Redskins make most of nightmarish game '97 disaster vs. Giants serving as object lesson

September 06, 1998|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

Looking back may help the Washington Redskins pay attention to the tasks facing them today.

As the team opens its season against the New York Giants at 1 p.m. at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J., many of the Redskins may be reliving the humiliations of Dec. 13, 1997.

That was the day Washington entered Giants Stadium with a chance to win the NFC East crown and left with the certainty of being home for Christmas. More galling than the score -- a 30-10 loss -- was the way the game unraveled even before the second half.

"We've been watching the film all week," Redskins center Joe Patton said. "To see some of the mistakes we made was really frustrating. We just want to make sure we don't make the same mistakes."

Frustration is seeing yourselves commit six turnovers -- two of them leading to a 10-0 deficit in the first five minutes -- and seeing reserve quarterback Jeff Hostetler sacked three times.

"The guys who played in that game, I hope, the competitiveness they have, I hope being there that day gives them an added incentive," Washington coach Norv Turner said. "There's no question, you go play like that, you want to play better the next time."

Nine months later, the Redskins enter the 1998 season with a 1-3 exhibition record, facing a Giants team that is also 1-3. The Redskins remain aware of their last matchup, but also know they are a different team from the one that faltered last December.

Quarterback Gus Frerotte, running back Terry Allen and wide receiver Michael Westbrook -- all down with injuries that day -- are back. Defensive tackles Dana Stubblefield and Dan Wilkinson were on other teams at the time.

"That's over, other than the fact that we know we have to control our own destiny," linebacker Marvcus Patton said.

Facing Washington, same as last year, will be a Giants defense that was among the league's best. Led by DE Michael Strahan and LB Jessie Armstead, the Giants squelched the Washington running game (45 yards) and pressured Hostetler into four interceptions.

This will be a test for a Redskins offensive line that has seemed ineffective, but Turner expects its performance to improve.

"I thought our offensive line played better each game, each week," Turner said of the preseason. "You don't know until you play an entire game, you know."

Turner said one of his strategies will be for Allen to run the ball as many as 25 times.

Another subplot concerns the Redskins' passing game, which may benefit from Giants coach Jim Fassel's decision to have his All-Pro cornerback, Jason Sehorn, return kicks. Sehorn injured his right knee on a kickoff return against the Jets on Aug. 20, eliminating the Giants' advantage of having a rangy, physical cornerback.

In place of the 6-foot-2 Sehorn is Conrad Hamilton, who stands 5-10 and has spent his previous two seasons helping the Giants in nickel packages. Described by Fassel as "feisty," Hamilton is someone Washington may go after.

Washington at New York Giants

Time: 1: 01 p.m., Ch. 5

Line: Giants by 2 1/2

Vs. spread (1997): Redskins 8-8; Giants 9-7.

Worth watching: Washington wants to get immediate payoff from its two free-agent defensive tackles, Dana Stubblefield and Dan Wilkinson, to whom they've committed $57 million in new contracts.

Outlook: The defending NFC East champ Giants will again rely on a conservative offense, but they're convinced Danny Kanell is the man to guide it. He just agreed to a three-year, $9.5 million contract.

Notable: Redskins CB Darrell Green has 44 interceptions, second among active players to Eugene Robinson's 49. He will be the oldest CB in history to start, at 38 years, 204 days. The Giants defense led the league last season with 44 take-aways and 27 interceptions.

Injuries:

REDSKINS: Out: LB Antwaune Ponds (knee); QB Jeff Hostetler (knee). Probable: K Scott Blanton (groin); RB Stephen Davis (knee); LB Greg Jones (back); DE Kenard Lang (knee).

GIANTS: Doubtful: S Brandon Sanders (foot). Probable: WR David Patten (hamstring); TE Al Pupunu (knee).

Pub Date: 9/06/98

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