Analysis  

 

Robert Griffin III has 'an upper hand' on New York Giants defense

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Six weeks ago, in the immediate aftermath of their 27-23 win over the Washington Redskins, the New York Giants defenders knew they'd gotten lucky.

With 73 seconds to play, the 77-yard hookup between Eli Manning and Victor Cruz proved the difference. The Giants' defense, which had spent much of the afternoon playing Wile E. Coyote to Robert Griffin III's Road Runner, finally exhaled.

The elusive RG3 had confounded, but it was the Giants who'd escaped.

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"That guy," Osi Umenyiora said at the time, "is flat-out unbelievable."

Said Justin Tuck: "I am pretty mad at the football gods for putting him in the NFC East. To face that guy twice a year is going to be a headache."

Well, guess who's back, back again, on the Giants' schedule? RG3 and the Redskins. Monday night. At FedExField. In a game Washington absolutely has to have, and which the Giants would like very much to win, to put themselves one important step closer to capturing the division.

Since the Giants last saw RG3, he's been voted a team captain and has become the NFL's leader in jersey sales. He's also kept the Redskins, at 5-6, viable in the NFC East, emerging as 7-4 New York's biggest threat. And then there are his numbers in his past two games: 33 of 42 for 504 yards, eight touchdowns, one interception, 113 rushing yards on 19 carries, one perfect 158.3 quarterback rating against the Philadelphia Eagles and another dominant performance to ruin the Dallas Cowboys' Thanksgiving.

In a word: ridiculous.

That outing against the Cowboys apparently didn't do much for Tuck's turkey day, either. He tuned in to see if, perhaps, Griffin had slowed down. "But that," Tuck said, "is not the case."

On Thursday, coach Tom Coughlin stood at a podium and said he hoped his defenders' "immediate recall" would help come Monday. The Giants will become the first NFL team to see RG3 twice. And "recall" isn't the problem.

"He's more of a down-the-field passer than I think people expected him to be," outside linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka said.

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"He's very fast," defensive tackle Chris Canty said. "However fast you think he looks on tape or on highlights, he's much faster than that."

"Play action, misdirection, deep ball," cornerback Antrell Rolle said. "They can do it all and they do it extremely well."

Fellow corner Jayron Hosley: "With the option game, it's a lot to deal with, especially with a guy like him, who's shifty and also can get the ball out to his receivers."

Shifty? Just ask Jason Pierre-Paul, who often spends game day as the best athlete on the field. In their last meeting, on a critical fourth-and-10 late, RG3 extended the play for eight seems-like-forever seconds, pivoted past Pierre-Paul and found a receiver for the conversion.

"I thought I had him a couple of times," JPP said. "He can do things other quarterbacks in the league can't do."

The defensive mantra this week in the Giants' locker room: Play with discipline, the kind of discipline that can come from the experience of knowing a unique opponent.

Canty said the Giants have to do a better job against the run; they gave up 248 rushing yards in Week 7, to rookie running back Alfred Morris (120) and Griffin (89). The Giants now understand the pace with which the Redskins operate. Their quick counts, hard counts and misdirection are designed to confuse.

"They want you to do a lot of thinking, which also slows players down," Canty said.

The counter? "(Be) extremely prepared, making sure you're meticulous both in the film room and on the practice field," Canty said. "Try to put yourself in the best position to play fast and be successful."

Said safety Stevie Brown: "You've got to have great eyes and great discipline in your technique. They have so many things going in different directions, you don't want to get out of place."

Tuck said the Redskins' offense has "an upper hand" not only because of RG3's athleticism but because of the ability to disguise. Pre-snap, run and pass plays appear nearly identical.

The Giants are aware that waiting for RG3 to make a critical mistake would likely not make for a winning game plan. He has yet to throw more than one interception in a game. He has thrown a pick in back-to-back games just once. No wonder, at age 22, Griffin has earned the complete confidence of his teammates. "There's nothing he can't do," Redskins wide receiver Santana Moss said.

The Giants know what they're in for. Including the possibility that RG3 goes Road Runner again. What will the Giants do then?

"Line back up, get our heads together, stay positive," Hosley said. "You definitely don't want to get down when you're playing a guy like that."

Follow Kim Jones on Twitter @KimJonesSports

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