By Rich Tandler
What we learned from the NFC Divisional playoff games:
As the Giants were in the process of finishing off their dismantling of the defending champion Packers in the playoffs yesterday, the phrase that was trending on my Twitter timeline was, “Can you believe the #Redskins beat these guys twice?”
The record does show the Redskins, who would finish the season at 5-11, won the season opener over the Giants 28-14 in a game that was competitive until Rex Grossman threw a touchdown pass to Jabar Gaffney midway through the fourth quarter. Washington also won the rematch 23-10 at MetLife Stadium in Week 15 in a game where the Redskins took a 17-0 lead in the second quarter and held off the Giants the rest of the way.
The Giants have not lost since then. They soundly beat the Jets and Cowboys to win the NFC East at 9-7 and then whipped the Falcons and Packers to earn a trip to San Francisco to play for a trip to the Super Bowl.
New York eliminated one prime NFL MVP contender in Aaron Rodgers. On Saturday, the 49ers handled the other one as they beat Drew Brees’ Saints. Somehow, this has led to talk by some Redskins fans that a franchise quarterback is not really needed to contend for a Super Bowl. Perhaps focusing on defense, the strength of San Francisco all year long and what propelled the Giants during their four-game winning streak that has them where they are now, is the way to go.
But that line of thinking ignores the fact that the Niners and Giants scored 37 and 36 points in their wins, respectively. Last week here we documented the Redskins’ difficulties in scoring 35 points in a game. Click in the article to get the gory details but the spoiler here is that the Redskins have not achieved that point total since 2005.
Can a hot defense help you score some points? Sure, both Eli Manning and Alex Smith had some short fields to work with on occasion. But both teams also piled up points when their quarterbacks connected with their primary weapons. Smith dialed up Vernon Davis when he needed a play and Manning got the ball in the hands of Hakeem Nicks and let the third-year receiver do his big-play thing at key moments in the game.
It is easy to forget that Smith was the first pick in the 2005 draft as he has struggled while the 49ers have handed him a different offensive coordinator almost every year he has been in the league. Sometimes such investments don’t pay off immediately. Smith led five fourth-quarter comebacks during the regular season this year but none was as important and as thrilling as him leading two go-ahead touchdown drives in the last five minutes of a playoff game.
If you look at the winning formula of a solid defense, a hot quarterback, and an offensive playmaker, the Redskins have the makings of only the first element. They need a playmaker and a quarterback who can get the ball to him. Until then, they will have some moments here and there like beating the Giants twice but consistent success and deep playoff runs will be lacking until they obtain the needed pieces.