Redskins face Giants needing a win after losing first 2
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. >> While the New York Giants are off to their best start since 2009, the obituaries are seemingly being prepared for the defending NFC East champion Washington Redskins.
Jay Gruden's team is 0-2. There have been reports from anonymous sources about frustration in the locker room, much of it directed at quarterback Kirk Cousins' play. The defense is struggling. It's not good.
The Redskins will carry that load into MetLife Stadium on Sunday when they face the Giants (2-0) in a game with the added attraction of matching Washington cornerback Josh Norman against New York receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
The two tangled a year ago in a game here that resulted with both acting like bullies and Beckham getting a one-game suspension.
That's the sideshow.
It's pretty much a now-or-never game for the Redskins. Only three teams since 1990 have started the season 0-3 and made the playoffs, the last being the Bills in 1998.
Veteran defensive back DeAngelo Hall says there is no secret formula to winning. It's protecting the ball, forcing turnovers, stopping the run and eliminating the stupid mistakes.
"We've got a mindset that we want to take the fight to them," he said. "But I mean the plan is the same as it always is. And it's just up to us to go out there and try to execute it and be dominant to the best of our ability."
Cousins, who returned with a one-year contract under the franchise tag, said two games don't decide a season.
"I'll let the body of work speak for itself at that point," Cousins said . "But, I'm excited about the challenge we have this week, and really I have enough of a challenge that I don't need to look much further forward or further back than just the Giants this Sunday."
Cousins will be facing a much-improved New York defense. It has allowed 32 points without forcing a turnover.
Eli Manning and the Giants' offense scored three touchdowns in the win over Dallas, but did not get into the end zone against New Orleans. Three fumbles hurt.
Manning isn't looking at this game as a chance to bury the Redskins.
"Hey, it's the next game," he said. "We're worried about our season and what we've got to do and it's a chance for us to go 3-0 and that's all we are concerned with."
Starting 3-0 has its advantages. Ninety nine of the 131 teams that have won their first three games since 1990 have made the playoffs. That's something the Giants have not done since the 2011 season.
Here's some things to watch in the game:
NOWHERE TO RUN: The Redskins have about as unbalanced an offense as possible, with 89 pass attempts and only a league-low 29 rushes heading into Week 3. This despite a lot of talk from GM Scot McCloughan about how he wanted to be a physical team. "We have not given the running game really an ample opportunity to flourish," coach Jay Gruden said. "That's something we have to look at."
WHERE'S THE PRESSURE?: The Giants spent a lot of money to sign Olivier Vernon and Damon Harrison and to re-sign Jason Pierre-Paul for the defensive line. Through two games, New York has two sacks, one by safety Landon Collins and the other from nickel back Leon Hall.
STALLING OFFENSE: Among Washington's many problems through two games, two stand out on offense: converting on third down (36 percent) and scoring touchdowns in the red zone (30 percent). In last week's loss to Dallas, Washington took over inside the Cowboys 40 twice in the second half and came away with six points before the worst possession of all, when Cousins threw an interception on third-and-goal from the 6. "Third-down efficiency, we are behind in that category, and red zone has been bad. It really has," Gruden said. "It has been surprisingly bad."
WHO'S GOT THE BALL?: With Rashad Jennings dealing with a thumb injury to his left hand, look to see who gets the ball. Jennings insists he can carry the ball with his hand taped. Expect Shane Vereen and Orleans Darkwa to get a few extra carries this week against a Redskins D ranked No. 28 against the run.
FADE-HAPPY: Cousins repeatedly tried to throw fade patterns into the end zone in Week 2, with zero success. That doesn't mean the Redskins are ready to give up on that particular play call. "Hindsight, I wish we wouldn't have tried as many," Gruden said, "but we'll throw more fades."
WINNING THE CLOSE ONES: New York lost six games last season either late in the fourth quarter or in overtime in missing the playoffs for the fourth straight year. The Giants have won their first two by a total of four points. It is the first time they won consecutive games by a combined margin of four or fewer points since Oct. 22 and Oct. 29, 1939, when they beat the Bears, 16-13, and the Brooklyn Dodgers, 7-6.
AP Pro Football Writer Howard Fendrich and freelancer Ian Quillen in Ashburn, Virginia contributed to this report.