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Redskins-Cowboys: 4 Keys To The Game

Posted Oct 10, 2013

Redskins.com's Brian Tinsman breaks down the key players and matchups to keep an eye on during Sunday Night's Redskins-Cowboys shootout at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, Texas.

Redskins.com's Brian Tinsman breaks down the key players and matchups to keep an eye on during Sunday Night's Redskins-Cowboys shootout at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, Texas.

“Redskins-Cowboys: 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.


Like a rain jacket in Washington, D.C. this week, the Redskins need to air it out early once they get inside the confines of Cowboy Stadium. This is a game that has the makings of a shootout, and the sooner the offense can get in rhythm, the better.

Last year, the Redskins exposed the Cowboys offense on Thanksgiving, with Robert Griffin III throwing 19-for-27 for a cool 304 yards and four touchdowns. The offense stayed balanceed with 32 rushing attempts, throwing haymakers in the first half and draining the clock in the second half. Alfred Morris rushed for 24 of those 32 rushes and finished the day with 113 yards and a touchdown.

The most impressive facet of the Redskins' attack on Thanksgiving was the way Robert Griffin III and Kyle Shanahan spread the ball around. A different Redskins caught each of Robert Griffin III's touchdown passes, and a different quartet finished with at least 40 yards receiving. Griffin III has the weapons, he just has to turn them loose.


The Dallas Cowboys are built around franchise quarterback Tony Romo on offense, weathering all that comes with that reality. And like the notion that the sun will rise in the east each morning and set in the west at night, Romo is a statistical lock to turn the ball over on Sunday.

In 98 career starts, Romo has 113 turnovers, including 93 interceptions and 23 lost fumbles. In 15 career games against the Washington Redskins, he has 13 interceptions, including five last season in two games. While acknowledging that Romo is a talented quarterback capable of duplicating last week's five-touchdown, 500-yard performance, the Redskins feel good about shutting down the run and putting the game in Romo's unsure hands.

That starts with a strong performance by the front-seven against a young, inexperienced Cowboys offensive line. The line is not devoid of talent and potential, but the starting unit averages less than four years in the league, with starting center Travis Frederick and left guard Ronald Leary playing a collective 10 games in the middle of the line.

They will line up across from a front-seven that averages nearly 7.5 years of experience, including youngster Ryan Kerrigan, who is well on his way to improving on last year's Pro Bowl season. The pressure starts up front with he and Brian Orakpo have combined for eight sacks and two forced fumbles in the first four games. But the interior line needs to play sound defense to keep Romo from getting time and sight lines in the pocket. Fluster Romo, and you may be rewarded with the football.


The Redskins have a special teams unit in transition, learning coordinator Keith Burns' philosophies with a young group of contributors. The problem is that the units rank near the bottom of the league in most categories besides kickoff coverage (1st-17.9 yards per return).

The Redskins welcome back kicker Kai Forbath (right groin) this week, who should be able to improve on the team's 60 percent conversion rate on field goals, which ranks 30th in the NFL. He takes over for John Potter and looks to bring stability to the kicking and kickoff duties.

The Redskins also need answer in the return game, as the Redskins rank 27th in both kickoff returns (20.3 yards) and punt returns (5.6 yards). These numbers are reflected in the team's average starting point on offense, which ranks among the league's worst.

After the bye week, rookie running back Chris Thompson remains atop the depth chart for both returner positions, but needs a strong game to get his confidence and momentum up. After his preseason touchdown, teams have done a number of things to neutralize his elite speed and vision, including consistently kicking it deep and directionally.

After a win in which the Redskins gave up a touchdown on a blocked punt and allowed the Raiders to convert on a fake punt, the Redskins need a positive spark from special teams. It's time to get special.


While the Cowboys certainly have other receivers like Terrance Williams and Jason Witten, the homerun threat worth double covering is top receiver Dez Bryant. According to reports out of Dallas this week, Romo feels comfortable throwing to Bryant in double-coverage and that should be encouraged (see above).

If Bryant thinks he can catch anything Romo throws his way, the Redskins should take their chances with putting bodies on and around Bryant--anything to keep from getting beat by Romo's top option.

In five career games against the Redskins, Bryant averages more than five receptions per game for 80-plus yards and almost a touchdown. He comes into this game red-hot, with 423 receiving yards and six touchdowns this year. The only two teams that have managed to contain Bryant are the New York Giants in Week 1 (22 yards) and the St. Louis Rams in Week 3 (38 yards, touchdown).

Whatever it is that those two teams did, duplicate it and double down.




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