Game three and people are already throwing around terms like ‘must win’ and ‘critical game’. While there is no doubt that a win for the Redskins against a divisional rival would be huge, it is still a little early to be ‘critical’. A win would put the Redskins alone atop the NFC East by as many as two games, but more importantly, the team, the league, the media, and the fans, would all have to start believing that this team has playoff potential.
The Giants are coming into the game fresh off of a heart-breaking loss on Monday night to the Cowboys. Not only did the loss put New York at 1-1; it left them doubting themselves. It wasn’t just a game that they could have won; it was a game they should’ve won. Coach Jim Fassel openly admitted that he should not have left so much time on the clock when the Giants kicked a potentially game-winning FG with 12 seconds to go. Rather than run the clock down further, the Giants wanted to make sure that they left enough time for a ‘do-over’ in the event that something went wrong on the kick. Fassel conceded that he was thinking of last year’s playoff loss to the 49ers, when he made the decision. Then to make matters worse, as if to doubt his special teams, Fassel ordered a squib kick on the ensuing kickoff rather than just kicking the ball deep. When the ball ‘squibbed’ out of bounds, Dallas got the ball on their own 40, and suddenly had a chance.
Leaving the added time on the clock allowed Dallas to complete a quick pass to Antonio Bryant on the sideline and get into FG position. They kicked the FG, sent the game into overtime, and kicked another FG to win 35-32. Fassel’s second-guessing and over-conservativeness not only cost the Giants the game; it cost them some confidence.
Keys to Victory for the Redskins:
On offense, Washington will have to do a much better job of protecting Patrick Ramsey. As tough as P-Ram is, no quarterback can continue to be sacked at the rate of 5 times per game without ramifications. The Giants defensive line is formidable, and while the offensive line will have to give Ramsey more time to throw, Ramsey will have to do a better job of throwing the ball away when there’s nothing there. Otherwise… he’ll be running for his life all day long. Jon Jansen and Michael Strahan have had some epic battles over the last few years, and Sunday should be no different. The Redskins will have to get JJ some tight end help to double Strahan if it looks like he is winning the war early.
Washington will also have to run the ball well. The Giants’ cornerbacks, Will Peterson and Will Allen are excellent, and will cover Laveranues Coles and Rod Gardner as well as any team in the league can. So far, nobody has managed to contain Coles, but a good running attack will force the Giants to honor the run and make it tough for them to get Peterson the safety help he needs to cover Coles on every play. Peterson is also a physical cornerback, and will bite on a good pump fake. Coles will only need a moment’s hesitation to beat Peterson in a flat out race every time.
On defense, Washington will have to stop Tiki Barber. The G-men also have some great receiving targets in Amani Toomer and Ike Hilliard, but in order to be effective, the Redskins will have to first be effective stopping Barber. New York gets Luke Petitgout back into their offensive line after starting three rookies last week. The Redskins defensive line MUST win the battle in the trenches and hold up that battered o-line so that the linebackers are free to pursue and make tackles. Jessie Armstead would love to have a big day against his old team, so watch for him to make an impact with some big tackles.
There’s also the ‘Shockey-factor’. Though Jeremy Shockey has yet to make an impact for New York in the 2003 season, he will. Washington will need to shut him down early and take him out of the game. The Redskins have the linebacking corps to nullify his effectiveness, but Shockey will still get his touches. The defense will have to employ strong tackling and swarm the young TE whenever he does touch the ball. Shockey comes in to the game on a low, having dropped several passes in the Dallas game. Stopping him early and getting into his head will be the most effective way to neutralize the young phenom.
Fred Smoot will be a game time decision due to his concussion. If he can’t go, the Redskins will have to try and ‘man-up’ Rashad Bauman with Hilliard and see if he can do the job. Otherwise, Washington will be forced to get Bauman safety help making it more difficult to stop Shockey and Barber.
While this will be a tough, hard-fought game… it is definitely ‘winnable’ for the Skins. With the tough schedule that Washington drew, especially the first half, a 3-0 record would be… Giant.
Edit: This blog was archived in May of 2016 from our original articles database.It was originally posted by Mark Solway