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Rich Tandler is the author of Gut Check, The Complete History of Coach Joe Gibbs’ Washington Redskins. Get details and order at http://GutCheckBook.com
The struggling Redskins get another shot at the team that their current woes started against.
You remember, Week 2, September 19. Washington had beaten Tampa Bay in the season opener a week earlier and was coming in to play a Giants team that had been noncompetitive in losing to Philadelphia. On their first drive, the Redskins moved smartly downfield as Clinton Portis rushed for 24 yards and Mark Brunell launched accurate passes to Laveranues Coles, Sellers and, finally Cooley for the touchdown.
A couple of possessions later, early in the second quarter, the defense stoped New York on a fourth and one at the Redskins 35. The Redskins were getting ready to go on a roll and put the Giants in a big hole.
But on third down Brunell fumbled and Michael Strahan recovered at the Washington 38. On the next play, Kurt Warner went from being a broken-down has-been to a comeback player of the year candidate as he launched a touchdown pass to tie the game. On the next Washington possession, Coles lost 16 yards on an end around. After the teams exchanged punts, Portis fumbled for the first time in forever and the Giants recovered and took it in for the touchdown.
The tone had been set and Redskins’ season has been going downhill ever since.
The Giants, on the other hand, used that game as a springboard as they won three of their next four games. It’s been a hard landing back to earth as they have lost their last four straight.
The ironic aspect of that September meeting was that the Redskins turned the ball over seven times and were still in the game well into the fourth quarter. Had they turned the ball over “just” six times, or perhaps five, they probably would have won the game.
Patrick Ramsey, who came in after Brunell injured his hamstring in the second half, accounted for three of those turnovers as he tossed a trio of interceptions. That performance, many theorize, is why Gibbs was so reluctant to bench Brunell even when the veteran was posting single-digit completions and double-digit passing yardage week after week. If that’s true, and there certainly seems to be a good deal of logic there, that September game had repercussions for the team that lasted well into November.
Ramsey is now the starter for the Redskins. The Giants have benched Warner and have made rookie Eli Manning their starter. In Manning’s limited action, he’s completed about 39% of his passes for about 5.6 yards per attempt with one touchdown and four interceptions. In other words, the Redskins should be very afraid.
This isn’t Jonathan Quinn they’re facing. It’s the first overall pick in the draft, son of Archie, brother of Peyton. It seems to me that it’s in their third start that a lot of quarterbacks start to get it. The speed of the game is not longer such a shock, they’ve had a couple of week’s worth of their own game films to analyze and they start to develop some rhythm.
Now, am I saying that Manning is going to throw for 350 yards and four touchdowns? No, but the Redskins had better be prepared to face a better, more confident quarterback than they’re seeing on film.
Ramsey, meanwhile, has to come up big. His low output in his first two starts was excused by the fact that the games were on the road against two of the NFL’s three best teams. Now they’re at home, facing a beaten-up outfit. Strahan is out along with two other d-line starters. Their secondary wasn’t that good to begin with and it’s banged up as well.
If Patrick Ramsey is going to be the quarterback of the team’s future, that future starts now.
So, a lot of theorizing so far; now, down to some predictions:
- Tiki Barber, just like in the first meeting, won’t find much running room. He ran for just 42 yards, one of his lowest outputs of a season in which he’s averaging over 100 yards per game. Put him down for another 42 yards and a (rare for this season) fumble.
- That will make it tough going for Manning, but even though Gregg Williams will bring the house at him and pressure and confuse him, I don’t think that the rookie will fold. He won’t lead them to a win, but he won’t be the reason that they lose.
- Ramsey will have one of his best games. He’ll have time to throw and will be able to connect on one or two bombs, assuming that the receivers can gather in balls that are in their hands. If things go well, he won’t have to pass that often so he won’t have a big yardage total. Let’s say he passes about 20 times for right around 200 yards and two TD’s.
- Portis will not be complaining about a lack of work after this one. 25 carries, 125 yards.
This time, the Redskins will do it right. The first time they get the ball they will march in for a touchdown. Then they will keep that lead for the rest of the day.
Redskins 24, Giants 10