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Redskins-Cowboys: 4 Keys To The Game

Posted Dec 20, 2013's Brian Tinsman breaks down the key players and matchups to keep an eye on during Sunday afternoon's Redskins-Cowboys rivalry brawl at FedExField.'s Brian Tinsman breaks down the key players and matchups to keep an eye on during Sunday afternoon's Redskins-Cowboys rivalry brawl at FedExField.

“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.


If you spend enough time at press conferences, you'll discover that every coach has a favorite list of sayings. For offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, that list includes the phrase "Let 'er rip," in reference to the fact that he wants his quarterbacks to make the read, be decisive and then be aggressive with the throw.

Kirk Cousins was that quarterback last week, diagnosing plays quickly and firing the football to his receivers in a timely manner. Sure, he made mistakes, turning the ball over three times, but threw for 381 yards and three touchdowns. His efforts did more good than harm and the Redskins were in position to tie or win the game at the end of regulation.

For most young quarterbacks, especially those off the bench playing in just their sixth career game, those are impressive numbers and nearly delivered the fourth win of the season.

Going into game No. 2 of this final three-game stretch, Cousins will be afforded two things he has not yet experienced in his career: a home start and a back-to-back start.

Cousins has never appeared in more than two games in a row in his career and has never prepared as a starter for multiple weeks. Did you think Cousins looked good last week against one of the worst defenses in the NFL? Imagine how good he can look this week against the NFL's worst pass and overall defense.

Let 'er rip, Kirk!



Washington Redskins fans should all admit something important: Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is a pretty good quarterback. He may not be elite, but he is a passer that seems to be in the conversation for elite status.

He has pretty good company, drawing statistical comparisons to Hall of Fame quarterbacks like Terry Bradshaw, Broadway Joe Namath and Roger Staubach. So what gives?

Football is not a game of stats, it is a game of wins. Tony Romo may have a Pro Bowl caliber quarterback in the season (3,600 yards, 29 touchdowns, nine interceptions), but he has a career-long case of December-itis, carrying a 13-19 record during the most wonderful time of the year.

For as much as the media talks about it, his December struggles are not a surprise or mystery to anyone in the Cowboys' locker room. It is incumbent upon the Redskins to exploit that. Get on Tony Romo early and often, putting pressure on him and forcing mistakes.

That alone is easier said than done, however, as Romo is one of the more "slippery" quarterbacks under pressure. Last season, he was fourth in the NFL with 505 yards passing outisde of the pocket, completing 57 percent of his passes with a 116.3 rating.

However, when pressured by five or more defenders, Romo succumbs to the blitz, throwing for 1,443 yards but chucking up eight interceptions. Those numbers fall pretty much in line with his career stats and is something that defensive coordinator Jim Haslett should keep in mind when the game is on the line. Romo may be a hard quarterback to bring down, but he may be more valuable to the defense if he is able to get a pass off into traffic.


Twice this season, Redskins running back Alfred Morris has had issues with ball security, fumbling twice in a game.

The first came in Week 1 when he recovered one that eventually led to a short-field touchdown for the Eagles, and another in the end zone that yielded a defensive touchdown.

Last week in Atlanta marked the first time that Morris lost a pair of fumbles in a game, part of a team-wide turnover epidemic. Morris is having another stellar season in light of all that's going on around him, but adhere to fundamentals when it comes to ball security.

The good news for the Redskins is that Morris plays well fired up. In Week 2 after a dismal start to the season, he rushed just 13 times for 107 yards, a career-high 8.2 yards-per-carry.

Throw in the fact that Morris has outstanding career numbers vs. Dallas: 73 rushes for a career-high 394 yards and five touchdowns.

Combine that with the fact that the Cowboys have an abysmal rush defense and the Redskins running game has to be in the game plan. Even without a healthy Darrel Young (hamstring, Questionable), the Redskins should be able to find holes.

The Cowboys are expected to be without their top four linebackers this week, with Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, Justin Durant and Ernie Sims nursing injuries. That likely means a healthy dose of rookie linebackers De-Vonte Holloman and Cameron Lawrence who got their first big tests last week vs. Green Bay.

Morris is averaging just 16.8 carries per game, four fewer on average than a season ago. For a guy that gets better as the game goes on, it is in everyone's best interests to see what he can do in the fourth quarter.


The best one-on-one matchup in this rivalry over the last several years has been the battle between Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant and Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall. There have been times when Hall has shut down Bryant and times when Bryant burns Hall, but one thing is certain: it's a rivalry that never lacks entertainment.

With 81 receptions for 1,061 yards and 11 touchdowns, Bryant is putting together a stellar season that may land him Pro Bowl consideration. What counts against him is the fact that he can be eliminated from games if the defense plays it right.

On five occasions this year, Bryant has been held under 50 yards receiving. One of those occasions was against the Redskins in Week 6, where he was limited to 36 yards on five receptions. His total output and yards-per-catch (7.2) were all his third-lowest totals of the season.

That's playing Dez well.

There are also times when the Redskins have failed to play Bryant well, like last Thanksgiving, when he piled on 145 yards and two touchdowns, predominantly in the second half.

In six career games vs. the burgundy and gold, Bryant has 32 catches for 439 yards and three touchdowns. The key to stopping him on Sunday starts with No. 23, who is more than willing to accept the challenge. Whoever wins could have a direct impact on who wins the game.




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