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Redskins-49ers: 4 Keys To The Game

Posted Nov 20, 2013

Redskins.com's Brian Tinsman breaks down the key players and matchups to keep an eye on during Monday Night's Redskins-49ers brawl at FedExField.

Redskins.com's Brian Tinsman breaks down the key players and matchups to keep an eye on during Monday Night's Redskins-49ers brawl at FedExField.

“Redskins-49ers: 4 Keys To The Game” is presented by Papa John’s.

Every Monday, fans can order a large cheese pizza for only $9.99, plus for each touchdown that the Redskins score, fans get one free topping. And with a Redskins victory, fans get double the toppings.


SEEING RED ON OFFENSE

This Washington Redskins offense has no problem piling up yards on opponents, and they have the numbers to prove it.

But riding the first three-game, 400-yards of offense streak in 30 years, it is clear that the bugaboo of the Washington Redskins offense this season has been the inability to score points. They move the ball well until the team enters the red zone, then the wheels come off.

Last week vs. the Philadelphia Eagles, the Redskins marched down to the 15-yard line before giving up a costly sack-fumble that kept them off the board in the first half. While no touchdown is guaranteed in that situation, they could have conceivably been within a field goal at the end of the game and been in a position to win.

The Redskins have only converted touchdowns in the red zone on 58 percent of trips over the last three games. It is little surprise the team is 1-2 in the last three contests.

By comparison, the Denver Broncos have converted 80 percent over the last three games and are 3-0 in that stretch.

The good news for the Redskins is that they are better at home this season, converting 67 percent of red zone trips for touchdowns. Is it mindset? Is it playcall? Is it just better execution that could do the trick?

Whatever the reason, the Redskins cannot afford to leave points on the field on Monday Night. The long-distance delivery is good, but for as good of a run game as this team has, they need to score from close quarters.

AMTRAK RESEMBLING TD

Shame on every NFL "expert" who said Alfred Morris couldn't back up his 2012 performance. You know who you are.

Fresh off of a Redskins franchise record 1,613 rushing yards as a rookie and the third-greatest rookie rushing season of all time, critics were eager to line up and belittle his accomplishments, forcing him to prove he could do it again.

So he has.

Last week, he rushed for a career-high 18 carries in the first half. After the team was forced to take flight, he had only four more carries but still finished with 93 yards on the ground. Just another day in the office for one of the most consistent producers in the NFL this season.

Last year was remarkable for the sheer workload Morris endured. Three hundred thirty five carries in today's NFL is unheard of for a running back, save for the Adrian Petersons of the world.

But if you accept that he will not be forced to tote the rock that often this season, look at these other numbers for total impact. In 2012, he rushed for a 4.8 yards per carry clip. This year he has 5.1 yards per carry. Last year, in had a long of 39 yards for a touchdown. This year, he has a long of 45 yards, showing his increased explosiveness.

Morris leads all NFL running backs with rushes of 20 yards or more, busting off nine lengthy runs this season. Only two other backs in the league have more than five.

The end result is a start to the season that provides a rave-worthy encore--a sophomore stunner. And like last year, this season also has historical implications for No. 46.

Already, Morris has 2,531 yards in his first two seasons, pushing him past Hall Of Famer Emmitt Smith (2,500) for the most rushing yards in the first two seasons. Next up on the list, Morris has Curtis Martin (2,639) and 124 yards from equaling former Mike Shanahan pupil Terrell Davis (2,655).

That's remarkable company to be compared to at any point in your career and Morris is finding that success right out of the gate. Feed the beast on Monday Night football and let Alfred Morris soften up the San Francisco front-seven.

SAFETY IN NUMBERS

Head coach Mike Shanahan likes to discuss how much the depth of talent on the team has improved since his arrival in 2010.

That much is evidenced by last week's game when the Redskins made two talented playmakers in Fred Davis and Joshua Morgan inactive as part of the numbers game. Unfortunately, both players would have been helpful at the end of the game when the Redskins became short-handed.

With Leonard Hankerson done for the season with an LCL tear, the job of WR2 goes back to Joshua Morgan, who held it for most of last season. This is the same player that led the team in receptions a year ago and was a reliable outlet receiver for Robert Griffin III.

This is his time to shine, as he will be given first crack at the Z receiver position. The team also has Santana Moss and Nick Williams that can fill in as needed.

At tight end, the Redskins may be without Jordan Reed (concussion), who is putting together one of the finest rookie performances in the NFL this season.

If he is unable to go, Redskins fans may see Fred Davis for the first time in seven weeks as he has been inactive in favor of the rookie sensation, the top blocker in Logan Paulsen, and the special teams ace in Niles Paul.

This is an offense in need of playmakers and the depth of talent to make it happen. It also provides an opportuntity for two guys with chips on their shoulders to prove that they have a clearly-defined role moving forward.

RIGHT THE SHIP, CAPTAIN

Look for Robert Griffin III to have a signature highlight performance on primetime television in front of a national audience. All signs point to success for No. 10, even against a stellar defense. More importantly, he and the Redskins need it to keep hope alive.

The 2013 season has not been kind to Griffin III, but those type of growing pains should have been expected, particularly with the offseason surgery and rehab. Even without that, the NFL is the ultimate game of adjustment and that was certain to happen to a degree this season.

But what sets Griffin III apart from most young players is that he does not slump, per se. He has bad plays and disappointing games, but he never followed a dismal performance with another.

This season, he hit a low point in Dallas, turning in a passer rating of 58.3. He followed that up with his best performance as a pro, turning in a 105.2.

Two weeks later, he managed a low-water mark of 45.4 vs. Denver before bouncing back with an 86.8 vs. San Diego and an exceptional 114.8 in Minnesota.

In the month of November, Griffin III has played his best football of the season, with his worst performance coming last week with an 81.1 rating. More importantly, he has protected the football with five interceptions and only two interceptions.

He needs a big performance this week in order to out-duel Colin Kaepernick, but that media headline has little to do with the actual game. This has everything to do with Griffin III being in sync with his receivers and taking control over the game.

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