The Washington Football Team has a chance to improve to 3-1 in the NFC East when it hosts the New York Giants on Sunday. (A comprehensive preview of the game can be found, HERE.)
Ahead of Washington's 20-19 loss to the Giants in Week 6, some points of emphasis were getting its offensive playmakers involved, pressuring quarterback Daniel Jones and limiting big plays. All of these still apply, but here are three more keys entering the Week 9 matchup:
1. Start Fast
Washington's first possession in New York ended with a missed 47-yard field goal, while its second resulted in an interception that led to the Giants' opening touchdown. In the span of about two minutes, Washington faced a 10-point deficit late in the first quarter.
Starting fast will be crucial if head coach Ron Rivera's team wants to avenge that defeat. Doing so will help Washington remain balanced and allow the defense to get after Jones -- neither of which happened in the first matchup when quarterback Kyle Allen attempted 42 passes and Jones was sacked once on 19 throws.
Jones has been a turnover machine early in his career, and many of those giveaways have come under pressure. The best way for Washington to do that is to get ahead early and force Jones to try and beat the NFL's top passing defense through the air.
"I've been really pleased with the rhythm [offensive coordinator] Scotty [Turner] has had," head coach Ron Rivera said. "I've been really pleased with some of the innovations he's come up with. We ran a couple plays that have really hit for good gains. Again, we've got to keep that rhythm going. Another thing we have to continue to do as a football team is continue to protect the ball on offense."
2. Stop The Run
The Giants have been one of the worst rushing teams in the league through eight weeks, yet they amassed 132 yards and averaged 5.1 yards per carry against Washington three weeks ago. Forty-nine of those came on a single Jones scamper down the left sideline early in the second quarter. Seven plays later, a field goal put the Giants ahead 13-3.
Surprisingly, Jones has been the team's best rushing threat has been Jones with 316 yards, which ranks third among quarterbacks behind Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray. Washington will be tasked with limiting Jones as well as backups Wayne Gallman and Alfred Morris and passing-down back Dion Lewis. Starter Devonta Freeman will miss his second straight game with an ankle injury.
"Right now, I know they're struggling with the run game because they just don't have the health with their running backs. That's probably the biggest thing," Rivera said. "Probably the biggest threat to run is their quarterback. That's probably the biggest thing is we've got to make sure we're gap-sound and we are playing our techniques. If you're assigned the quarterback, you've got the quarterback."
3. Get Off The Field On Third Down
Washington converted 53% of its third downs in New York, its second-highest of the season. The Giants, however, were even better by moving the chains on seven of their 11 third downs (64%).
The Giants' average yards to go on third down were about 5.4, and there were four instances in which they had 3rd-and-4 or fewer. Washington also committed three penalties on third downs in that game.
Jack Del Rio's defense has been just above average on third down this season -- its opponents' 40.4% conversion rate is 14th in the NFL -- so the unit must be better Sunday than it was in the first matchup. A big part of improving will come down to limiting the Giants' rushing attack on first down to create more advantageous situations.
"Overall for us is we want to play complementary football and we want to do our part as the defense," Del Rio said. "We need to get the ball back for our offense as often as possible. We need to start fast. We've got to take care of the quarterback run. We can't have him getting an explosive run like he did in the game. There are a few areas we need to address. I think third down, I don't think we were particularly strong on third down in that game. I think it was probably our worst game of the year. So, there are many things that we need to do better. Holding the point total down is important, but finding a way to get the offense the ball back as much as possible is huge."