Quick Links

Flashback Monday: Skins shatter Meadowlands jinx

Flashback Monday: Skins shatter Meadowlands jinx

The 1991 Washington Redskins were a perfect storm composed of talented, determined players and a coaching staff pushing the right buttons at exactly the right moment. This Week 8 game is a great illustration of that as the RealRedskins.com Giants flashback series continues. From the pages of The Redskins From A to Z:

Giants Stadium—The Redskins battled back from a 13-0 halftime deficit and stormed past the Giants thanks largely to two touchdown passes from Mark Rypien to Gary Clark.

It's not often that a 7-0 team with a two-game lead in its division goes into a game with a chip on its collective shoulder, but that was exactly the mood of the Redskins going into this Sunday night contest in Giants Stadium.

The mindset stemmed from the fact that the Giants had beaten the Redskins six straight times. Worse, with the exception of a 1987 game played by strike replacement players, Washington had not won in the Meadowlands since 1983. This led to talk that the 7-0 start was not so impressive since they hadn't faced their nemesis yet.

"I was getting pretty upset about hearing that 7-0 didn't mean a thing," said defensive tackle Eric Williams. "I wasn't going to apologize for our record because the New York Giants hadn't been on the schedule."

The way the game started out, it appeared that the Redskins were going to have to apologize for their performance. The Giants controlled the line of scrimmage and outgained Washington 207 yards to 35. The frustration for the Washington offense was summed up on one play when Gary Clark got open deep, Mark Rypien delivered the pass on target, but Clark dropped the ball.

On the positive side, as badly as they had been outplayed the Redskins weren't out of the game on the scoreboard. Rodney Hampton scored a touchdown on a one-yard run, but two other New York forays deep into Washington territory were stopped short of the end zone and the Giants had to settle for two Raul Allegre field goals and a 13-0 halftime lead.

"The way it started, you have a tendency to say 'Goodness, gracious, here we go again,'" said Gibbs. Most of the players chose stronger language. The mood of the team in the locker room at halftime was one of loud, self-directed anger. Clark, desperate for a chance at redemption for dropping the sure TD pass, was among the most vocal, screaming, "Give me the damn ball!"

Rypien did just that with a seven-yard touchdown pass to Clark to pull the Redskins to within six at 13-7. That capped an 87-yard drive during which the Redskins converted seven straight third downs. The defense stopped the Giants when rookie defensive tackle Bobby Wilson knifed in to nail Hampton for a six-yard loss, forcing a punt.

The Redskins moved to their own 46 yard line where they faced third and 12. Looking for a gamebreaker, Joe Gibbs called a play that assistant Rod Dowhower had suggested in meetings the week before. The Giants were playing their standard defense, a soft, two-deep zone that was designed to prevent the deep pass. They key to beating it long was to get someone out of position.

Rypien took the snap and rolled to his left. Every time he had done that previously that year, he had thrown to the left. Free safety Greg Jackson knew this and dropped off of Clark, who was running a fly outside the right hashmark. "When he rolls that way," said Jackson, "we have to roll with him."

That left Clark with single coverage from corner Everson Walls. Clark got a step and Rypien got him the ball at the three. The receiver bobbled the ball for just a moment but this time he secured it for a 14-13 lead.

"It was exactly the same play as in the first half," Clark said. "Rip laid it right in my hands."

After getting the ball back, the Redskins did exactly what they needed to do; they ground out a time-consuming drive. Rookie running back Ricky Ervins was the workhouse, carrying the ball on 10 of the 14 plays that chewed nearly eight minutes off the clock. Chip Lohmiller's field goal to make it 17-13 came with 47 seconds left and Wilbur Marshall's interception shut off New York's last-gasp effort.

Quick Links

Jay Gruden squashes perception that Alabama defenders don't produce in NFL

Jay Gruden squashes perception that Alabama defenders don't produce in NFL

Alabama dominates college football in a way few teams ever have. In the last two seasons, the Crimson Tide has lost just two games, winning one national title and narrowly missing a second.

The strength of 'Bama, year after year, is their defense. Nick Saban coaches it, Nick Saban knows it, and Nick Saban demands the best from his players. 

Oddly, however, a few recent Alabama defenders drafted to the NFL have not produced. Or at least their production did not match their draft status. 

It's not too hard to pick names that fit that perception. Rolando McClain. Terrance Cody. Dre Kirkpatrick. And at running back, Trent Richardson didn't help.

Still, the Redskins invested heavily in the Tide during the 2017 draft. Their top two picks played for Saban's defense last year, and Washington coach Jay Gruden does not buy any part of the perception that 'Bama products regress in the NFL.

"I don’t see any negative whatsoever with them going to Alabama," Gruden said late Friday night.

The 'Skins selected Jonathan Allen in the first round and Ryan Anderson in the second. Both guys started on the Tide's front seven, and both players dominated.

"They come there and they are well coached. Anytime you watch college football, and you watch other defenses, no disrespect, and then you flip on an Alabama game, it’s different," Gruden said. "The speed is different. They are well-coached, they are in their gaps, they play hard, they play physical, and that’s from Week 1 until the end. That has to appeal to you as a coach. They are using their hands, they are physical, they are chasing the ball, they are running to the ball."

The perception, right or wrong, has two main positions. The first is that the Alabama defense looks so good because it is full of five-star recruits. When everyone is good, or great, on the college level, it's hard to truly judge any singular player's game tape. The second is that Saban is so exhausting, so demanding of his players, they arrive to the NFL with too many reps.

For those around the NFL, both theories are laughable. Pro scouts know game tape. How else can they judge a future first rounder when he matches up against a walk-on? And for every alleged 'Bama bust, think about Haha Clinton-Dox or Landon Collins or C.J. Mosley or Dont'a Hightower. 

Might some Tide players get overdrafted because of their success and high profile? That's a different conversation. What's certain is the Redskins are quite confident in both of their Alabama draft picks.

"We know they are both highly intelligent guys. They understand football, understand X’s and O’s and they both play very hard with a high motor and they are well-coached."

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

Quick Links

Redskins focus on defense through three rounds in the NFL Draft

Redskins focus on defense through three rounds in the NFL Draft

Coming into the offseason, there was plenty of talk coming from the Redskins organization that the team needed to upgrade the defense. Those who have been following the team for a while have heard this for many years now. However, usually the talk is just that, with more draft capital and free agency money going to the offense year in and year out.

But this year things are different.

The lion’s share of free agent spending went to the defense. They added linemen Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee, linebacker Zach Brown, and safety D.J. Swearinger. Now they have started off their draft with a laser focus in the defensive side of the ball.

RELATED: Redskins add cornerback with first round talent, but injuries pushed him to the third round

In the first round, they were delighted to take Jonathan Allen, the top-rated defensive lineman on their board. In the second round they went with outside linebacker Ryan Anderson, a teammate of Allen’s at Alabama. Then in the third round the pick was cornerback Fabian Moreau out of UCLA.

It’s been 20 years since the Redskins have gone so heavy with defensive picks at the top of the draft. Not since 1997 have they taken defensive players in the first three rounds of the draft. That year they took DE Kenard Lang, LB Greg Jones, and LB Derek Smith in rounds one, two, and three, respectively.

We will see how much impact the three draft picks have on the defense and, as Redskins fans have learned over the years, an influx of free agents on defense doesn’t guarantee improvement on that side of the ball.

But at least the Redskins organization is putting its money, and its draft picks, where its mouth is and that has be considered a positive development.

MORE REDSKINS: Redskins make it two Alabama defenders in the 2017 draft class so far

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.