Given the cold winds of December and the fact that their offense was limited by injuries to both starting wide receivers, it was no surprise that the Giants arrived at New Meadowlands Stadium Sunday determined to run the ball at the Redskins.
Shanahan and Haynesworth have battled all season. This time it involved a poor practice by Haynesworth on Thursday, followed by a sick day Friday. Explaining the benching, Shanahan said, "You always want your best player playing at a very high level."
In the Giants' locker room, the news was met with some amazement. "When we found out Albert was down, that was a bit of a shock and a wonder as to what exactly would be their game plan," right tackle Kareem McKenzie said. "Someone who can play like that, you see them down and you wonder what transpired."
Right guard Chris Snee added: "It was a surprise, of course. He's a guy you have to make certain adjustments to and take notice of. The simple blocking adjustments we had for him were [unneeded], and we took our attention to other guys."
Second-year man Will Beatty, making only his second start at left tackle on a line playing without regular starters David Diehl and Shaun O'Hara, said the veterans reminded him to stay focused. The game wasn't already won because Haynesworth was out.
Sure enough, on the second play after the Giants received the opening kickoff, Beatty drove his defender to the outside, creating a huge lane for Brandon Jacobs, who rambled 39 yards to the Washington 18.
"When you see him running down the field like that, you know it's going to be a good day," Beatty said. "He saw the holes we were creating. That may not have been designed for him to go out that far, but just cutting back and the way they're running in December is a great thing."
Not only did the Giants score a touchdown on their opening drive for the first time all season, but that play set the tone for a day on which they ran for 197 yards and four touchdowns and controlled the ball for 34:28. Jacobs totaled 103 yards (on only eight carries) and two touchdowns, and Ahmad Bradshaw had 97 yards and two TDs.
The Giants also didn't allow a sack for the fifth straight game, setting a franchise record.
Haynesworth's absence did not alter the Giants' plan, which was to create cutback lanes against the 3-4 defense. It just made it easier to accomplish. "That's what you do against a 3-4," Snee said. "You get [the defense] running and find a lane. It was a zone concept. We tried to stay on our angles and keep guys covered up, and that allowed the running backs to make cutbacks."
Rich Seubert, who has moved from left guard to center in O'Hara's absence, still had to move 350-pound nose tackle Ma'ake Kemoeatu or pin him inside. "The running backs watch tape and know how the defense flows," Seubert said. "We knew the nose was going to be running and the linebackers were going to be running, and if you seal off one guy, the running back can hit the seam."
That happened repeatedly, especially in the first half, when the Giants never were in third-and-long and never used a three-wide receiver formation with fewer blockers. "It's good for us early in December to show what we can do," Beatty said. "We don't make excuses, saying, 'So-and-so is out.' We're still playing New York Giants football."