By Ernie Palladino
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They played him once and barely got out alive.
The Giants get another crack at Robert Griffin III, the Washington quarterback known to the rest of mankind as RGIII, next Monday night. This time, unless they‘re really careful, he could well take their secondary apart.
Tom Coughlin knows it.
“He’s getting better, and he’s got the numbers to prove it,” Coughlin said. “He’s doing better with the play-action passes. There’s not as many thrown, but they’re more productive.
In a rookie crop of quarterbacks that includes Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Brandon Weeden, and Ryan Tannehill, there is no one who has combined mobility with throwing accuracy better than the dynamic former Baylor runner/thrower. They learned that the first time around in Game 7, when Griffin threw for 258 yards and two touchdowns, the last a 30-yard toss to Santana Moss that should have, by rights, beaten them. He also rushed nine times for 89 yards, and converted three fourth-down situations in the fourth quarter, one with his legs.
If not for Eli Manning’s 77-yard throw to Victor Cruz behind some severely blown coverage 19 seconds later, the Giants’ 7-4 mark going into Monday night could have looked somewhat, if not a lot, different.
Instead, they stand a couple of wins from locking up the division title. A victory in FedEx Field would put them at 3-2 in the division, with a sweep over the Redskins and a split with the Cowboys, who sit at 2-1 and 2-2, respectively, with only Philadelphia remaining. Believe this, Philadelphia and Andy Reid aren’t going anywhere except out the door.
It stands to reason a win Monday night would make things a heck of a lot easier for the Giants. But getting past RGIII this time could be an even bigger task than it was in Week 7. The lessons the defense learned from that game will take on even greater significance now.
“I’d say he’s more a down-the-field passer than I think people expected him to be,“ linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka said. “He’s not just the runner everybody knew he was coming out.”
Or as Coughlin put it, “You’re talking about a guy who runs a 4.4 and weighs 220 pounds. You’ve got to be in position. You can’t lose contain.”
There are other quarterbacks about whom Coughlin could say the same things. Michael Vick, when healthy, Ben Roethlisberger for sheer strength and play extension, Aaron Rodgers. No one combines Griffin’s accuracy and outright speed.
Of course, when a defensive line does keep contain and actually gets to him, he becomes as vulnerable as any quarterback. That’s where Osi Umenyiora could figure big into this one. He’s the master of the strip-sack, and he actually put Griffin down in the fourth quarter.
Umenyiora has had 32 strip sacks, including a believed-to-be record 10 in 2010. Knocking one from Griffin’s grasp as he’s looking downfield for Moss or the newly healthy Pierre Garcon, or Logan Paulson would do wonders.
If they can’t accomplish that, it could turn into a long night for a team looking to build off a commanding win against the Packers and a bonafide elite quarterback the previous week.
But first and foremost, they need to take care of RGIII — clearly a different kind of quarterback.
“I think his total skills…you can’t really compare him to anybody because he’s a different guy,” Kiwanuka said. “Some guys are either fast and not necessarily a good pocket passer, or they’re a pocket passer and they’re not as quick. But I think he has talent on a lot of levels.”
Are the Giants better prepared for RGIII after their first meeting? Sound off with your thoughts and comments below…