Redskins feeling down now that Giants are out

December 10, 1991|By Vito Stellino

If you believe in omens, it was good news for the Washington Redskins when the New York Giants were eliminated from the playoffs Sunday.

The last time the Giants didn't make the playoffs, in 1987 -- a season in which they were defending champions -- the Redskins won the Super Bowl.

The Redskins are poised for another run at the Super Bowl. They've got home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, and they don't have to worry about being stopped by the Giants, an old nemesis who has gone 9-2 against them in their past 11 non-strike games.

Yet the Redskins aren't gloating about the Giants' demise. They've been down the same road. In 1988, when they were defending champions, they didn't make the playoffs.

Defensive lineman Charles Mann said: "I feel bad. I really do. They're a great football team. They showed everybody last year by winning the Super Bowl, and to see them not even get to the playoffs, I think it shows the parity in the league."

It also leaves something of a void in the Redskins season.

For the past three years, they've complained about the way the NFL has scheduled the two Giants-Redskins games in the first half of the season.

When the Giants swept both games all three years, it took much of the drama out of the rest of the Redskins season. In 1988 and 1989, they never recovered and missed the playoffs. Last season, they settled for a wild-card berth.

The Redskins weren't the only ones complaining. CBS announcer John Madden said several times that the lack of a late Redskins-Giants game robbed the season of drama.

So the NFL finally listened to the complaints this year.

It scheduled the second game as No. 15. The game -- Sunday at RFK Stadium -- figured to be one of the highlights of the season.

This has been the best of rivalries. These two teams respect each other. There's no trash talking, no cheap shots. Even the Giants' recent domination hasn't dimmed the rivalry, because most of the games have been so close.

That's why it's such an anticlimax that Sunday's game doesn't affect the postseason. The Giants are out, and the Redskins have won everything they can win until the playoffs.

But don't be surprised if the Redskins still show up with a lot more intensity than they displayed the past two weeks against the Los Angeles Rams and the Phoenix Cardinals.

For one thing, it's a badge of honor for coach Joe Gibbs that he always plays to win, even if little is at stake. Gibbs won't rest any starters against the Giants or against the Philadelphia Eagles in the finale.

"We'll play them as hard as we can with everybody we've got," he said.

The starters?

"They'll go all the way," he said.

What about the possibility of injury, especially to quarterback Mark Rypien?

"Guys get hurt. That's part of the game. You can get hurt in practice. You can't play football any other way [but all out]," Gibbs said.

Mann rejects the idea that any Redskins-Giants game is meaningless.

Mann said: "The Giants have had our number for so many years, so it'll still be a game where we'll try to change the tides from the way it's been. I think we'll be motivated and excited about playing. They beat us for so many years."

It's difficult to tell how the Giants will react. They dominated the Redskins in the first game and took a 13-0 lead at halftime, only to see the Redskins rally to win, 17-13.

Mann said he doesn't think the Giants will go through the motions.

"I think you'll see an excited Giants team out there. Those guys have a lot of pride, and they'll play their hearts out," Mann said.

NOTES: S Alvin Walton might be activated from the IR list for the Giants game. Walton's shoulder injury has been healed for the last couple of weeks, but the Redskins had been reluctant to make a move in case they suffered an injury at another position. After Walton returns, they'll be allowed 1 more move next week and 1 more each week of the playoffs in case they suffer any other major injuries.

The Redskins declared DB Alvoid Mays (sprained left ankle) out of the Giants game, but are undecided about whether to use a roster move to replace him. LB Kurt Gouveia bruised his shoulder against Phoenix Sunday and is listed as day-to-day.

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