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Redskins-Ravens: 4 Keys To Victory

Posted Dec 6, 2012

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

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

“Redskins-Ravens: 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.


AVOID THE SHOOTOUT

The Redskins have gotten a lot of attention for their big play potential this year, with Robert Griffin III hitting 11 receivers for passes of 20 yards or longer.

But by the numbers, the Redskins are one of the most balanced offenses in the NFL this year, rushing 379 times vs. 325 passing attempts.  This elite rushing attack is the key to keeping the defense off balance and setting up opportunities for play action passes and the read option offense. The Redskins are at their best when they keep all offensive threats viable

The Ravens offense sports a pair of lethal deep threats in Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones, who have the ability to win a track meet with the Redskins' secondary. Despite averaging just 17 points in the last three weeks, the Redskins have also scored 44 and 55 points in games this season.

The Redskins have played a string of physical football games, including an emotional 17-16 victory over the Giants on Monday Night Football, but this is a game that must be won in the trenches.  Stick to what works and run the football. The Ravens defense isn't what it used to be, and the offense much-improved.

DIAL UP THE PASS RUSH

Without Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker in the lineup, the Redskins' pass rush has fallen to 26th in the NFL with just 21 sacks.  Rob Jackson led the way with a critical fourth-quarter sack against the Giants last week, but the Redskins' front-seven has largely struggled to create pressure against good offensive lines this season.

The Ravens enter Week 14 tied for fifth-worst in the NFL in pass protection, yielding 29 sacks, including eight in the last two weeks. Flacco uses his size and athleticism to evade the rush, but the Redskins need to take advantage and force him to make decisions before he is ready.

Establishing a consistent pass rush early in the game will take pressure off the Redskins' secondary, which will be missing cornerback Cedric Griffin for the rest of the regular season.

GO GO GARCON

Redskins receiver Pierre Garcon has had an undeniable impact on the Redskins' success this season, as Washington has gone 5-1 in games he played.  During the Redskins' current three-game winning streak, Garcon has a team-high 15 receptions for 197 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-clincher on Monday Night.

Head coach Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan told the media a month ago that an injured Garcon was better than no Garcon at all, and the results speak for themselves.  After a week of playing decoy for other receivers against the Eagles, Garcon came alive with a 59-yard touchdown catch and run against Dallas. He gave Redskins' fans deja vu last week, catching a 35-yard pass on a similar route over the middle.

When he is in the lineup, Garcon creates mismatches with his speed and opens up opportunities for other receivers on offense. Just imagine his potential when he finally gets healthy.

CAPTURE THE SPARK ON SPECIAL TEAMS

Sunday's game offers three intriguing special teams' matchups of two rookie kickers, two veteran punters and a pair of electric returners.

Ravens returner Jacoby Jones is the NFL leader in touchdown returns, with two on kickoffs and one off a punt return. He has been a beneficiary of good blocking this season, but also possesses elite speed and good decision-making. Redskins returner Brandon Banks has struggled at times this year, and has admitted to pressing in recent weeks in order to break a big return. Coverage will be important for the Redskins on Sunday.

Ravens rookie Justin Tucker and Redskins kicker Kai Forbath share a unique quality for having beaten out Billy Cundiff to win their respective kicking jobs.  Tucker is having a superb season, converting 92.3 percent of field goals and 100 percent of extra points, with a long of 56.  Forbath is a perfect 11-for-11 on field goals this season with one blocked extra point on his record. His range is at least 50 yards. This game could boil down to a last-second or overtime field goal.

Ravens punter Sam Koch is posting career-highs in punt average (47.3) and net average (41.3) as he enters the prime of his career. Redskins punter Sav Rocca continues to impress, enjoying his best season for punt average (43.9), despite nursing a torn ligament in his kicking leg.  The Redskins need to protect Rocca, as he has two blocks this season and the battle for field position will be crucial.

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