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NFL Blitz: For the Giants, It's the Big Play Blues


The play's the thing, William Shakespeare said in Hamlet.

The big play's the thing, the New York Giants said in East Rutherford, N.J.

Gashed and smashed by the Philadelphia Eagles last Sunday, the reeling Giants come to FedExField to play the Redskins hoping to ignite a three-game winning streak that they expect would nail down a wild-card playoff berth.

It won't happen if they keep giving up huge chunks of yardage and allowing scoring plays that cover great distances. This is a much leakier ship than the one that sailed past the Redskins 23-17 on opening day.

The Giants lost 45-38 to the Eagles and proved to be generous hosts in every phase of the game, allowing touchdowns of 60 or more yards on offense (a fumble return), defense (pass) and special teams (punt return).

That set off a chorus of the Big Play Blues.

"Big plays hurt us," defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka said.

"We gave up too many big plays," cornerback Terrell Thomas said.

"They just made too many big plays," defensive tackle Barry Cofield said.

"Any time you give up big plays like that, it's going to hurt," middle linebacker Jonathan Goff said.

You get the idea. But do the Giants? They've allowed more than 30 points in five games this year, more than 40 three times. That's not exactly championship defense.

They aren't the first victims of DeSean Jackson, either. Only the latest. He nailed the Giants for 178 receiving yards (including a 60-yard touchdown) on seven six receptions and scored on a 72-yard punt return. His 32-yard catch on the Eagles' first possession set up their initial score and they jumped out to a 14-0 lead less than six minutes into the game.

It is hard to quantify how important a game this was for the Giants. With the Dallas Cowboys losing earlier, the Giants would have moved into first place in the NFC East by beating the Eagles. Instead, the Eagles stretched their hex over the Giants to four games and the Giants sit in third place in the NFC East, trailing the Cowboys in the wild-card hunt.

The Eagles (9-4), Cowboys (8-5) and Giants (7-6) should all stand a good chance of getting to play in the postseason. The division has not been limited to one playoff entrant since 2004 and sent three teams in 2007 and 2006.

Nothing is granted, however, Nothing is given. Everything must be earned. The Redskins, who cannot even finish .500 and have locked in last place in the NFC East, play the Giants and Cowboys in front of national TV audiences over the next two weeks and will have something to say about how the division and the playoff races shake out.

The Giants can't stop big plays. Their defense, strafed by injuries, isn't entirely sound at safety for linebacker and the club turned defensive end Osi Umenyiora into a backup. He was a Pro Bowl pick (their only one) in 2007 but missed '08 with a knee injury and has had his differences with new defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan.

Once renowned for their ability to bring pressure, the Giants have 26 sacks.

"The fact of the matter is we haven't gotten the job done up front," says defensive end Justin Tuck. "Whatever the reason is, I can't pinpoint it."

That might be a mystery but the path to the playoffs is fairly obvious. Winning three times will do it. Something less may still work but not to the Giants' satisfaction.

"You don't want to go into the playoffs limping," Tuck says. "You want to go in with confidence, knowing that you kind of righted the ship and are playing your best ball at that point in time. I think it's important for us to win the next three."

The Redskins feel the same way but for different reasons. Winning out and finishing 7-9 would salve some wounds and perhaps save some jobs.

With a new general manager, Bruce Allen, looking on, the evaluations for 2010 begin now. Nor do the Redskins embrace the idea that they can be "spoilers" of the opponent's party. They want to win for the sake of winning with a national TV audience and their peers seeing what they bring.

"I have never really liked that approach of where a team says we are going to be a spoiler of someone else's season," linebacker London Fletcher says. "Our focus is just on winning the football game. You know this is the New York Giants we're playing. A team in our division, a rival game. So our motivation is that in itself."

KEEP IT ICED: The 1972 Miami Dolphins assemble and drink a toast each year when the last unbeaten team finally falls. They may need to keep the bubbly chilled a while longer.

The NFL has, for the first time ever, two teams at 13-0. The Indianapolis Colts, who have won a record 22 consecutive regular-season games, already have clinched the AFC South title and overall home-field advantage for the AFC side of the playoff draw. The New Orleans Saints are NFC South champions and have secured a first-round bye.

Earning the top seed, says coach Sean Payton, "is what we're playing for now."

The '72 Dolpins went 14-0 in the regular season and 2-0 in the playoffs, capped by their 14-7 victory in Super Bowl VII against the Washington Redskins. They still own the only perfect record. The New England Patriots in 2007 won all 16 regular-season games and two in the playoffs and then were upset by the Giants in the Super Bowl.

BLACKOUT BLUES: The Jacksonville Jaguars ended a season-long skein of blacked-out home games by selling out for their Thursday night meeting with the Indianapolis Colts.

The reconstituted group that helped land the expansion team in 1993 put together a sales blitz and the date with the unbeaten Colts, an AFC South rival, helped generate a ticket-buying spurt for a team that may yet earn a wild-card playoff berth.

The Jags played an exciting game though they fell 35-31 to the Colts, who ran their record to 14-0.

QUOTABLE: "Nobody wins the Super Bowl in December." – San Diego Chargers LB Kevin Burnett, after his team won its ninth straight game. ... "Us killing ourselves is the big issue." – Cincinnati Bengals OT Andrew Whitworth after a penalty- and mistake-filled loss to the Minnesota Vikings. ... "Gaining 2,000 yards and breaking the record? It is not going to be easy." – Tennessee Titans RB Chris Johnson, who leads the NFL with 1,626 rushing yards. The single-season record is 2,105, set by Eric Dickerson of the Los Angeles Rams in 1984. ... "I believe it was Satchel Paige who said, 'Don't look back, something may be gaining on you.' We're just going to look forward. All we can do is effect the present and the future." – New York Jets coach Rex Ryan, declining to analyze earlier failures this season while his 7-6 team struggles to grab a playoff berth.

EXTRA POINTS: The struggling Carolina Panthers have scored 49 points in their last four games and the job gets no easier when they play the Minnesota Vikings, ranked sixth in total defense. ... Theme of the Green Bay Packers-Pittsburgh Steelers meeting is streaks. Green Bay has won its last five, Pittsburgh has dropped its last five. A Packers victory and Giants' loss to the Redskins puts the Packers in the playoffs. ... Can the Cowboys keep their playoff hopes alive and stop the New Orleans Saints' drive for perfection Saturday night at the Louisiana Superdome? History says no. The Cowboys have lost five in a row to the Saints, three at the dome. ... If New York Jets QB Mark Sanchez passes for 172 yards against the Atlanta Falcons, he will break Joe Namath's club record for passing yards by a rookie (2,200). ... Vikings RB Adrian Peterson has 14 of the team's 15 rushing TDs. ... Buffalo Bills WR Terrell Owens needs six catches to reach 1,000 for his career. Only five players have hit that plateau. Atlanta Falcons TE Tony Gonzalez needs nine to reach 1,000.

*Larry Weisman covered professional football for USA TODAY for 25 years and now joins the Redskins Broadcast Network and to bring his unique viewpoint and experience to Redskins fans. Go to for the Redskins Blitz column and NFL Blitz on Friday. Larry also appears on The Jim Zorn Show on WRC-TV on Saturday night, on Redskins Nation, airing twice nightly on Comcast SportsNet, and on ESPN 980 AM radio, all in the Washington, D.C. area. Read his blog at and follow him on

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