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Redskins-Cowboys: 4 Keys To The Game

Posted Dec 27, 2012's Brian Tinsman breaks down the key players and matchups to keep an eye on during Sunday's Redskins-Cowboys showdown at FedExField.'s Brian Tinsman breaks down the key players and matchups to keep an eye on during Sunday's Redskins-Cowboys showdown 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.


Since losing to the New York Giants in Week 7, the Redskins have rattled off four-straight division wins, including a win on the road in Dallas on Thanksgiving. The game marked the national debut of Robert Griffin III, who delivered his finest performance as a pro: 19-for-27, 304 yards and four touchdowns.

The Redskins will need another stellar performance from No. 10 this Sunday, as the Redskins host the Cowboys in primetime with the division crown on the line. Griffin III suffered a sprained right knee three weeks ago against the Baltimore Ravens, and was limited but efficient in his return to action last week. With DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer each tallying 10-plus sacks this season, Griffin III will need his full mobility on Sunday.

He will also be needed as a gun-slinger. In the last five games, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has averaged 353 yards per contest, including a pair of 400-yard games. Meanwhile, Griffin III has not thrown for 300-plus yards since that game in Dallas, and has only three this season. Romo has thrown for far more attemps this season, but Griffin III needs to continue making his count.


In Wednesday's press conference with Robert Griffin III, he attributed the team's six-game winning streak to the mentality as much as the talent on the roster.

"You’ve got to make it to where you approach it the same exact way you have the past six weeks and know that it’s for all the marbles," he said. "Don’t go out and play scared. You have to play like you have nothing to lose, which is what we’ve done the past six weeks."

The Redskins have had outstanding success since the bye week, playing an aggressive brand of football on both sides of the ball.  The six-straight wins are second in the NFL only to the Denver Broncos, who have gone 10-straight behind veteran quarterback Peyton Manning. In his first season in the NFL, Griffin III has been granted the task of taking the Redskins to their first playoff berth since he was in high school.

In order to do that, Griffin III and his teammates have found success by taking each moment at a time and not letting the spotlight become overwhelming. That will serve them well on the biggest stage in recent Redskins memory.

"Whenever you play the moment up too much, it can become too big to seize the moment," Griffin III explained. "You just want to make sure you don’t make something so big that you can’t grab a hold of it."


If not for Griffin III, rookie running back Alfred Morris would be the talk of the town, as the sixth-round draft pick chases down the greatest rushing season in franchise history. With one game left, Morris needs just 104 yards to pass Clinton Portis's 2005 single-season record (1,516 yards).

If the game remains close or the Redskins jump out to an early lead, Morris should have a decent chance at breaking the record. Morris is averaging 94.2 yards per game, and has six 100-yard contests this season. He rushed for 113 yards on 24 carries against Dallas on Thanksgiving, scoring his touchdown during the 28-point second quarter.

With both Jay Ratliff and Jason Hatcher held out of practice with injury, the Redskins need to attack the interior of the Cowboys' defensive line. Dallas is the 17th-ranked rush defense this season, yielding more than 115 yards per contest on the ground. In games where Morris rushes more than 100 yards, the Redskins are 4-2, so look for a heavy dose of Morris on Sunday Night.


In seven NFL seasons, Romo has an even 7-7 record against the Redskins, throwing for 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. A quarterback and team not usually known for their success in December, the Cowboys have had a strong push for the playoffs, winning three-of-four games for an 8-7 record. Romo has been key to that push, throwing for 10 touchdowns with one interception during that stretch, earning a 112.0 passer rating.

The good news for the Redskins is the Cowboys lean on Romo to win games and are susceptible to lapses in protection up front. Romo is averaging two sacks per contest this month, and the Redskins defense has forced 12 sacks in the last four games, dialing up consistent pressure behind Ryan Kerrigan and Rob Jackson.

Like most quarterbacks, Romo is most susceptible to mistakes under duress, and it is incumbent on the Redskins front-seven to create pressure. Receiver Dez Bryant and tight end Jason Witten will create their own mismatch issues, but Romo is the lynchpin in the Cowboys' offense. Beat him, and have a good chance of beating Dallas.




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