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    • DATE: December 3, 2013
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Redskins-Browns: 4 Keys To Victory

Posted Dec 13, 2012

Redskins.com's Brian Tinsman breaks down the key players and matchups to keep an eye on during Sunday's Redskins-Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

Redskins.com's Brian Tinsman breaks down the key players and matchups to keep an eye on during Sunday's Redskins-Browns rematch at FedExField.

“Redskins-Browns: 4 Keys To Victory” 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.


WE MUST PROTECT THIS HOUSE!

On March 10, 2012, the Redskins announced a blockbuster trade with the St. Louis Rams that netted them the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, which was eventually used on Robert Griffin III.  For those curious about the timing of the trade, it was later revealed that the Cleveland Browns were the other bidder for the draft pick, and the Redskins made a better final offer, a story that was disputed by Browns' leadership in the following months.

Just as Griffin III has had a dazzling rookie season in the Nation's Capital, the same may have been true had he become a Cleveland Brown. Despite finding a new starting quarterback in Brandon Weeden, the Browns are sure not to forget that fact on Sunday, and will look to create a physical matchup for Griffin III, if healthy.  The Redskins have the advantage of not announcing whether Griffin III (knee) or Kirk Cousins will be making the start, but protection must be the offense's No. 1 concern for either quarterback.

The Redskins have had mixed results against the physical AFC North this year, with Griffin III throwing three of his four lowest completion percentages against the Bengals, Steelers and Ravens.  He has also been sacked nine times in three games, and fumbled five times.  The Redskins offense must execute at a high level and the protection scheme must hold up against a Cleveland Browns defense that ranked No. 6 in the NFL with 21 forced fumbles.

KEEP KERRIGAN KRACKING

Outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan hasn't tallied a sack since Thanksgiving, but had one of his finest games of the season last week against the Baltimore Ravens, registering consistent pressure throughout the game.

Following running back Alfred Morris's fumble inside the Redskins' 25-yard line, Joe Flacco had Jacoby Jones open in the end zone over the middle.  As he planted his feet to release the ball, Kerrigan hit Flacco from his blind side, causing the pass to go awry, incomplete.  The Ravens would later score, but it took three downs to do so.

His pressure paid higher dividends later in the game, as Flacco's erratic pass was tipped by nose tackle Barry Cofield, and into the waiting arms of fellow linebacker London Fletcher.  It was Fletcher's third interception of the season, the most for him since 2007.  However, the glory on the play goes to Kerrigan, whose mammoth hit set up the game-changing takeaway.

So far this season, Weeden has 24 sacks and four more turnovers than touchdowns.  Like most rookies, he is susceptible to mistakes if Kerrigan and Rob Jackson can continue to hit home.

WIN THE ROOKIE BOWL

Sunday's game should be competitive for 60 minutes, with both teams leaning heavily on an army of rookies, particularly on offense.

For the Redskins, either Cousins or Griffin III is likely to earn the start, with the other waiting in the wings if necessary. Alfred Morris has been sensational this season, and looks for his fourth-consecutive 100-yard game in less-than-ideal weather conditions.  On special teams, Richard Crawford looks to match a three-return, 100-yard day at punt returner, and kicker Kai Forbath looks to continue his run of perfection for field goals.

For the Browns, Weeden, running back Trent Richardon and receiver Josh Gordon look to become the first rookie trio to lead their team in yardage at their respective positions since the 1968 Buffalo Bills.

Richardson and Morris are childhood friends from Florida, but Morris is having the better rookie season by nearly 400 yards on the ground. Richardson holds the advantage in goal line situations, leading by two touchdowns.

The running game should be key in this game, as forecasts call for a 40 percent chance of rain with 15 MPH winds. Whichever team holds the ball late in the game will likely win this December contest.

USE THE FULL ARSENAL

With defensive backs Joe Haden, Sheldon Brown and T.J. Ward, the Browns boast a formiddable secondary that has 11 takeaways already this year.  With Haden likely to cover Pierre Garcon, the Redskins will need to target other receivers to take advantage of more favorable matchups.

The Redskins have done a good job sharing the ball around, with 15 Redskins receiving passes from Griffin III and Cousins.  Look for that trend to continue this week, as Leonard Hankerson and Alrick Robinson have proven to be reliable targets behind Joshua Morgan and Santana Moss.

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