What: Giants (7-4) vs. Redskins (5-6)
Where: FedEx Field, Landover, Md.
When: Monday, 8:30 p.m.
Redskins Kickoff and Postgame Live: Comcast SportsNet 7:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.
One of the enduring images from the forgettable first half of the Redskins’ season was Giants’ wide receiver Victor Cruz performing a celebratory salsa in the end zone in the waning moments of the teams’ Oct. 21 meeting.
Moments earlier, Cruz had raced through the heart of Washington’s secondary and hauled in a 77-yard, game-clinching touchdown without so much as being touched by a defender. As a result, certain victory had been snatched from the Redskins’ grasp.
“We were supposed to win that game,” defensive end Stephen Bowen said this week. “The good thing is we get another opportunity, and we’re still right in the mix.”
Indeed, the NFC East rivals meet again on Monday Night Football in a pivotal matchup for both teams. A Redskins’ win would catapult them back into the race for the division and wild card. A Giants’ win, however, would give them a commanding three-game division lead with four games left to play.
"We understand where our record is and what we have to do," Coach Mike Shanahan said. "Our goal is to win the NFC East, and to do that, we have to play well."
And like the teams’ first encounter, big plays – both for and against – will be paramount for the Redskins, who will be hosting their first meaningful game in December since 2007.
Obviously, the defense must eliminate long plays from scrimmage for Eli Manning and Co. Another touchdown like Cruz’s – or Dez Bryant’s 85-yarder on Thanksgiving – could, in fact, end the Redskins' season.
On the other side of the ball, Washington’s offense will aim to extend a recent run of producing long, game-changing plays. In the past two games – season-saving victories over the Eagles and Cowboys – Robert Griffin III has thrown a team-record eight touchdowns. Four of those passes have come from 49 or more yards out. He had only two such scoring passes the previous nine contests.
New York’s defense, meantime, ranks 25th in passing yards allowed per game (253) and 30th in yards per reception (12.8). So the opportunity to go deep should be available to Griffin and his resurgent corps of receivers.
“We’re hitting things that we weren’t hitting earlier in the year,” Griffin said this week. “We’re able to do things were weren’t able to do [because] our receivers are playing at a high level. We’ve [also] added some elements to the passing game that make us more dangerous, so they’ll prepare for that and we'll see what happens.”
Here are the other storylines the team at www.csnwashington.com will be monitoring throughout the game:
1-Rookie running back Alfred Morris needs only 18 yards to reach 1,000 for the season. Only 10 running backs in franchise history have reached the plateau and it’s only been done 22 times by a Redskin. Morris would also become the first to accomplish the feat since Clinton Portis in 2008 and only the second rookie.
2-Takeways, as always, will be “crucial,” according to nose tackle Barry Cofield. In each of the past two victories, the Redskins defense has forced three turnovers. In the losses to Steelers and Panthers, the unit forced none.
“It’s definitely not a coincidence. For me, our two worse losses were the Pittsburgh and Carolina games,” Cofield said. “That’s a stat Coach Shanahan put in front of us. Turnovers can cover up out shortcomings on defense and are something that can propel the offense.”
3-Although Pierre Garçon lined up for only 29 of the offensive snaps against the Cowboys, the wide receiver’s contributions were undeniable. He had four receptions for 86 yards, including a 59-yard touchdown.
“It helped me to be more comfortable and more confident,” said Garçon, who added that his foot injury continues to improve and that he’s learning to cope with – and perform despite – the discomfort. “It’s getting better; there’s progress.”
4-Milestone watch: If London Fletcher’s ailing left ankle allows him to suit up, as expected, he’ll extend his league-leading consecutive games streak to 236. …If Griffin rushes for 65 yards, he’ll break Cam Newton’s record for rushing yards by a rookie quarterback (706). …An interception for DeAngelo Hall would be his 40th and make him one of only six active players with as many. ...The Redskins will be seeking to end a 10-game losing streak at home on Monday night.