Donté Stallworth has made a handful of catches to convert third downs in recent weeks. Not bad for a guy the Washington Redskins cut last month. Since the Redskins re-signed Stallworth on Nov. 15 after waiving him a week earlier, quarterback Rex Grossman has relied on him when the Redskins need to extend drives. He converted three third downs against New England last Sunday, and he caught the game-tying touchdown on third down in the final seconds of regulation against Dallas on Nov. 20.
“Since he’s come back, he’s gotten in there more, and every time we’ve given him opportunities since, he’s made some plays,” offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said.
“I just like the power he plays with and his aggressive hands. He doesn’t catch it looking for a place to fall. He’s trying to get up the field. That’s something we need and gives us a chance to make a play.”
Stallworth, an eight-year NFL veteran, has excelled on third down partly because he is savvy in situations when the defense is expecting pass. He cited the 51-yard reception he had on third-and-9 last Sunday.
“I think you have to know the down and distance,” Stallworth said. “Once you recognize the coverage and you know what the defense is thinking, you kind of have to play the route the way you think they think it is. On the deep ball, I kind of made a little move around the sticks and [cornerback Devin McCourty] sat there right at the sticks.”
When McCourty stopped expecting Stallworth to break off his route, Stallworth kept running and got underneath Grossman’s perfectly placed long throw.
Stallworth has 14 catches for 207 yards and a touchdown this season.
With the first-place Giants trying to fend off the Dallas Cowboys for the NFC East title, the Redskins find themselves adopting the role of spoiler for Sunday’s divisional battle in New York.
It’s a situation similar to the one they faced in the season-finale against the Giants last year. With their playoff hopes lost, the 6-9 Redskins went up against a 9-6 Giants side that needed a win to have a shot at the postseason. Desperation prevailed, as the Giants managed a 17-14 win. New York finished 10-6 but eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay won the final wild card spot instead.
While many Redskins players savor the opportunity to crush a divisional opponent’s playoff hopes, they are just looking for something to feel good about.
“I’m not a guy worried about trying to ruin it, but I would love to ruin it,” wide receiver Santana Moss said. “I’m not going into the game saying we’re going to spoil it; I go out to the game saying I want to win, whether they have something to fight for or not.”
Right tackle Jammal Brown (strained left groin) and fullback Mike Sellers (hyperextended right elbow) were ruled out of Sunday’s game against the Giants. Tyler Polumbus will make his second straight start in place of Brown. …
Rookie Willie Smith and veteran Sean Locklear will share time at left tackle, coach Mike Shanahan said. Locklear started last Sunday’s game against New England, but Smith played all but two series. …