By Howard Bryant
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 9, 2006
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., Oct. 8 -- A week ago, the postgame scene in the Washington Redskins' locker room following a thrilling 36-30 overtime victory at home against Jacksonville was electrified in part because of the way the Redskins won an important football game, and in another part because they had defeated a team considered one of the league's best. It was proof, players and coaches said: If they could beat Jacksonville, the Redskins could beat anyone.
But the main reason the Redskins were so energized last week was because they had believed to have at last discovered their true identity as a roughneck, physical football team. That whatever skills or talent they may lack, they would always in the end be physically tougher than their opponents.
If the Redskins did not exactly wilt in their 19-3 loss to the New York Giants on Sunday at Giants Stadium, they at the very least collided with a team every bit as intent on administering a physical beating as they were. At no point did the Redskins' muscling tactics appear to have much of an effect on the Giants. If anything, the Giants seemed to send a strong-armed message of their own.
After giving up more than 400 total yards for the first time in his 37-game tenure as a Redskins coach, assistant Gregg Williams -- who during the weeks of muscle and intimidation has been quick to note the effect physical play has on opposing offenses -- was silent, leaving out a side door and conducting no interviews.
At no point did the Redskins break the Giants' resolve. In fact, the game appeared to turn first when the Giants opened the second half with an 8-minute 5-second drive that gave them a 16-3 lead and later when the Redskins countered with an 12-play drive of their own but stalled when John Hall missed a 42-yard field goal.
At one point during the second and third quarters, New York converted seven consecutive third-down situations.
Statistics underscored the Giants' ability to take the Redskins' best punch. The Giants not only racked up 411 yards of total offense but 155 yards of that came from the running game. Giants running back Tiki Barber, who rushed for 206 yards here a year ago in a 36-0 win, rushed for 123 yards on 23 carries, good for 5.3 yards per rush. If the Redskins were hitting, the Giants did not lose their nerve. They averaged 4.3 yards on the ground -- better than the Redskins' 3.9 yards per carry -- and 7.8 yards per pass. On the Giants' first five drives, they gained from 49 to 84 yards. Giants quarterback Eli Manning completed 23 of 33 passes for 256 yards and a touchdown.
"They talked [trash] all game long," Redskins left tackle Chris Samuels said. "They did up to the end of the game, but I can't say anything because they backed it up."
Since the second quarter of a 27-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 2, hitting has been the Redskins' trademark. There had been a point in each successive game when the accumulation of the Redskins' power approach appeared to take its toll on opposing offenses, and defenses.
Against Dallas, the Cowboys' receivers seemed to lack the required enthusiasm for running hard pass routes over the middle. Even star wide receiver Terrell Owens -- who broke a finger during that game -- appeared to short-arm passes in order to brace himself for a coming hit. In the week that followed, Williams praised his players, especially safety Sean Taylor, for putting fear into opposing receivers.
Against Houston and especially last week against Jacksonville, the Redskins' ability to out-hit their opponents was a central source of pride. Following the Jacksonville win, offensive linemen Randy Thomas and Samuels as well as fullback Mike Sellers were stars in the film room for beating down the Jaguars' defense with a punishing running game.
During the week, the Redskins talked of their plan to neutralize the emotion of former Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington's first game against his former team by hitting the Giants hard.
"It was definitely a physical, rough game, and they beat us," said Redskins linebacker Marcus Washington, who until the final gun sparred with Giants tackle Luke Petitgout. "We left a lot of plays out there, but they beat us."
The Giants' receivers did not fear Taylor or the rest of the Redskins' secondary as Plaxico Burress beat Taylor for a two-yard touchdown and again on a 46-yard pass play in the second quarter that set up a field goal.
"Plax went in and attacked Sean Taylor and kind of gave him a corner stick," Manning said. "I saw Taylor sort of get flipped around and that's when I threw it."