To stop skid against Giants, Washington must remain resilient

The Redskins are optimistic that left tackle Trent Williams will play Sunday against the Giants. AP Photo/Mark Tenally

ASHBURN, Va. -- Five questions facing the Washington Redskins as they prepare to play the New York Giants:

Can they recover from Sunday's pounding?

I think so. They have shown resiliency in other games and weeks, so I don’t think that will be the issue this time. Players were upset after that loss in part because of what they viewed as officiating mistakes. Right or wrong, in their minds if not for certain calls the game would have been much different. So for them, the 28-point loss did not serve as a confidence-shattering defeat. They have recovered after similar ugly losses on the road, so I don’t think they will view themselves as having been exposed or anything of that nature. There have been losses in previous seasons where, when you exit the locker room after the game, the first thought is this: "They’re mentally done." The previous two seasons that moment occurred after losses to Minnesota. But that was not the sentiment Sunday.

Can they beat the New York Giants?

The Giants have won five straight and six of the past seven against Washington. The last time the Redskins beat the Giants was in 2012. It’s not as if the Giants have been world beaters during this period. Heck, in the past three years, while winning those five in a row, they are a combined 18-24. Of course, the Redskins are 11-31 since the start of the 2013 season. So we have a mediocre team beating up on a bad team. Still, during this stretch the Redskins have been able to beat Philadelphia and Dallas. But when they face the Giants they wilt: Four of those past five wins have been by 11 points or more. That’s domination. Yes, they can beat the Giants at home. The 5-5 Giants have blown three games when they have held double-digit leads in the second half, including against New England. It will be a challenge. The good news for Washington is that the Giants’ defense is 25th in points allowed per game, 31st in yards allowed and 29th in yards per play. So, though the Redskins have struggled against them, they are not facing the sort of defense they faced in Carolina.

Why does Kirk Cousins struggle so much against the Giants?

That’s a hard one to grasp, but the numbers suggest the struggle is real. In three games against New York, Cousins has thrown two touchdowns and eight interceptions for a passer rating of 48.6. Some of this can be partly explained by the growing pains of an inexperienced quarterback: His first meeting against them, the 2013 season finale, was the fourth start of his career; his second was the sixth start. In both games Cousins forced throws or made head-scratching decisions. This season, of the two interceptions, one resulted from a bad decision and throw. But I don’t know if the struggles relate just to facing the Giants or circumstances. The Giants have a new defensive coordinator this season after all. But this is yet another hurdle for Cousins.

Did the offensive line take a step back last week?

It wasn’t the unit's best game -- and that’s by every member of the front, not just one player. Each guy was beaten a couple times, whether for a sack or a tackle for a loss or no gain. Again: This is an inexperienced line, with four players having combined for 34 NFL starts. In some ways it was a step back, but really it’s why some have preached patience for months now, from general manager Scot McCloughan to the coaches. The problem is, if the Redskins really want to stay in the NFC East race, the line has to start opening more holes in the run game. The running backs have not always helped, either. In protection they have been rather solid until Sunday -- a combination of Cousins making quick decisions but also of their own performance. Run blocking can take a little longer to become cohesive. But they absolutely need center Josh LeRibeus to handle that spot better; you can see players visibly frustrated after some too-early snaps. It helps that left tackle Trent Williams, who left Sunday’s game with a knee patella contusion, is expected to play. There might be some question about him during the week, but they’re optimistic.

Why do they play so much better at home?

Most teams do, but this has been a bit ridiculous this season. Not only have they lost on the road, but four of those five defeats have been by 10 or more points. Granted, the opposition on the road has been much better than what Washington has faced at home. None of the Redskins' previous home opponents has a winning record (Tampa Bay is the best at 5-5). None of their previous road opponents has a losing record (the two New York teams are the worst at 5-5). But there is also some truth about not only learning how to win, but how to handle situations. They have been a lot more resilient in comfortable surroundings, which partly explains the comeback wins against Philadelphia and Tampa Bay at home. On the road, mistakes seem to multiply once the game starts to turn.