- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 8, 2006

Emotions will be high when the Washington Redskins, fresh off two resounding victories that erased the memory of a disappointing start, meet the struggling New York Giants today at Giants Stadium.

The Redskins (2-2) haven’t forgotten last October’s 36-0 drubbing there in the wake of beloved Giants owner Wellington Mara’s death five days earlier. The Giants (1-2), meanwhile, are trying to forget the rout by Seattle two weeks ago. And barbs have been traded in the ongoing feud between Giants linebacker LaVar Arrington and his former teammates and coaches on the Redskins, who let him go in February.

“You don’t forget a whupping like that,” Redskins guard Randy Thomas said of last October’s debacle. “It’s something you just don’t forget.”

Redskins coach Joe Gibbs has lost nine of his last 12 visits to the Meadowlands dating to 1984.

“We got clobbered last year and embarrassed everybody,” Gibbs said. “We’ve not played well up there. It’s been lopsided. That’s a tough place to play [because] they have real good teams, they’re well-coached and they have a heck of a fan base. They’re going to play their absolute best. The question is: What are we going to do?”

Giants coach Tom Coughlin delivered the opposite spin.

“Let’s face it: We’re 1-2,” said Coughlin, whose team is last in the NFC East. “We’re not where we want to be.”

Pro Bowl tight end Jeremy Shockey ripped the coaches after the Seattle blowout, so the early break was welcome.

“The bye week was the best thing for us,” said middle linebacker Antonio Pierce, who played for the Redskins from 2001 to 2004. “It was a chance for guys to air their frustrations. The coaches were trying to correct everything that was going wrong. We’ll find out this week if it is fixed. We need to start fast. That’s what has been killing us.”

Indeed, the Giants trailed badly at halftime to the Colts, Eagles and Seahawks, though they managed to rally against Philadelphia. While the offense ranks second in the NFL — one spot ahead of the Redskins — the pass defense has been atrocious. The Giants, whose ends, Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora, last year combined for 26 sacks, have just two sacks and allows 281 passing yards a game. In comparison, Washington’s faltering pass defense has given up 232 yards on average.

“You can have all the talent in the world, and it doesn’t [matter without] chemistry, guys coming together as a team and a defense and everyone playing within a scheme,” Pierce said.

The scheme was an issue for Washington’s offense as it managed just one touchdown in its two opening losses. But new associate head coach Al Saunders’ unit racked up 976 yards and 67 points in victories the past two weeks over Houston and Jacksonville. The back-to-back 30-point performances were just the third for the Redskins in seven years. Quarterback Mark Brunell set an NFL record with 22 straight completions against the Texans. Receiver Santana Moss earned NFC offensive player of the week honors for his three touchdown grabs, including the game-winning 68-yarder, against the Jaguars.

Brunell credited the resurgence to the offensive line, which didn’t allow a sack the past two weeks after surrendering four in the fourth quarter Sept. 17 at Dallas. The line also opened holes for Ladell Betts to run for a career-high 124 yards two weeks ago and for Clinton Portis to gain 112 yards last week against a tough Jaguars defense.

“We were in a groove,” Gibbs said. “Obviously we played better and got the ball to our playmakers.”

Arrington, a playmaker during his Pro Bowl seasons in Washington, was nothing but trouble the past two years. The former face of the franchise couldn’t stay healthy or get along with the defensive coaches, and his lengthy contract dispute with owner Dan Snyder made him seek out an NFC East team for the chance to face the Redskins twice a year.

“LaVar is probably going to come out and play the best game of his life,” Portis said. “I wanted LaVar here, and a lot of his teammates wanted him here. You have to understand that it was a business decision and that it was nothing personal.”

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