they have to," said Giants coach Tom Coughlin about Jacobs. "It's the right message and when you see him north and south as hard as he can go and the pile's going forward, we're all cheering."
Washington has the league's second-worst rushing attack at 93.8 yards per game, but rookie Roy Helu has reached 100 for three straight weeks. Helu had a season-high 126 last week.
A look back at some of the individual high and low points during the Redskins 28-14 win over the New York Giants.
**Belted hard on 3rd Down - first series on big blitz. **Pass deflected, with clean pocket on 1st down. **Cooley and Rex not on same page on hot read blitz throw. Cooley doesn't turn around. Boley was all over Rex ***Rex overthrows Gaffney bomb **Rex lays one out on a dish for Armstrong down 7-0 at 1 yard line - a little too far but complete on great diving catch. **3rd-and-4 TD to Gaffney, a bullet after looking off and freezing safety in man coverage, tight window. **Final TD was set up by low throw to Davis, who caught it and got speared. Would have been short of 1st, but penalty. **Great long strike to Gaffney on 2-minute drive at end of half for 39 yards, a little under thrown but wide open on go route. **Rex hits Santana + 11, Cooley + 15, Gaffney (above), Hightower + 9, and Armstrong on the fade route TD. (5-80, 2:11)
**22 yard run off left zone stretch, with DY perfect spot and north/south. ** A lot of lateral short runs zone stretch left, says he missed a lot of cutbacks. **TD run - outraces NYG defenders to corner on stretch, no cut. Good job by DY, Kory, Logan. **Hightower had 3 catches, including a 10 yard dump screen middle which set up Gano's MFGA and a 9-yard screen left that helped on TD drive before halftime.
**Gets speared on 3rd-and-8 catch, drawing penalty instead of longFG/punt - set up game sealing TD. **Huge 3rd-and-8 catch on game sealing TD drive for 22 yards toNYG-9, great footwork and hands. **Fred climbs ladder and gets crushed but holds on for a nice early big gain, + 23 to set up Hightower TD. **Had a 28-yard reception on drive that ended with back-to-back sacks.
**TD on fade route to end first half, similar to Dallas on SNF in season opener twice last year, but those were incomplete. **Great diving, sprawling catch at the 1.5 to set up Hightower TD. **Long ball, that Rex throw up - in AAA hands and knocked out on 2nd effort by defender. **Goes up ladder for catch over middle, and gets belted - ball pops out. Tough call on catch/no catch. **Stepped out-of-bounds on what would have been 1st down on 3rd-and-15, inside the NY-10.
**Didn't turn around (was covered) on hot read with Rex on 2nd series. Rex hit pretty good. **Had big catch on 2nd play of 5 yard drive before halftime. **Got good low pad level block on perimeter on one run to right, but lost block and same Giant defender made the play.
**Had huge 4th and 5 reception on **Big 3rd down catch on 2nd drive of game, to give defense a breather on a cross -- plus had a leaping, twisting 22-yard catch in the middle zone. **Rex goes long up top for incompletion, but along with Gaffney's two deep attempts - shows Armstrong is not only deep option.
Kyle Shanahan Play calling
**2nd series, three straight passes (deflect, hot mistake, bomb to JG) **Good balance overall...34 - pass , 26 - run. ***Great 2-minute drive, all passes, 5 different receivers, short and long.
*Great vertical post on Webster - good head fake and explosion on INC. **Stepped out-of-bounds essentially twice on a completion that was initially ruled catch, overturned on replay after challenge. **TD on 3rd-and-4, ran great short post route, (Rex's best throw of day? because of tight window)
**Allowed Rex to get hit hard on speed rush outside by 94-NYG, on incomplete to Gaffney. **On Cooley-Rex hot miscommunication, allowed Tollefson to blow past and hit Rex. **Allowed big sack by Tollefson, for 16 yard loss on 3rd-and-15, that pushed WSH out of FG position on 7-man pressure. **Did a good seal, wall block in front of Rex on Moss 22-yard reception. **Had a holding call on a stretch run right by Hightower.
**Allowed 2 sacks, one causing the Rex Grossman fumble lost. One sack was because he thought Kory L. was going to slide help. **Overall - a lot of runs to left side on zone stretch that did not get enough results.
**Allowed one direct sack to Chris Canty & may have been partially responsible for one of the Pierre-Paul sacks on Trent, as JPP stunted inside of Trent.
**Way too many rainbow snaps and general snapping issues, that have been a problem the entire preseason and camp.
**Got blown off the line, and allowed Dave Tollefson to rough up Rex. DT Linval Joseph crushed Rex on 11-yard completion to Gaffney in 2nd quarter, past Chester.
**Great pass coverage on Ballard. ***Goes wide (too far?) on Nix bomb. **On Eli TD, got sucked in on PA fake left and over pursued. **On Bradshaw TD, got stoned at POA by Hynoski. **On INT TD, had overload blitz with Atogwe/Rocky inside, avoided cut by K. McKenzie - stayed on feet - kept hands up, batted ball up in air, still had instinct to catch and run for score. **Had several other big pressures throughout game, including one rush and pressure that caused Eli an illegal grounding. **Did get beat on intermediate crossing route by TE, was behind in trail coverage all the way.
**ST punt tackle on opening punt by Rocca. **Bites on the post in deep man coverage vs. Nix with DHall underneath in zone. Got burned. **On Eli boot, over reads it and falls down. **Out of position on Bradshaw TD, after reading smoke to right (his left). **Made 9 defensive tackles, including one for loss (3rd-and-1, before blocked FG; really Cofield from behind) **Was late deep over the top - on seam route by TE Ballard for 41-yard gain. **Knifed in to backfield to blow up Jacobs, to help force long 3rd down attempt.
**Got stoned and pushed back 5 yards on first play, a Bradshaw run **Blew up 4th and 1 by shooting gap and causing shift by Bradshaw into traffic. (WSH leads 21-14) **On 3rd-and-1 stop - blew thru gap and chased down Bradshaw from behind. (Did not get credit)
**Gets blocked, but sheds block and backside tackle on 2nd down run. **Had Eli in finger tips on rush on long bomb to Nicks, but Eli stepped up and out of it. **Also in on front side seal of 4th down and 1 stop. **Final play of game, nickel front, on right side of Golston as only 2 down - just abuses Diehl for sack to finish. **Contributed with D-Hall on 3rd down incompletion with big pass rush of Eli.
**Had big stunt pressure on 3rd-and-18 series, after Kerrigan and Doughty set up the distance to force incompletion. **Blown off line of scrimmage on big Brandon Jacobs run that set up Bradshaw TD. **Had big 3rd down sack from nickel front with 21-14 lead to force punt.
**Helped stone Bradshaw on 4th and 1 stop up middle (combined officially for tackle w/ Josh Wilson) **Blew up protection and swarmed Eli for nearly a sack with Neild, but Truck got whole credit. **Did get beat badly in deep seam route by TE (Ballard) for 41-yard gain. Looked slow.
*Spraigned right ankle on first series of game, and continued to play through it off-and-on the entire game.
*Had several pass rush attempts that he appeared to be held on.
**Blocked key FGA with the Redskins up 21-14.
**1st sack, slipped and initially went down to ground, before getting up and busting through his right side of 'A' gap. **2nd sack - blew through his left side of the 'A' gap, with London also blowing in, inside the NYG-3 yard line.
**Very good read, on quick screen left to force key INC. **Big pressure and force INC later in game. **Helped with key pressure look (with Atogwe) inside of Kerrigan on overload of 91's TD.
**Nice run stop shooting gap on 2nd down, to force 3rd and Long. Made two tackles early. **Helped force early throw - on blitz overload with Rocky on Kerrigan TD. **Was very late on a 24 yard catch to Manningham, with Reed blitzing - from single high safety look.
**Had short underneath zone on Nicks long bomb, so not responsible. ** Made a great open field tackle on a 3rd down smoke, to force punt, one play after having a nice tackle and short pass defense. **Nice pass rush along with Carriker on 3rd Down, to force an incompletion in 7-7 game.
**Had good pass coverage on Nicks, and on very next play - tackles Mario Manningham after 6 yard catch - shy of first down marker. That let to the 4th-and-1 stop that he had a credited part in.
**Would have been beat on 3rd-and-8 by Cruz - but drop. **Was late, with deep help on Nicks long pass. Not his responsibility, but still have to point out.
**7 yard PR, looping and slipping. Opening KO returned 24 yards. Another KO return (down 7-0) returned 24 yards. **Banks 25-yard punt return for long of day.
The Giants had won 9 of the last 10 contests with the Redskins, but it's the Redskins who are 1-0 in the NFC East with a 28-14 victory over New York in the 2011 season opener.
The Giants had won six consecutive games - no small fact for Redskins players who've been here for while like Chris Cooley.
"I can't really express how good it feels to get a win today. They've been such a nemesis for us and to finally get that off our backs is huge," said Cooley.
Indeed, the Giants have been Redskins' wicked witch of the east, but ding dong, the witch is dead.
The Redskins' victory looked like the healthiest win they've had in a decade. For years, their play has been anemic as they constantly struggled and suffered their way for entire games, win or lose.
Not in 2011 - new faces and young blood helped the Redskins convincingly win a game that saw significant contributions from all three facets: offense, defense, and special teams.
Offensively, Grossman played as a top-tier quarterback for week 1 as he threw 21/34 for 305 yds including 2 TDs for a 110.5 QB rating. His success is as much a testament to his own abilities, as well as the system and play-calling of Kyle Shanahan.
Defensively, the Redskins came up with big stops when the team needed it and played statistically as a top ten NFL defense. Ryan Kerrigan scored his first career interception and first career TD in his first career game early in the 2nd half. The defense pestered Manning all day tallying 4 sacks along the way, including two from 7th round draft-pick rookie NT Chris Neild which earned him a game ball.
On Special Teams, yes Gano missed a sub-40 yarder and that is disturbing because he seems to succomb to pressure, but the blind field goal block on the other side by Brian Orakpo's backhand was a momentum changer that kept the game even.
The Redskins have been a joke to the league for the last 10 years. Laughers beware: this is not the same franchise and could be the biggest surprise of the NFL this year.