Redskins 17 – Giants 16: Hits, Misses, & Musings
It was nearly a year ago today that the Washington Redskins had their way with the Giants in a game at MetLife Stadium, a game in which the Redskins won 23-10 and a game in which the roles of Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris were played by Rex Grossman and Roy Helu respectively.
Well, we all know how the Giants season ended last year despite that painful and ugly loss to a division rival. The Giants team that Redskins owner Daniel Snyder was reportedly overheard late Monday night telling a Redskins staffer how much he hated, had their backs against the wall, got hot, and finished up as the NFC East champions who went on to win the Super Bowl.
Fast forward to 2012. The Giants came into the game having won 26 straight road games when leading at the half. They ran the ball for over 100 yards. They had balance on offense. They won the time of possession battle.
They should have won right then, right?
Wrong. They lost by one point, not so much because of what they did, but rather because of what they didn’t do.
Let’s start with playing disciplined football, a problem in 2011 when the Giants had eight against the Redskins in that second meeting.
This time around? Count ‘em — nine of them and they were all backbreaking in their own ways. Let’s look at a few:
** Giants Opening Drive: right tackle Sean Locklear commits a false start on a first and ten from the Redskins’ 2. That creates a first and-15, and of those 15 yards, the Giants only pick up seen, having to settle for a field goal.
** Start of Second Quarter: With first and ten on the Redskins’ 30, quarterback Eli Manning is flagged for intentional grounding. Result? Loss of downs, a second-and-20 and the Giants end up attempting the ill-fated Tynes field goal that sailed wide left.
** Opening Kickoff, Third Quarter: Jim Cordle is flagged for the first of two holding penalties, this one wiping out nine of David Wilson’s 18 return yards and pushing the Giants starting field position back to their 9.
** Fourth quarter: Cordle gets nailed for holding a second time, this one wiping out a 49-yard return by Wilson, who had broken the return to mid-field. Instead, the Giants start at their eight and end up going three-and-out.
** Fourth quarter, 6:06: Left tackle William Beatty is caught holding on third-and-10 after Manning completes a pass to tight end Martellus Bennett. The Giants are unable to recover.
“We had nine penalties, six on offense, and the Redskins, who had led the division in penalties, had only four,” head coach Tom Coughlin said on Tuesday after having sat through the tape. “The penalties can eat away at your guts because you know how easy it is to avoid them and how much better things could have been.”
Missed opportunities? Afraid so, folks. Just like last year, when the Giants converted just 25% of their red zone opportunities, which meant they left points on the field. Same as this year, when they failed to tack on eight points in the first half.
This time around, there was the afore-mentioned missed field goal by Lawrence Tynes, the one in which the snap was poor, yet which holder Steve Weatherford seemed to quickly coral and set down before Tynes approached it, and, of course, the stalled first drive of the game I which the Giants drove all the way to the Redskins’ 21 only to have to settle for a 39-yard Tynes field goal.
The defense wasn’t blameless either, just as it wasn’t blameless last year, when it allowed the Redskins to complete 53% of its third down attempts and it gave up 123 yards on the ground and 177 in the air.
This year, after holding running back Alfred Morris to 44 yards on six carries in the first half, and RG3 to one carry for 12 yards, Morris ended up with 124 yards on 22 carries while RG3 finished with five carries for 72 yards.
Defensive end Osi Umenyiora was asked what the Redskins did differently in the second half, and said he’d have to look at the tape.
What I saw was a defense that appeared to not do a good job with contain as the Redskins completed three of their four third down attempts, the three conversions by the way all short yardage situations of three or fewer yards, which meant the Redskins were having success on first and second downs.
I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. And the reason I’m bringing up the second Redskins game from last season is because that game appeared to be a fatal blow to the Giants’ playoff chances. Instead, they buckled their chin straps, went to work, got hot, and destroyed anyone who got in their path.
Will the do so again this year? Well, it’s a different team and a different set of circumstances, but the goal is still the same, and that is they have to win the division as there likely won’t be any wild card spots given to the runner-up in the NFC East.
They’ve been in this situation before and they bounced back when they stopped being their own worst enemy. It will be interesting to see how they respond moving forward against a four-team group of opponents in which at least two are headed for certain post season berths.
It won’t be easy – it never is for this team. But it’s not impossible. They’ve proven that.
I said during the game that I liked how Ahmad Bradshaw, who’s been bothered by a sore foot for the better part of the season, and I’ll give him kudos again here. He carried the rock 24 times for 103 yards, a very respectable 4.3 yards per carry. He even took a direct snap in he first quarter on a third-and-two, running for 14 yards in the process, his longest run of the game. And he contributed numerous solid pass blocks in what was a heavy workload. When it was all said and done,. Bradshaw was actually one of the bright spots for the Giants on offense.
“I love Cap n’ Crunch! I eat a whole bunch! Cap n’ Crunch!” Yeah, tight end Martellus Bennett’s catchy little tribute to his favorite cereal is stuck in my head thanks to my husband, who by the way loves Cap n’ Crunch (I, however, am not much of a fan of the sugary cereal). But if Cap n’ Crunch is to Bennett what spinach is to Popeye, then somebody send that man a carton full of the sugary cereal stat because he had one of his most productive games of late, catching five of seven balls thrown his way for 82 yards and the Giants’ lone touchdown of the game.
For all the frustration Giants fans had with linebacker Keith Rivers and his early season injuries, I think you can admit that when he’s on the field, he’s a very intriguing player who has a nice blend of size and speed. Rivers, who by the way moved into the starting lineup at the strongside linebacker which in turn allows the coaches to keep Mathias Kiwanuka on the defensive line where his talents are better utilized, was one of the few Giants defenders players who was actually physical on every snap, including the play in which he forced a turnover.
I’m not an expert when it comes to grounds keeping, but the FedEx Stadium field sure did look chewed up to me by the start of the second half, especially between the numbers. And before anyone reminds me that both teams had to play on it, there looked like there were a handful of instances were players on both teams had trouble with their footing. And I wonder just what kind of an effect it had on the sprains and strains players from both teams might have suffered.
I think we need to start thwith the Giants’ defensive line, which was outplayed in nearly every aspect of the game. You can start with the run defense, which was abysmal. I get it that the Redskins’ option is tricky, but all too often, the defensive front was frozen in their stance reacting to what the Redskins were throwing at them—and thus letting them dictate the tempo—rather than being proactive. And let’s not forget that the Giants front four didn’t register a single sack against RG3, who was only hit twice the entire game.
Earlier in the season, we at Inside Football gushed over the two-man blocking tandem of Jim Cordle and Henry Hynoski on kickoff returns. This week, however, Cordle was the guilty party who not once but twice cost his team with penalties which swayed the starting field position in the Redskins’ favor.
It’s funny how when you hear an offensive lineman’s name mentioned, it’s usually associated with a bad thing. That’s what happened to left tackle Will Beatty, who on a third-and-10 on their 43 with 4:42 remaining and down one point, drew a little yellow flag that wiped out a first down completion to Bennett.
Prior to that penalty, Beatty had put in another solid week’s worth of work, but on the play, he seemed to be just a split second late in reacting in getting into his block. If you’re looking for a turning point in the game, I think that would have to be right up there.
How many more times are we going to see cornerback Corey Webster beaten on a deep pass? Last week he was beaten on a touchdown reception. This week, it was Pierre Garçon, who beat Webster twice on passes of 35 and 25 yards (though to be fair, it looked as though the safety help was late getting over).
But in getting back to Webster, was it that long ago that he rarely let a receiver get behind him the way it’s been lately? Maybe Webster, who according to the statistical data provided ProFootballFocus.com has given up six touchdowns this season as teams continue to throw more and more at him, is still hurting from early season hamstring issues and that’s why he hasn’t quite looked like himself?
Last week we saw the Packers give the ball to their fullback John Kuhn, who ran for four times for 17 yards and had three receptions for 49 yards. This week, the Redskins gave the ball to their fullback, Darrell Young, who had two carries for eight yards.
Would it really be a major deal for offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride to give his fullback, Henry Hynoski, a chance to carry the ball a couple of times a game, thereby giving Bradshaw a breather?
At least with Hynoski, he has shown that he can pass block. So using him in that role wouldn’t be like when David Wilson, who we keep hearing is making progress and who’s getting closer, comes onto the fieldand it’s obvious the play will either be a handoff to him orhe’ll be a decoy. Until Wilson’s ready for a bigger slice of the pie, why not use Hynoski a little bit more, especially if it means keeping Bradshaw fresh for down the stretch?
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I don’t profess to have the same in-depth knowledge of the rules as the officials, so I will withhold any comments about the calls in this game.
What I will say is this: the Giants had their chances to pull this game out, regardless of the calls or non-calls. The Redskins played well, but the Giants also made things easy with their sloppy play, and have now made their quest to get into the playoffs ridiculously more difficult if you consider they are on shaky ground regarding the tie-breakers over Washington if the two teams end up with identical won-loss records.
The Giants, who split the head-to-head with the Redskins, are 2-3 in the division with one game remaining (Philly). So the best they can hope for is a 3-3 mark if they beat the Eagles in the regular season finale.
Washington is 3-1 in the division with two games remaining. They need just win one more to clinch that tie breaker against the Giants and with games remaining against the Eagles and Dallas, both of whom they have already beaten, that seems likely.
Coming into this week’s game, the Redskins pass defense was ranked 15th in the conference in net yards allowed per game, sacks per pass play, and first downs allowed per game. And yet the Giants somehow managed to complete just three of 13 deep passes for 103 of Manning’s 280 passing yards, which just goes to show that Manning and his receivers continue to struggle to find common ground in the passing game.
THE FINAL WORD
I hope that the serious injury suffered by offensive lineman Sean Locklear to his right knee isn’t career-ending. When he went down, I had flashbacks to the regular season finale in 2010 when on that very same field, another offensive lineman, Rich Seubert tore a bunch of ligaments and suffered patella damage, an injury that ended his career.
Locklear, who had been playing well for the most part this season, is on the wrong side of 30, just like Seubert was. If the injury is as bad as preliminary reports are claiming, he’ll have a long road to recovery before he can play again, if he can play again.
Hopefully he’ll get that chance to go out on his terms and not because of an injury. He’s a good guy who deserves better.