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Redskins-Cowboys: 4 Keys To The Game

Posted Oct 21, 2014

Redskins.com’s Andrew Walker breaks down the key players and matchups to keep an eye on during Monday’s Redskins-Cowboys 2014 Week 8 showdown in Dallas.

Redskins.com’s Andrew Walker breaks down the key players and matchups to keep an eye on during Monday’s Redskins-Cowboys 2014 Week 8 showdown in Dallas.

“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.

SADDLE UP, PARTNER
Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said the team is moving forward with veteran Colt McCoy as its quarterback until regular starter Robert Griffin III is able to fully recover from dislocating his left ankle Week 2 against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

McCoy filled in admirably in the second half of last Sunday’s Week 7 matchup against the Tennessee Titans, completing 11-of-12 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown – a 70-yard play to wide receiver Pierre Garçon.

Perhaps most importantly, McCoy was poised in the game’s final minutes, when he orchestrated a 10-play, 76-yard that led to a game-winning 22-yard field goal from Kai Forbath as time expired, giving the Redskins a much-needed 19-17 victory at FedExField.

If McCoy does start against the Cowboys, it’ll be his first since Dec. 8, 2011, when his Cleveland Browns took on the Pittsburgh Steelers. He’ll hope to be able to cut down on turnovers, which haunted quarterback Kirk Cousins in three of his five appearances under center with the Redskins, where in five games (four starts) he completed 126-of-204 passes (61.8 percent) for 1,710 yards and 10 touchdowns, but had 11 total turmovers (nine interceptions and two lost fumbles).

McCoy starting on Monday at AT&T Stadium would also be a little bit of poetic justice for the five-year veteran, who starred at the University of Texas, where he put up a 45-8 record in four years as the Longhorns’ starting quarterback, setting the NCAA record for most career wins by a college quarterback.

In the off chance Griffin III is able to go Monday against the Cowboys, it’ll give the Redskins a bit of an edge simply because the Dallas defense won’t exactly know what to expect. Will Griffin III still be affected in the least bit by his ankle injury? How will he look with tight end Jordan Reed back in the starting lineup? How often will he be trying to go deep to DeSean Jackson?

All questions the Cowboys must face this week as they prepare for the Redskins.

DENY DeMARCO
The Cowboys’ DeMarco Murray has always been considered a talented running back, but, behind a much-improved Dallas offensive line, the fourth-year pro out of Oklahoma is putting together an MVP-caliber season in 2014.

In the Cowboys’ 31-21 victory over the New York Giants last Sunday in Dallas, Murray set an NFL record by opening the year with his seventh-straight 100-yard rushing game. After collecting 28 carries for 128 yards and a touchdown against New York, Murray – the league’s leading rusher – now has 187 carries for 913 yards (4.9 yards per carry) and seven touchdowns on the season. That’s in addition to 22 receptions for 159 yards.

To this point of the season, the Redskins have proven to be a little better than average at stopping the run, ranking 12th in the league with a 103.3 rushing-yards-per-game-allowed average. They must do better against Murray and the Cowboys. Also, it’s not like Murray has been Superman every time he’s touched the ball this season – he’s fumbled four times in 2014, losing each of them.

The Redskins need to focus on getting Murray to the ground as soon as possible, obviously, but look for the Washington defenders to be working extra hard on their rip moves this week in practice.

FRUSTRATE ROMO
Getting pressure on the opposing quarterback could be considered a key to every game for the Redskins, but the theme especially holds true against Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.

Romo this season is showing what his offense is capable of with an improved offensive line and a No. 1 rushing attack, as the Cowboys currently rank third in the league in total offense at 402.1 yards per game.  And Romo is still slinging the ball all over the field, despite Murray’s outstanding season to this point, as the 12th-year pro out of Eastern Illinois ranks 10th in the league in pass attempts with 214 (three less than Peyton Manning’s 217, to give you a little perspective).

Romo has also kept the mistakes to a minimum (with a 14-to-6 touchdown-to-interception rate), and has been sacked just 12 times to this point of the season, which is a marked improvement from last season, when he was sacked 35 times.

With the Redskins learning on Monday that three-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker Brian Orakpo was lost for the season with a torn pectoral muscle, they know they must step up their pass rush game and be all up in Romo’s face throughout Monday night’s contest if they want to come away with a shot at victory.

This begins with two players: Ryan Kerrigan and Jason Hatcher. Kerrigan, whose 6.5 sacks are the third-most in the league, must keep up the strong season knowing that teams will key in on him even more with Orakpo done for the year. How can he stay effective as a pass rusher when many plays will likely feature a double-team blocking scheme against him?

Hatcher, meanwhile, is very much looking forward to his first game against his old team. Last season, Hatcher was a lone bright spot of an otherwise putrid Dallas defense. He had 11 sacks and was voted to his first-ever Pro Bowl, and has had another solid year making plays for the Redskins in 2014.

SHOCK THE WORLD
The Redskins have already been in the national spotlight two times this season – neither of which ending in a positive manner for the burgundy and gold.

In Week 4 against the Giants on Thursday Night Football, the Redskins struggled in all three phases and lost 45-14. Then, the next week against the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football, Washington turned in a much better performance, but the result was the same: a 27-17 loss.

The Redskins are hoping the third time is the charm when it comes to primetime games in 2014, as they take on the Cowboys for their second Monday Night Football appearance of the year.

The 2-5 Redskins are undoubtedly going to be massive underdogs against the 6-1 Cowboys in their home stadium. But can you even comprehend the magnitude of Washington escaping with a victory in this one?

A win over your rivals in front of their home crowd that would end their six-game winning streak. That would be music to just about everybody’s ears at Redskins Park.

Besides, don’t you think Redskins head coach Jay Gruden is hoping to give his brother, Jon, an analyst with ESPN’s Monday Night Football crew, something positive to say at the end of this one?

RELATED LINKS:
-- Game Information: Redskins-Cowboys
-- McCoy To Take Starter's Reps At Quarterback

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