Playing the Redskins put Giants’ Donnell on the map
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Mention the Washington Redskins to Larry Donnell and the New York Giants tight end smiles.
It has nothing to do either with the rivalry between the NFC East teams or that the Giants have won the last four games.
None of that. It’s more personal. Donnell not only had the best game of his career against Washington a year ago, his three short first-half touchdown catches led New York to a 45-14 win in a nationally televised game made him an instant celebrity for a week or so.
“That’s always what you want, and what you hope for,” Donnell said of his heroics. “If my number is called I am going to answer. How many times it may be, I don’t know? It will always be good to see it happen again.”
Last year’s performance was memorable for the undrafted free agent from Grambling. He emerged in training camp in 2014 as the No. 1 tight end and had his breakout game against Washington, catching seven passes for 54 yards. He even earned his first trip to the main podium in the post-game interviews.
Donnell finished with six touchdowns last season as the Giants continued their domination of Redskins.
New York took the second game when Odell Beckham Jr. caught three touchdown passes in December.
“He’s a heck of a player, obviously,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said of Beckham, who had seven catches for 146 yards and touchdown in the loss to Atlanta on Sunday. “Hurt us really bad the second time we played them. The first time, it was a tight end that got us.”
The Giants are desperate for a win this time against Washington. In dropping their first two games, New York has blown fourth-quarter leads and lost late to Dallas and Atlanta.
“We were up 10 points in the fourth quarter two times in a row,” Donnell said. “It’s not like we were losing by 10. We were up. We had it. We just didn’t finish. This is a game we need to win just to put ourselves in the race. We want to win to get the moral up.”
This is a somewhat different Washington team. It has averaged 171.5 yards rushing and controlled the clock for almost 38 minutes a game.
New York forced eight turnovers against Kirk Cousins and the Redskins in sweeping the two games last year.
“We’re excited,” Cousins said. “You know, we’re 1-1 with a chance to go 2-1, a chance to take a step forward in our division, a chance to get a win against a division rival on the road, what a great opportunity, great challenge. We need to have an outstanding game.”
The Redskins also want some payback, with the first game being the one that hurt.
“It was a game that we expected to go out and play well in, and they embarrassed us, so yeah, of course we’re going to take that with us, but that doesn’t serve us any good,” offensive tackle Trent Williams said. “We can’t win a game off of last year. If you’ve got to dig back to last year for some fuel in Week 3, you’re probably in the wrong profession.”
Donnell said his focus is to improve week to week.
“I had a good game against them last year but that’s in the past,” Donnell said. “I have to get ready for this one and try to do the same thing.”
The Giants are going to need Donnell to step up with fellow tight end Daniel Fells coming off a foot injury and Jerome Cunningham out with a knee injury.