Giants vs. Redskins: New York's Defense Must Step Up as Playoff Race Heats Up

Louis MustoContributor IIIDecember 15, 2011

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 04:  Justin Tuck #91 of the New York Giants celebrates with teammates after he recorded a sack in the second quarter against Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers at MetLife Stadium on December 4, 2011 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

In Week 1 of this NFL season, the New York Giants stumbled in a sure thing against the Washington Redskins, dropping the first game of the season. Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman gave some chilling foreshadowing to the forthcoming Giants’ season with 305 passing yards and two touchdowns against the hobbled New York defense.

In Week 15, these two teams are set to meet in MetLife Stadium with much more on the line for the Giants this time.

Eli Manning and the Giants pulled out a spectacular come-from-behind victory inside Cowboys Stadium in Week 14 to save a season that appeared to be on the brink of failure. With the division lead and the playoffs in sight, the Giants must stay on pace and not allow even an inch to the trailing Dallas Cowboys.

For that to happen, the Giants need their defense to finally step up and play.

Through 13 games, Manning and the offense have carried the defense every week. It’s a miracle the Giants have won seven games this season and an even greater miracle that they are in line for a playoff spot barring some disappointing performances in the final three weeks of the season.

The Redskins may be entering this game in last place of the NFC East at 4-9, but they boast an offense that can hang with the best of them, propelled by Grossman and the sudden breakout of rookie running back Roy Helu. Helu has rushed for at least 100 yards in each of the Redskins’ last three games.

A solid offensive performance by any team presents a dangerous challenge for the New York Giants. If the Giants defense cannot keep Grossman and the Redskins on lockdown, a maelstrom of problems going forward could prove deadly for Big Blue and their playoff hopes.

After the victory in Dallas, the Giants are ranked 30th in terms of total yards allowed—29th in pass defense and 22nd in run defense. The Giants are surrendering the sixth-most points per game with 26.8 and have allowed opposing offenses to score 31 points or more in their last three games.

It was impossible to miss the amount of blown coverages in the Giants' win over Dallas, whether it be the inability to cover the man a defensive player was assigned to or someone not knowing what it was they were supposed to be doing. The blame for that rests on defensive coordinator Perry Fewell’s head. If the defense doesn’t know what they are doing 13 games into the season, the defensive coordinator is not doing his job.

The Giants’ three-sack performance in Dallas—led by second-year stud Jason Pierre-Paul and his two sacks, one of which was for a safety—was a positive sign. When New York gets after the quarterback, it puts pressure on the opposing offense and helps the Giants in coverage. When that happens, the Giants playmakers force turnovers and win games.

A loss to the Redskins is anything but out of the question, sadly. The Giants must improve on the defensive side of the ball and improve quickly or it could be cause for another end to the Giants’ season.

Magnificently, the Giants have managed to win seven games and sit in first place of the NFC East despite no major contribution from the defense. But three games remain and the Giants can certainly lose all three of those games (vs. Redskins, at Jets and vs. Cowboys) and fail to make the playoffs again.

If the Giants wish to partake in the playoffs this season, the defense must contribute in the Giants’ victories.

And if not, you can expect the Giants to be shopping for a new coaching staff come springtime.