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The chance for either team to make the playoffs can charitably be called unlikely.
But while the game has lost some of its significance with regard to the postseason, it is still vital and meaningful to the participating coaches and players.
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“We’ve got a lot to play for,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. “We have a five-game schedule. We’re playing against some outstanding football teams. We’re trying to assert ourselves. We’re not executing as well as we can and in all three phases at the same time. I’m looking for that. I’m always searching for perfection, the perfect game. We can’t get it, perhaps, because we’re human, but that’s the objective and that’s the goal and that’s what we’ll continue to fight for. It is the competitive nature of the player, of the coach and that’s where we are.
“We play Washington a couple of times here in real short close range and both games will be divisional games. They’re very important games for us, so as disappointed and as badly as everyone feels, you’ve got to get it back up and get going again.”
Washington coach Mike Shanahan echoed those sentiments on a conference call this week.
“I think you just want to go out there and win a game, especially within your division,” Shanahan said. “Everybody’s got a lot of pride in the NFL regardless of what your record is. Everybody wants to win and I’m sure the Giants feel the same way.”
They certainly do, despite enduring a disappointing week. They took the field against Dallas with the momentum of their four-game winning streak and the confidence they would continue soaring through the end of the season. The Giants tied the score at 21-21 with 4:45 remaining, but Dallas kept the ball the rest of the game and Dan Bailey kicked the game-winning 35-yard field goal as time expired. It was arguably the Giants’ most deflating defeat of the season.
The Giants’ postseason aspirations took another hit when the Cowboys defeated Oakland on Thanksgiving Day.
But the Giants insist those results will change neither their desire nor their effort.
“I think that’s something that we have to deal with a lot of times in this league,” safety Antrel Rolle said. “The pages have been turned. We’re already looking forward to playing a game.”
“You’ve got to learn how to (put losses behind you),” quarterback Eli Manning said. “We’re playing in the NFL, and after a number of years, you’re going to have some games that you wish you had won and thought you could have won.
“This is a divisional game and obviously a big one, an important one. It’s Sunday night football. We’ve had some great battles with Washington the last few years, so I expect it to be a tough fought game and we’re getting excited for it.”
They need to be, because despite Washington’s record it is a dangerous team capable of scoring points in bunches. The offense is ranked seventh in the NFL and the rushing attack is second. The Redskins have sensational dual threat quarterback Robert Griffin III, the league’s second-leading rusher in Alfred Morris (970 yards) and the third-leading receiver in Pierre Garcon (75 catches).
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Morris is all that by himself. As a rookie in 2012, he rushed for 242 yards in two games against the Giants. This year, he has three 100-yard games and has run for at least 70 yards in every game but two.
“I think Morris is actually the bulldog behind the whole thing,” Rolle said. “I think we all understand coming in as a rookie he played a phenomenal game. He is the one that carries the load. That offense does not run without him. That doesn’t take anything away from RG3, we all know what he’s capable of, we all know what type of player RG3 is, he’s dangerous with both his arm and his legs. They have a great core of guys that they can distribute the ball to that can make big plays.
“(Morris) is very hard to take for lost yardage. He’s always been a positive guy, whether that’s three yards, four yards, he’s always going to be a guy that gets positive yardage. He’s a downhill runner, which is Shanahan’s type. They lull you to sleep with all of the zone blocking, thinking that they’re going side to side, but he’s constantly downhill. You could hit him at two yards and he’ll end up getting six. That’s very impressive in this league considering that he is the focal point.”
It’s just one reason the Giants need to be at the top of their game when they face their longtime rivals.
“The Redskins are always a good opponent,” wide receiver Victor Cruz said. “We play them twice in the matter of weeks, so we’re excited for this next challenge that we have facing ourselves. We just have to be prepared and ready to go.”