1. One late-season win does not mean anything for 2012. The Giants are in a bad state right now and the calls for Tom Coughlin’s job will be louder, so they might have simply beaten a team that continues a free fall (five losses in six games). However, two more wins to close the season could mean something for next season. In 1995 they won three of their last four en route to a 9-7 mark the next season. They went 4-1 in 1998 and won the division the following season at 10-6. They won three of five to close 2004 and won 10 games the next season. So, yes, it can help and it can set a tone. Of course they need more parts. They still need to draft a quarterback. Sunday’s win doesn’t change this. There’s still a ways to go in this rebuild. But it does re-affirm to the players in the locker room what they’ve believed all season: They are going somewhere. Sometimes it’s hard to believe them and, really, it’s irrelevant if we do. It only matters what they think. So when you think this way you must be rewarded otherwise that belief erodes in a hurry. Wins like Sunday only strengthen that belief. But if they lose to Minnesota at home on Saturday, then today’s win really didn’t mean much other than one positive day in another bad season.
2. Rex Grossman played a good game after his first two interceptions, the first of which was sorely underthrown and the second of which was just a bad throw. I give him a lot of credit for recovering from those throws. But it’s not a surprise; he’s used to throwing interceptions and I really don’t think one or two affect him all that much. However, if the defense had not responded the way it did – forcing three-and-outs both times – then maybe it’s a different story. It nearly was when Hakeem Nicks dropped a certain TD pass on a bomb from Eli Manning. (By the way, that side of the field is a problem with the sun, which affected several reception attempts). It helps that he’s faced two horrendous secondaries in a row. There were times Sunday when it seemed like the Giants had little clue as to what the Redskins were running; guys were that wide open.
3. Players do genuinely like playing with Grossman (he gives receivers a chance to make plays). That clearly matters and it’s something that’s tough to measure and it’s one reason why the offense has done well since he returned. He’s outplayed Eli Manning in their matchups, though one is facing a good defense and the other is not. But one also has explosive receivers and the other does not. Grossman is still a turnover machine and one thing you really don’t want to do is fall in love with what he’s doing now because he’s still a guy who can, and does, kill a game with multiple picks.While it's great that Grossman can recover from bad stretches the problem is those bad stretches always take place. But I’m guessing I don’t need to tell anyone that. So I’ll move on.
4. It’s funny because in talking to one Giants insider after the game, there’s a definite contrast between the two teams. The Redskins are 5-9 and headed nowhere, yet their locker room seems more in sync than the Giants, who are 7-7 and can still make the playoffs. Doesn’t sound like the Giants have the same sort of leadership the Redskins have. There’s a reason the Giants have lost five of their last six games. They’ve had injuries too so that’s an issue. But after the game Antrel Rolle and Justin Tuck took some shots at one another through the media. The issue: playing without having practiced all week, as Tuck and Ahmad Bradshaw did. Rolle wasn’t thrilled. By the way, Rolle has a radio show in New York on Mondays which are now must listen because of his sometimes inflammatory or harsh comments. I do not miss covering mouthy players with radio shows.
5. The coaches deserve a lot of credit. Yeah, Mike Shanahan has kept his players focused despite a bad showing. But that’s as much a credit to the type of player and character they have. But it’s more about adjusting on offense despite the heavy losses. They had what many considered an average offensive line and now they have three replacements. They lost a tight end playing at a Pro Bowl level. They have no true No. 1 receiver. Yet they’ve scored 20 or more points in four of the last five games, the best stretch under Shanahan. They’ve adjusted their approach, using more I-formation sets with Darrel Young. Or more three-receiver sets with Niles Paul, allowing them to sometimes catch the defense with six in the box. You might know they’ll run with Paul in the game, but he’s still a receiver in the slot whom you need to cover. They’ve used more inside tosses. Yes teams are taking away the stretch zone to the outside but this also prevents quick penetration vs. the tackles or tight ends, as happened Sunday a couple times. And then the play-action still freezes the rush and the ‘backers. They’ve used personnel groups they hadn’t used before, which makes it tough on a defense. For now, at least, it makes them tougher to defend. Once more film is out there of these groups that could change. They’re also mixing in some trick plays, which isn’t bad. They don’t sustain anything, but really those trick plays didn’t yield them much. And the flea flicker resulted in an interception.
6. OK, I wasn’t able to focus heavily on LT Willie Smith so it’s hard to say if he had a great game or not. But I do know the kid is excited by what he did in the game. Why? Because he learned a lesson last week, worked on it in practice and performed better in the game. At least that’s how he felt after the game Sunday. Maybe watching the film will tell him a different story. Regardless, Smith worked on staying more balanced. He felt he leaned too much in his first action and sat back. But the first time he went one on one with Jason Pierre-Paul, Smith didn’t lean and he stayed balance. It’s part of the learning curve. “I did that and I blocked him,” he said. “It goes to show if I can do that every play I could be a great player.” Maybe, maybe not. But it’s hard not to like his enthusiasm.
7. So after telling us all week that he wouldn’t talk, corner DeAngelo Hall has a good game and ... returns to talking to the media. He’s spoken with us every time after bad games in the past. But there were plays last week that he needed to discuss and he failed to do so. If you’re a leader, you’re a leader at all times. I remember years ago Brian Mitchell downing a kickoff at the 1- or 2-yard line (can’t remember which). That was embarrassing. Yet the guy answered every question after the game. He didn’t wait until the embarrassing moment was eclipsed by a better one. For what it’s worth, Hall said he played a great game vs. New England.
8. Hall and the secondary played a terrific game Sunday, especially fellow corner Josh Wilson. He knocked a pass down on the first play; he stripped a pass from Hakeem Nicks’ hands late in the first half, prevented a touchdown catch by causing a bobble at the goal line, and he intercepted the pass in the end zone in the fourth quarter. Why Eli Manning threw that ball was beyond me. I’m not alone. Manning threw the ball to the back corner of the end zone where only one guy was standing: Wilson. “I can’t believe he threw that pass,” one Redskin said. Every time I start to think Manning is an elite quarterback, I see him against the Redskins and there’s just a difference watching him vs. a Tom Brady.
9. Roy Helu looked like he’d been in a boxing match. His right eye was starting to swell (not quite like Rocky, but it wasn’t far off). Thing is, he didn’t even know when or how it happened (he thinks it occurred when he lost his helmet on a carry). The kid is tough. After one play he was jawing with DT Chris Canty. He’s not going to back down. He also was contained by the Giants’ front and managed just 2.3 yards per carry. The Redskins’ longest run was 14 yards – and it came on an end around by Anthony Armstrong. But when you run the ball 40 times, including 22 in the first half. It certainly helps when you have a lead early and can stay balanced. However, with the Giants’ secondary doing an atrocious job in coverage it would have been easy to throw more, especially given the lack of holes on the ground. They did not. And because of it you continued to see linebackers sucked up by play-action fakes – followed by receivers catching it near the hashes.
10. The Redskins’ pass rush did a solid job of at least moving Manning out of the pocket and forcing him to throw on the move. That’s not what he wants. In hindsight they’re a good match against the Giants because of their front seven’s ability to apply pressure. The Giants’ line is also a mess and therefore it’s not a stretch to think the Redskins would have success in this area. But it also depends on the coverage being sound and after some early mishaps or near mishaps it was. Stephen Bowen continues to have a strong finish. Again, that’s what you want to see right? And if you see guys playing well in wins, that’s also a good sign.
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