By Curt Macysyn
Any chance for the New York Giants to capture the NFC east went out the window on Sunday, as the G-men dropped a close affair to the Dallas Cowboys, 24-21, at MetLife Stadium. New York was unable to contain Dallas quarterback Tony Romo on the game’s final drive, as Romo’s precision passing led to Dan Bailey’s 35-yard field goal as time expired to vault Dallas to a crucial win.
In 2012, everything came up roses for Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, as the rookie from Baylor took his team to the NFC playoffs before a knee injury ended his season in a playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks. But Grifffin’s recovery from off-season knee surgery was nothing short of a miracle, and the charismatic signal caller has not missed game this season.
Meanwhile, Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan finds himself on the hot seat again in the nation’s capital. Shanahan was hired in 2010 to turn the fortunes around for a franchise that had only made the NFL playoffs three times in the 17 seasons before he arrived. But two losing seasons spurred Redskins owner Daniel Snyder to pull the trigger on the franchise-changing trade for Griffin, and after drafting RG3, the ‘Skins ended their playoff drought in 2012.
This season has been the polar opposite as Griffin, Shanahan and the rest of the squad have suffered through a mistake-prone campaign with a 3-8 record. NBC kept this contest in its Sunday Night Football prime time slot, perhaps hoping that both teams will be able to recapture some old magic.
Read option is not an option
Looking at the Redskins season from a statistical standpoint, one would not immediately assume that the team is struggling mightily. Running back Alfred Morris will possibly crack the 1,000 yard plateau against the Giants. Morris needs only 30 yards to do so and would mark the second time in as many years that he has surpassed 1,000 yards rushing. The Redskins workhorse tailback would need to average 128 yards per game in his final five contests in order to eclipse his 1,612 rushing yards from 2012. That’s not to say that Morris is having a worse year this year than last year; he is not. In fact, the second-year man from Florida Atlantic University averages more yards per carry this year than last (5.0 yards vs. 4.8 yards), so there has been no sophomore slump. Overall, there will be a decrease in touchdowns for Morris (13 in 2012, 5 in 2013), but he also is not getting as many red zone chances this year either.
Behind Morris, Griffin and backup Roy Helu, Washington ranks second in the NFL in rushing with more than 150 yards per game on the ground.
Pierre Garcon is also having an outstanding year for the ‘Skins, after suffering through concussion problems in 2012. This year, Garcon has accumulated 75 catches for 919 yards and five touchdowns and has has established himself as Griffin’s go-to receiver in DC. Leonard Hankerson was lost to the team with knee surgery last week, so Washington lost its second leading receiver. Veteran Santana Moss will likely get more looks, and so will Josh Morgan, but neither has lit the world on fire. The two receivers have one touchdown catch between them.
Tight end Jordan Reed missed the game with San Francisco with a concussion, and the team activated Fred Davis for the game. But Davis had no impact in the game, and his once rising star, has fallen dramatically in Washington.
All of which leads to the quarterback situation in DC. To understand the Redskins struggles, is to understand that Robert Griffin III is not just the team’s quarterback; he is also their primary offensive threat. Since his knee surgery, RG3 has not been the same in the rushing attack. In 2012, Griffin averaged 54.3 yards rushing per game, as compared just 33.4 yards rushing this year. In addition, RG3 has zero rushing touchdowns in 2013, after garnering seven last year. Given these statistics, it is easy to see that the read option has not been an option this year.
As a pocket passer, Griffin has lower completion percentage, more than twice as many interceptions than all of last year, and a much lower quarterback rating (102.4 in 2012 vs. 81.9 in 2013). If and when Griffin fully recovers from his knee problems, time will tell if 2012 was an anomaly or not.
The NFC east is home to the 32nd, 31st and 28th ranked defenses in the league, and none of it has helped the Giants, who are 1-3 in the division. In fact, this week New York faces a Redskins squad that gives up an average of 382.1 yards per game, which ironically is 50 yard less than the Cowboys.
Washington is also next-to-last in points surrendered per game (30.7), but does have five defensive touchdowns to its credit.
Ageless wonder London Fletcher is second on the team in total tackles with 77, just behind four-year veteran linebacker Perry Riley, who has 82 total tackles. The pass rush will not be a heavy burden for New York as the Redskins have 27 quarterback sacks on the season. Team sack leaders, Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan are athletic forces to contend with in the passing game, since they come form the outside linebacker positions. It would be easy to say the Giants have difficulty with speed rushers, but New York has difficulty pass protecting period.
Loud-mouth cornerback DeAngelo Hall gets the spotlight in the secondary, but fellow cornerback Josh Wilson has never missed a game since coming to DC three years ago. Hall does have two defensive touchdowns this year, but has always been a high-risk, high-reward player for Washington. Safety Brandon Meriweather has been somewhat of a disappointment since being drafted by the New England Patriots in the first round in 2007.
The New York Giants lead the overall series with the Redskins franchise 94-64-4 that started in 1932, when the team was located in Boston and called the Braves. The teams have combined for 13 NFL championships, including seven Super Bowl wins
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Curt Macysyn has been covering the New York Football Giants for the past two seasons for Examiner.com. Born and raised in northern New Jersey, Curt has followed and covered the New York Metropolitan sports scene for 35 years. He attended Seton Hall Prep School in South Orange, NJ and is a graduate of Rutgers University, New Brunswick. His work can be found on Examiner.com.