Next Monday night, the New York Giants will be the first team to face the Washington Redskins twice this season. More importantly, they'll be the first to face rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III twice. The Giants defeated the Redskins Week 7, but it didn't come easy as they needed a 77-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning to Victor Cruz in the final 1:30 and a fumble by Santana Moss to put the nail in the coffin.
What made the game so difficult to win? While the Giants' offense was making plays the defense was exploited by RGIII. He completed 20-of-28 passes (71.4 percent), threw for 258 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 89 yards in nine attempts and had a 108.9 rating for the game. RGIII is among a new age of quarterbacks with his athleticism and running ability. What helped the Giants win aside from Manning's late game heroics were turnovers. RGIII himself fumbled the football twice. He was also sacked three times.
Since that Week 7 game, though, RGIII is lighting up the football field. He's completed 73 passes in 116 attempts (62.9 percent), thrown for 903 yards and nine touchdowns as well as rushed for 174 yards in 25 attempts. He's limited his turnovers, fumbling only twice and throwing one pick. He has, however, been sacked 11 times. Giants' defensive end Justin Tuck knows that the defense is not going to have it easy next week.
"I was hoping to learn that he would slow down a little bit, but that's not the case," said Tuck of RGIII's progress. "He is one of the best dual threats in our game today and we're going to have our hands full trying to stop that guy."
The Giants are going to have to look at plenty of tape to find new ways of trying to stop RGIII. In a lot of ways, he is the same quarterback they faced Week 7. The difference this time is the motivation after the way the Redskins have been playing as a team the last few weeks. In the last two weeks they've faced the other two division rivals, outscoring them 69-37 (31-6 against the Philadelphia Eagles). On top of that, their last game against the Dallas Cowboys was on Thanksgiving Day, giving the Redskins extra rest to prepare for Monday Night Football. With the struggles of Dallas and Philly, the Redskins now have playoffs hopes in the back of the minds.
Coach Tom Coughlin recognizes that RGIII's style of play is a new era of quarterbacks in the NFL. He's not in a rush to explain what they're going to plan for next Monday so they can go back and look at tape.
"[I want to] go back to our game and go through all of those games in between there. Obviously they're playing well," said Coughlin. "They've caught a little fire and they've managed to score on pretty much every situation. Obviously [RGIII's] played well. That phase of the game is still being utilized in a very productive manner."
There are many angles to look at when it comes to RGIII. Obviously, the Giants will need to keep him from moving around the pocket and giving him time to think. If he does, he'll run, or make some other big play. The pass rush will need to be on top of its game. What the Giants really need to do is a lot like what they did to Aaron Rodgers last week. Make RGIII run for his life rather than for the first down. Make him uncomfortable. Change his body language. Once he gets comfortable, he'll do damage.
"He just seems to always be in the moment and never rattled and never too high with the highs," said Tuck. "I haven't seen him kind of flustered or anything like that. It shows a lot about how mature he is."
RGIII has been very poised all season with the weight of the franchise on his shoulders. He's been successful, says the right things, and has the respect as a leader from the veterans. The Giants will need to find a way to make RGIII flustered and uncomfortable if they want to have an easier time than last. They can set the tone for the remaining five-game season with a win in Washington.
You can follow Kelsey O'Donnell on Twitter @KelsODonnell