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Redskins Primed For NFC East

By Gary Fitzgerald


September 17, 2004

The first words from Joe Gibbs following Friday afternoon's practice drove home what coaches have been emphasizing to players all week. "The biggest thing for me is that we are playing a New York Giants team that has beat us three out of the last four times we've played them," Gibbs told reporters at Redskins Park.

The message?

The Giants have had the upper hand in games against the Redskins--in fact, Washington has lost 5-of-7 to New York. And although Gibbs says he does not often use motivational speeches, he is clearly challenging players to reverse that trend.

Gibbs could be talking about the entire NFC East. The Redskins were 2-10 in divisional games the last two seasons.

The Redskins travel to New York this weekend to take on the Giants at the Meadowlands. Game time is 1 p.m. ET.

Asked if any memories will pop into his mind as he goes to the Meadowlands, Gibbs replied simply: "I don't really want to go up there. That's what I remember. I have a lot of bad memories. We always had a tough time up there. I have great respect for their fans, their team and Coach [Tom] Coughlin."

Gibbs' record against the Giants was 12-13 during his first tenure as head coach. Probably the most memorable--or the one Gibbs most wants to forget--was the 1986 NFC Championship Game at the Meadowlands, a game that the Giants won 17-0.

Overall against the NFC East, Gibbs was a remarkable 61-37 (including three playoff games against NFC East teams).

Most of those wins came against the Philadelphia Eagles (17-8) and the St. Louis-Arizona Cardinals (20-4). Gibbs was 12-12 against the Dallas Cowboys, who the Redskins play next week in a Monday Night Football matchup.

Gibbs understands the importance of NFC East games.

"We put a lot of emphasis on every game, but it's obvious when you're playing inside the division, it's a huge deal," Gibbs said. "The reality is that most of these guys have played there, and that's good. We have all been in New York. Now to the rookies you have to say, 'You better be ready because this is going to be a tough game, so get ready for it.'"

Whether a rookie or a veteran, the players figure it out.

"Coach Gibbs stresses the NFC East games," cornerback Fred Smoot said. "Point blank, these games are must-wins. And you feel it from the coaches. You have to step it up. The intensity is up and everything needs to be a little bit more crisper."

Gibbs is more than familiar with Coughlin, this Sunday's opponent. Coughlin was a long-time assistant to Bill Parcells when both were in New York during the 1980s and early 1990s.

"I have tremendous respect for Coach Coughlin," Gibbs said. "When I talked to Dick Vermeil on the league, I was asking him about different people, and I said 'Coach Coughlin is now in New York, tell me about him.' And he said, 'I will tell you this, out of all the teams we played, they were the most physical' when he was in Jacksonville. That's his trademark and that comes from another coach in the league that I really respect."

Of course, Gibbs is referring to Parcells, now the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. But that's next week's storyline.

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