When Redskins' coaches and player watched film of Tiki Barber running into open field in last Saturday's Giants-Chiefs game, they almost certainly had flashbacks to the Oct. 30 game between the Redskins and Giants.
Barber finished with a career-high 220 rushing yards on 29 carries against Kansas City. He had runs of 41, 55 and 20 yards in the Giants' 27-17 victory over the Chiefs. The win improved the Giants' record to 10-4.
Barber's previous career high? It came in Week 8 against the Redskins, when he logged 206 rushing yards on 24 carries. He had a 57-yard run on the first play from scrimmage, setting the tone for the Giants' 36-0 win that day. He also broke off a 59-yard run and an 18-yard run, setting up a pair of touchdowns.
It's not surprising that the Redskins' defense is focused on stopping Barber in this Saturday's rematch against the Giants at FedExField
In recent weeks, Barber has been mentioned as an MVP candidate. He was one of five Giants to earn a Pro Bowl nod on Wednesday. He ranks second in the NFL with 1,577 rushing yards on 313 carries, a 5.0 yards-per-carry average. He has eight touchdowns.
Asked about Barber, head coach Joe Gibbs replied: "You don't have to go much farther than the first game. We're pretty good against the run, but they were pretty much all over us. So there's no problem about respect here. Certainly Tiki is having a lot of success and he's having a phenomenal year."
Added defensive end Phillip Daniels: "Their offensive linemen are doing a good job of putting bodies on people up front. [Barber] is doing a good job of cutting back and finding holes. When he hits the hole, he's off to the races."
Giants' head coach Tom Coughlin credited Barber's vision on the football field, while Barber believes he has become a smarter football player over his nine years in the NFL.
"Tiki has the ability to make split-second decisions on what he sees," Coughlin told reporters this week. "He gets in a hole sometimes and the pile starts to move and you think he's down, then all of a sudden he comes shooting out the other side, down the sideline and into the end zone."
Added Barber: "I understand defenses, the mechanics of tackling, how to stay on my feet, and balance. I've gotten stronger over the years. I've worked with a power lifter the last few years who has made me more explosive. I'm able to keep my balance when I go into contact."
Meantime, the Redskins hope that the duo of Cornelius Griffin and Joe Salave'a will a greater impact in limiting Barber and the Giants' running game on Saturday.
In the Week 8 matchup, Griffin aggravated a hip injury in the first quarter and was sidelined most of the game. Salave'a also sat out part of the game due to a lingering foot injury.
Griffin's hip is now healthy again. Salave'a sat out two games earlier this month to rest his foot. He returned last Sunday against Dallas and recorded two tackles and a half-sack.
"When you have all of your linemen--all four of your starters--up there and healthy, it makes a big difference," Daniels said. "With those two guys in the middle pushing the pocket and allowing us to be outside singled-up, it'll help out a lot up front."
Both Griffin and Salave'a were on the field for the first play of the game when Barber broke off his 57-yard run, though. So they know they need to be solid against the run on Saturday.
"We have to do the little things better," Salave'a said. "We have to tackle better. Sometimes it comes down to technique and fundamentals of the game. No matter how you look at it, it starts up front. They pretty much took it to us that day. We're hoping for a carryover from last week against Dallas. It's a big game and a big moment for us."