HERNDON, Va. -- When the Washington Redskins revisit their personal chamber of horrors Sunday night in the Meadowlands, they will be carrying an extra load of mental baggage.
Three seasons and six games worth, in fact. That's how long the New York Giants have held rein on the Redskins.
That six-game, New York winning streak provides the backdrop to Sunday's 7:30 p.m. matchup (ESPN, Ch. 9). There is no better measure of the Redskins' 7-0 season than a renewal of the Giant rivalry. This week, there were no pretensions at Redskin Park.
"When you run off that many in a run, they've proved they had our number," said Mark Rypien, who quarterbacked three of those losses.
"They've outplayed us each and every year," said Larry Peccatiello, the Redskins' defensive coordinator.
"On the days we played, they were the better team," said guard Mark Schlereth.
This is a series that has had some dramatic twists and turns the last three years.
There was the pass from Stan Humphries that deflected off Earnest Byner's shoulder pads at the goal line and wound up in the arms of Giants' safety Greg Jackson in the end zone last year. That interception helped seal a 21-10 Giants' win.
There was the New York punt that nicked Redskin Johnny Thomas and was covered by the Giants' Reyna Thompson on the Washington 1. The Giants got a field goal and 24-20 victory out of that twist.
And then there was the game in 1988 that started the streak. Tom Flynn returned a blocked punt 27 yards for a touchdown, and Jim Burt went 39 yards with a Redskin fumble for another TD to topple Washington in the fourth quarter, 27-20.
Although defensive end Charles Mann said the Redskins aren't obsessed with the Giants, he admitted there are side-effects from the losing streak.
"I think there's a psychological thing we have to look at," Mann said. "We haven't beaten these guys in a while. That's how you measure yourself."
It is interesting to note that in five of the six losses, the Redskins have outgained the Giants in total yards. Even though Rypien is 0-3 against them, he has compiled some impressive passing numbers: 64 percent completions for six touchdowns and only two interceptions, 9.39 yards per pass and 278 yards per game.
Rypien did not play in either Giant game last year because of injuries. In his place, Humphries threw a total of six interceptions.
"Almost every one of those games [in the streak] could have gone the other way," said Giants coach Ray Handley, an assistant under Bill Parcells a year ago. "I don't believe in hexes or jinxes. We've gotten turnovers that have been instrumental in our winning, like recovering the punt on the 1."
While the Redskins are trying to expunge the losing streak from their minds, the Giants are trying to salvage their season of transition. Three games behind the Redskins at 4-3, they can relinquish any hope of catching them in the NFC East if they lose Sunday.
"Obviously, our goal is to win the division," Handley said. "If we don't win this game, that's only an afterthought. This is a critical game for us."
The new-look Giants will play it with Jeff Hostetler at quarterback in place of Redskin nemesis Phil Simms, with Rodney Hampton at running back in place of Super Bowl MVP Ottis Anderson, with Howard Cross at tight end in place of Mark Bavaro, and with Lorenzo Freeman at nose tackle for Erik Howard.
"They're a different team," Mann said, "but the parts are still there. They're still the Giants. They're still blood and guts, a blue-collar team."
And they're still the team to beat for the Redskins.
A giant losing streak
A capsule look at the Giants' six-game winning streak over the Redskins
YEAR .. SCORE .. TURNING POINT
1988 .. 27-20 .. * Giants return a blocked punt and a fumble for two fourth-quarter touchdowns to break a 13-13 tie at the Meadowlands.
1988 ..24-23 .. * Chip Lohmiller misses the only extra point of his Redskins career at RFK Stadium.
1989 .. 27-24 .. * Giants' Raul Allegre kicks a 52-yard field goal on the last play of the game at RFK.
.. 20-17 .. * Giants' Phil Simms throws two touchdown
passes in the fourth quarter to wipe out 10-6 Redskins lead at the Meadowlands.
1990 .. 24-20 .. * With Redskins trailing 21-20 at RFK, a New York punt grazes the leg of Redskins special teams player Johnny Thomas and is covered by the Giants' Reyna Thompson on the Washington 1. Giants are unable to get into the end zone in three cracks, but Matt Bahr kicks a 19-yard field goal for a 24-20 lead.
1990 .. 21-10 .. * Down 14-10 at the Meadowlands, the Redskins have first-and-goal on the Giants' 3 in the fourth quarter. Stan Humphries' second-down pass bounces off Earnest Byner's shoulder pads and Giants' safety Greg Jackson catches the ricochet in the end zone.