Rematches. It's just natural that the team that falls short in the original match works harder to adjust for the second one. With that in mind, the Washington Redskins should have an added advantage when they get a second chance against the New York Giants at home Monday night, especially when you consider that Washington actually outplayed New York despite a loss in the first meeting.
But the Giants are coached impeccably and should be more than ready for any adjustments the 'Skins are making. So here are some extra, unsolicited suggestions for Mike Shanahan and Co.
Stick with that run-first approach
This is a team that scores a lot of points even though it actually runs as much as it throws, and that's especially been the case on this recent two-game winning streak. Robert Griffin III has been the key to the offense, but it's still been setting up the deep ball successfully by giving it to Alfred Morris and by letting RG3 take off when appropriate (whether it's on read-option plays or "regular" ones).
The Redskins should be able to strike it big at some point Monday night, but in order to do so, they'll have to suck New York's talented safeties in early by giving that linebacking corps trouble. Such an approach would also work to keep Griffin safer and remove some of the heat from the Giants' red-hot pass rush.
This requires lots of discipline, but that's something Kyle Shanahan possesses. This is a huge game, but the 'Skins can't get away from what's been working by panicking, especially if they fall behind early.
Target Corey Webster
Webster has become the weak link in the Giants' defensive backfield. But while the Giants appear to be going with three safeties more often in order to cut into rookie Jayron Hosley's snaps, they continue to use Webster on every down. With Pierre Garcon back and somewhat of a mystery to Big Blue after missing the first meeting, the 'Skins have to look to use Garcon against the struggling Webster often.
There isn't a corner in the NFL who's been beaten for more touchdowns than Webster (according to Pro Football Focus), and he looked foolish against Jordy Nelson last week. The Giants will use him almost exclusively against whomever Washington splits out right. The Redskins would be smart to make sure that's Garcon as often as possible. But even if it isn't, Griffin should always have that matchup in mind.
Don't let them test your secondary
The secondary is playing better than it has all season, but the Redskins can't get cocky. DeAngelo Hall and Cedric Griffin could collapse at any moment, and Josh Wilson has still been struggling. This defense can't afford to sit back and let the Giants throw, because Eli Manning will have more success than he did in the last meeting.
How often should the Redskins blitz New York?
That also doesn't mean the 'Skins should blitz Manning's head off, because Eli's fantastic when extra rushers come and the Giants have been protecting the passer relatively well this year. Jim Haslett's defense sent extra men a total of 47 times the last two weeks, which is a pace that cannot be sustained against the G-men.
It's important that the Redskins pick their spots and continue to employ unique looks with atypical defenders coming after Manning in not-completely-obvious moments. This run defense is strong enough to deal with Ahmad Bradshaw without much help, so they have to find new ways to get pressure in order to help the secondary.
Don't get caught up on Cruz
Victor Cruz's last-minute 77-yard touchdown catch did the Redskins in last time these teams met, and he's clearly become the Giants' most lethal threat. But Washington has to avoid over-focusing on Cruz, who didn't even do much in that last meeting before the late home run.
"Hakeem is going to start making some teams pay [for] just leaving him single-covered," said Cruz this week in a radio interview with WFAN in New York.
And he's right, Hakeem Nicks is getting healthier each week. The Redskins don't have to pick their poison. They just have to make sure there's lots of safety help being offered up to both Cruz and Nicks. And based on what's been going on of late, it might also be prudent to keep Wilson off of those two receivers.