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First Division Game A Different Type Of Challenge For Robert Griffin III
ASHBURN – During Robert Griffin III’s days as a high jumper, his father, Robert Griffin Jr., would inspire him with one simple thought.
“You jump the same way you jump at 6-foot-8 that you do at 6-foot,” Griffin recalled his father telling him. “Just because it’s at 6-foot, it doesn’t mean you put less into it.”
The same outlook has directed Griffin throughout the week. After six games, the rookie quarterback will finally face his first NFC East opponent this afternoon when the Washington Redskins hit the road to play the New York Giants.
Should the Redskins (3-3) defeat the Giants (4-3), they would be able to hold a share of first place in the NFC East this late in the season for the first time since 2005.
“It’s bigger than that to us,” receiver Santana Moss said. “They’re a division rival and we just want to go out there and do the best we can against them. We know that they’re the Super Bowl champs and all that other stuff that comes with it, but it’s New York. They’re in the NFC East, and we’ve got to take care of business.”
The Week 7 visit to New York marks the Redskins’ latest start to division play since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. It’s also tied for the latest start of any team this season and the latest for Mike Shanahan during any of his 19 seasons as a head coach.
“It’s a knock-down, drag-out division, and the games are so competitive and so close – nail-biters that are fourth-quarter decisions,” said Giants head coach Tom Coughlin, whose team has already played – and lost to – Dallas and Philadelphia. “The division itself is something that any of us that are in it are really proud of.”
Though the Giants won the Super Bowl last season, they won the NFC East and qualified for the playoffs with a 9-7 record. Two of those losses came to the Redskins – a 28-14 affair in the season opener and a 23-10 beating in December at MetLife Stadium in which New York struggled.
Coughlin used that fact as motivation during the week and said he hoped “the players are certainly paying attention to that.”
“I think they have a little chip on their shoulder,” Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall said. “I don’t think it does anything positive for us. There’s no sneaking up on them now. They’re going to definitely bring their A-game to us.”
The Giants, through six games, boast one of the league’s most productive offenses. They carved up San Francisco in a 26-3 road victory last week behind running back Ahmad Bradshaw, who ran for 116 yards and a touchdown and bailed out Eli Manning and an otherwise lackluster passing game.
New York also has one of the best pass rushes in the league with defensive ends Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora, which will be a formidable test for Griffin.
Facing strong teams outside the division, such as the season opener in New Orleans and Atlanta, the only undefeated team in the NFL, at home two weeks ago, should have prepared Griffin and rookie running back Alfred Morris enough for another difficult opponent.
“The one thing I always say is I don’t even worry about when you play different teams, but I’d say it’s always an advantage [in that] if you’re gonna play within your division, it’s a little bit later than earlier with young players,” Shanahan said. “I think it is a big benefit for us with Robert, a kid like Alfred. You’d rather play a little bit later than earlier.”
Griffin has earned accolades through his flashy play, which included a 76-yard touchdown run last week in a victory against Minnesota. He leads all quarterbacks in completion percentage and ranks third with a 100.5 passer rating, and his 379 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns are the most of any quarterback.
Trying to do too much will not be conducive to success. Still, Griffin will attach an additional importance to the game in one regard.
“It will be fun to do something different out there, get to play against a division foe,” Griffin said. “The New York Giants are Super Bowl champions, and I look forward to it.”