- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 20, 2009

Washington has lost six of the past seven meetings with the Giants, but the Redskins have one big advantage over New York heading into Monday night’s game: the red zone. Washington has the league’s stingiest red zone defense, having allowed just nine touchdowns on 31 possessions. New York’s red zone offense (22-for-48) is 25th.

“They’re just playing well,” said Giants quarterback Eli Manning, whose offense produced only two field goals in three penetrations of Washington’s red zone in the Giants’ season-opening win. “They play good football, and they’re aggressive. They’re very consistent. They’re very sound with their defense.”

The red zone imbalance also heavily tilts in the Redskins’ favor when they have the ball. Washington’s offense (22-for-40) is ninth while New York’s defense is the worst, having allowed 33 touchdowns in 48 possessions.

Although the Redskins excel in the red zone and rank seventh overall on defense, they have surrendered nine pass plays of at least 35 yards during the past five games. So it’s not good news for them that Manning threw three touchdowns of at least 60 yards the past two weeks.

“If we don’t allow the big plays, we’ve been making teams kick field goals,” middle linebacker London Fletcher said. “We’re a pretty tough defense to score on if we don’t give up the big plays for touchdowns. The more you can make the team kick field goals, the better your chances are of winning.”

Practice canceled

Despite coach Jim Zorn’s brave words Friday about having practice no matter the weather, the Redskins canceled Saturday’s 11 a.m. workout.

The Redskins have conducted walk-throughs on the basketball court inside Redskin Park during downpours, but the snow would have made it difficult for the players, coaches and other personnel to get to and from the facility. And with the game on Monday instead of Sunday, Saturday’s practice would have been a bonus session.

With practice wiped out, the Redskins couldn’t really update their injury list. Cornerback DeAngelo Hall (knee), fullback Mike Sellers (thigh), defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin (shoulder), offensive tackle Stephon Heyer (knee), safety Kareem Moore (ankle) and kicker Graham Gano (foot) are all questionable. Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth (ankle) is probable. Punter Hunter Smith would fill in if Gano can’t kick Monday night.

First-quarter blues

Not only has New York’s defense fallen apart during the last eight games, but the offense also hasn’t scored a first-quarter touchdown during that span. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this is the Giants’ longest first-quarter drought since a 13-game streak during 1995 and 1996.

During their 2-6 nosedive, the Giants have been outscored 44-9 in the first quarter. Making those zeros look even worse is that New Orleans scored 14 points, and Philadelphia scored 14 and 13 in the opening quarter against New York.

“We have to get off to a better start,” said Manning, whose team outscored opponents 31-10 in the first quarter while winning its first five games. “We have to get things going, get a lead, put some pressure on the opposing offense and help out our defense.”

Playing not to lose?

Fletcher had an interesting answer when asked by New York reporters why the Redskins are playing better since they were virtually eliminated from contention after a 2-6 start.

“[We’re] playing with more passion, and guys are just having fun playing,” he said. “Earlier in the year, I don’t think we were really having fun playing the game. We were playing more not to lose as opposed to trying to win the game.”

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