After all of the scenarios and predictions presented in the last few weeks, it all comes down to a simple equation for Trent Murphy and his Washington Redskins teammates on Sunday afternoon against the Giants. If the Redskins beat the New York Giants—barring a tie between the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions—they’ll join the Dallas Cowboys and the Giants as the third NFC East team in the playoffs.
When the rivals last met in September, the Redskins came away with a narrow 29-27 victory over New York, a win that began a four-game winning streak. On Sunday, Trent and Co. would like to spark a similar winning streak heading into the playoffs.
“We’re just focused on beating the Giants right now,” linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said. “We obviously know what’s at stake, we’re not taking anything lightly and we need to come out and beat the Giants and get a win.”
Shutting down a potent Giants offense led by veteran quarterback Eli Manning and highlighted by dangerous receiver Odell Beckham Jr. will be a key to the game. The Redskins boast a strong pass rush behind the versatile rotation of Trent, Kerrigan and Preston Smith, and as a team Washington has recorded 37 sacks and allowed just 19—a clear recipe for success.
“It’s huge” Kerrigan said of the importance of the DE rotation. “I think it’s allowed all of us to stay fresher and healthier as the season’s gone on. Not just in-game, but also for the following weeks because we’re taking some reps off each other. I think that’s a good thing and hopefully that will continue to pay off.”
It seems that when one pass rusher is targeted by an opposing offensive and double-teamed, one of the trio steps up to make huge plays. Murphy, Kerrigan and Smith have taken turns cashing in on the depth and skill level of the collective group this season, accounting for 24.5 combined sacks on the season. The Skins are tied for seventh in the NFL with their 37 sacks, leaving head coach Jay Gruden pleased with this unit’s performance.
“Defensively, you look at guys like Trent Murphy and [Bashaud] Breeland and Josh Norman obviously coming here has been a big time help. A lot of these guys that have come in here and bought into the system, and just come in here prepared,” Gruden said. “It’s just been fun to watch [these guys] grow within the program. I think that’s what’s going to make us successful for a long time.”
For now, Trent and Co. are focused, not on the futre, but on keeping this 2016-17 season alive.
“Everybody is really locked in, focused,” said linebacker Mason Foster. “It’s exciting man, to play a big game like this… we can’t wait.”
The game kicks off on New Year’s Day at 4:25 p.m. ET from FedEx Field.