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Dallas Week: Washington Redskins Keys to the Game vs. Cowboys

December 28, 2012 in Washington Redskins Keys to the Game

By Staff Writer John Manuel:

Its Dallas Week.  Here are my keys to the game for the Redskins to beat the Cowboys in the Sunday Night Showdown at FedEx for the NFC East crown.

1 – I will get right into it with first and foremost we need to look at the opponent.  The Dallas Cowboys are an 8-7 football team not a 10-5 or even 9-6.  They are what their record is.  And honestly if Antonio Brown could have protected the football on a punt return this game could have been meaningless for them.  I do think they can be explosive and play like they did week one versus New York but that was week one, not seventeen.

Although the Redskins have not had any games of this magnitude in years, Dallas has had a few and when they have they failed.  The Cowboys have been up and down all season, eking out wins the past two months usually having to come from behind late in games.  The Redskins did the same versus Baltimore but took care of business against teams like Cleveland, in Dallas, New York and last week in Philadelphia over this six game win streak.  Yes, the games ended close but except versus Baltimore, Washington had the lead in all those games down the stretch of the fourth quarter.

2- I could almost copy the same thing I had on the quarterbacks before the Thanksgiving game in Dallas.  Tony Romo did have a big statistical game that day almost all in the second half after the Cowboys fell way behind.  The knock on Romo has been that he can't win these types of games and now to do it on the road gives me confidence he won't be able again.  Before the season I thought Dallas could be a disaster waiting to happen and that Romo could be the fall guy by seasons end.  I will admit that Romo has played very well but let’s see what he does Sunday night.

On the other hand we as Skins fans have full confidence that Robert Griffin III will show up and do what he has done all season.  Yes, the knee will have an effect but all Griffin does is move the ball, don't turn it over and put up 100+ passer rating performances.  And oh yeah, be a true leader as a rookie.  A captain.  That is what he does.

3- Everyone's main concern this week is dealing with Dez Bryant.  And by having to deal with Dez Bryant does that open it up for Jason Witten and Miles Austin.  Bryant last week was as good as anyone other than Calvin Johnson and clearly the weakness of the Redskins is in their secondary.  But will Dez Bryant show up?  Does Dallas add 2 or 3 more chaperones this week to make sure?  I still think that the Cowboys need to watch over a 24 year old is a joke by the way.  Though every time Dez Bryant looks to be on the right path, he does something stupid.  As for on the field, I do think he will be tough to handle.

The return of DeMarco Murray also will be a factor in the Washington defense being able to slow down the Dallas offense and force turnovers.  Washington's bend but don't break approach has worked in recent weeks but it has worked because of causing timely turnovers.  Ryan Kerrigan has to do what he did last week.  Rob Jackson has to get back to level of play versus the Ravens as well to help the struggling secondary face the likes of Bryant, Austin and Witten.

4- The first game showed a head to head coaching advantage for the Redskins.  This must happen again.  Mike Shanahan has obviously been in more big games than Jason Garrett and Shanny needs to win the coaching battle.

Can Shanahan win the coaching battle Sunday night?

Can Shanahan win the coaching battle Sunday night?

The obvious battle between the coaches will pit Kyle Shanahan and his offense against Rob Ryan and his defense.  Shanahan worked Ryan in Dallas on Thanksgiving and I would expect no change this week.  Rob Ryan like all the Ryans', is a clown.  Kyle has had his ups and downs but right now has it going and going good.  Ryan will not be helped by Demarcus Ware being far from 100% but Ware is tough and even at 70-80% will give Pro Bowler Trent Williams a handful like always.

On the other side it was turning into a long season for Jim Haslett until the win streak occurred.  His defense is still giving up yards but just holding opponents points down enough to win.  Just holding them down this week may not work so he will need to find holes in a suspect Dallas offensive line.

5- Maybe the most famous Redskins/Cowboys game for Washington fans is 1982 NFC Championship Game.  The game will be mostly remembered for Darryl Grant's touchdown and Dexter Manley knocking out Danny White but what can't be forgotten is how the Redskins were able to run the ball down Dallas' throat with John Riggins all day.  Washington must do the same Sunday night with Alfred Morris.

Morris has proven all season to be this team's Diesel.  And although I doubt Alfred Morris needs any motivation losing out on a Pro Bowl nod to Frank Gore makes for adding motivation.  I expect Griffin to be more of a run threat Sunday night which will open it up more for Morris as well as the receiving core.  Dallas has been torched like the Redskins many times this season so matching big plays with Dallas will be a key as well.  But I would love to see the 2012 Cowboys get pounded into the FedEx turf like 1982 Cowboys were at RFK.  Here is a link to that game.

As for what will happen.  It is crazy to say that we finally have a huge game at FedEx Field after so long.  It is actually embarrassing after the success the team had for many years under Gibbs' first coaching run.  But I have confidence in my quarterback and I have confidence in our leaders like London Fletcher.

Over the past six weeks these guys have yet to fail us on the field and I don't see it happening Sunday night.  I see a win and a division title but not as high scoring as Thanksgiving and more like the Giants Monday night game.  Redskins 23  Dallas 17




Do You Want the Dallas Game to Matter?

December 26, 2012 in Washington Redskins

You'd think playoff scenarios would get less confusing as we entered the last week of the season. Not so, apparently. While the teams playing on the AFC side of the playoff bracket are set, two spots are still up in the air on the NFC side.  The Falcons, Packers, Seahawks, and 49ers have all punched their tickets to the postseason, but the other two teams can be any mixture of the Redskins, Cowboys, Giants, Vikings, and Bears…o my. Redskins fans are the only cohort that gets the luxury of sitting back Sunday, doing nothing, and possibly obtaining a playoff birth. When Faith Hill starts singing and the ball is about to be kicked off Sunday night the Redskins will already know if they've locked up a wild card spot or if they need to beat the 'Boys for a NFC East title. So, as a Redskins fan would you rather that Sunday's game be less meaningful by "backing into" the playoffs? Would you at least feel a little more comfortable?

For one, the Redskins have gone beyond my wildest expectations this season. Regardless of what happens Sunday I will stand and applaud Mike Shanahan, Robert Griffin III, and the rest of the organization. I'm excited by the meaning of Sunday night's game versus the Cowboys, but I'd also like to breath easy with a Chicago and Minnesota loss. The Bears have a stiff contest, on the road, against the Lions. Sure the Lions aren't playing for much, but a win against a division rival would certainly be huge heading into next year, especially for Jim Schwartz. You just know that Detroit isn't going to lay down for Chicago.

If Chicago falls at one o'clock then Redskins fans' eyes will go to Minnesota with Green Bay visiting at 4:25 PM. Green Bay has a playoff spot and division title locked up, but they are still fighting for a bye in the first week of the playoffs. Their competition for that bye is the San Francisco 49ers. Thankfully, the Niners and Pack will be playing at the same time. As Green Bay is battling the Vikings, the Niner will be taking on the lowly Cardinals at home. The Vikings are desperate, but how will Green Bay play this one? Will they go for the kill? Will the Vikings fall in love with Adrian Peterson's pursuit of Eric Dickerson? This game will have interesting storylines no matter what. The outcome of the Bears game is basically irrelevant for these two squads and a Green Bay loss would likely mean the two teams would clash once again, a week later in the first round of the playoffs in Green Bay.

If the Packers and Lions win their respective games then some pressure may be taken off of Redskins fans. That scenario means that if the Skins lose then they'll likely be heading for a first round match up against the San Francisco 49ers. But the real question is if this scenario plays out will the Redskins feel pressure taken off or will they treat Sunday night like a must-win game? With one swoop the Redskins could claim their first division title since 1999 and knock their rivals out of the playoffs. A win would also solidify only the second home playoff game in FedEx Field history, likely against Russell Wilson's Seahawks.

Obviously, all Redskins fans want to see the burgundy and gold take down Dallas on Sunday. But would you like to rest just a little easier come 8:30?

Washington Redskins Postgame Thoughts Week 16

December 24, 2012 in Washington Redskins Post Game Recap

By Staff Writer John Manuel:

My postgame thoughts on Washington Redskins must-win over the Eagles:

1- My first thought after the game was that was too close of a win against a bad Eagles team.

But then I thought about it and a win is a win and that makes six in a row.  Now the Redskins have a week to get ready for the Dallas Cowboys and a chance to win the NFC East.  I didn't expect the Eagles to lay down especially in Andy Reid's last home game.  It wasn't spectacular on either offense or defense like we have seen in recent weeks but it was a win and that is what Washington needed.

2- Robert Griffin's return was solid as expected.  By the stats he put up another 100+ QB rating which is what he does every week.

The early one run to the right didn't look like the RG3 we are used to seeing but everyone knows by now that RG3 is a complete quarterback.  We love that he can take off and go for 20, 30, 40 or more at a time but he can also stand in the pocket and make all the throws.  Griffin moved the ball down the field all game and especially in the first half before Alfred Morris got going.  I would expect RG3 to be ready for next Sunday and put on another show.

One coaching call I didn't like.  I think that Shanahan or Shanatan according to Rob Riggle, should have gone 4th and 1 late in the game.  Morris could have gotten that yard.

3- Everyone knows what Pierre Garcon has brought to this team since his return by now Josh Morgan is making a difference also.

Unlike Garcon, Morgan is not putting up bigger numbers but he is becoming a threat to get into the endzone.  A receiving core that looked very shaky after Fred Davis went down has stepped up during the winning streak.  Passes are being caught and I would not put the Griffin interception on Morgan.

I love what Leonard Hankerson is adding in the blocking game.  Actually I like what a lot of the receivers are doing in the blocking game.  And it would be wrong to not mention Santana Moss and what he has done.  I have lost track on how many big touchdowns he has pulled in.

4- I wasn't thrilled with what the defense did today.

The return of LeSean McCoy made it a much tougher day for Haslett's crew.  Madieu Williams always seems to be a second late, especially in the red zone.  We are seeing that way too much and probably why DeAngelo was playing a lot of deep safety today.

Big ups to Ryan Kerrigan today.  Kerrigan has been good, but not great all season, which he needs to be with the injuries.  Today he was great getting after Foles and hopefully he can do the same versus Dallas.  I love the effort by Barry Cofield getting to the outside in stopping screens and quick passes.  I wish the last two drives the Redskins went after Foles like they did earlier in the game.

5- Finally, an easy one.  IT's freakin' DALLAS WEEK!!!



Redskins versus Cowboys: 5 Keys to the Game

November 21, 2012 in Washington Redskins Keys to the Game

1. Burn the Clock:

I know after last week's game most people would like to see Robert Griffin III throw deep more for long touchdown strikes, but that really isn't the Washington Redskins offense. Last week saw the Redskins take advantage of a very undisciplined defense and make them pay. The Cowboys are a far tougher opponent, and their secondary has been fairly strong this year. Opposing quarterbacks are completing just 61.8 % of their passes, and just one (Matt Ryan) has gone over the 300 yard mark. The Redskins are better suited for quicker throws anyways, and that is the best way to attack this defense.

The Redskins also keep their banged up defense off the field as much as possible, by controlling the clock and meticulously going down the field. The Redskins Defense was already injured and porous to begin with, but with Brandon Meriweather out, and questions surrounding the health of Josh Wilson and London Fletcher it's a whole new situation. The Redskins would be best served by limiting the exposure of their defense, and that starts on the offensive side of the ball.

2. Don't Defer the Ball:

I've talked about it before, but it makes even less sense this week with the Redskins Defense banged up. Mike Shanahan should let his offense and star rookie RB and QB dictate the game, and not the Cowboys Pro Bowl QB, WR and TE. Given the struggles that Dallas has had at home with their fans not supporting the team, it's a great opportunity to go out there and score early putting pressure on Dallas.

3. Stop the Penalty Parade:

The Redskins had 13 accepted penalties last week at home coming off a bye. That is completely unacceptable. The Cowboys are nearly as bad as the Redskins in penalties, so this would be a great week for Washington to get their act together. Not only can they even the penalty gap, but Washington could actually have an advantage in this game if they just play smart. The Offense continues to be the biggest offenders, with the offensive line committing most of the fouls. It might be a short week, but Washington has to tighten up if they want to keep any playoff hopes alive.

4. Stop DeMarcus Ware:

Dallas has a strong defense overall, but there is one guy the Redskins need to ensure they stop and that is DeMarcus Ware. Despite Robert Griffin's running ability he  remains one of the more sacked quarterbacks in the league (based on attempts). The line needs to do a better job of holding up in general. Last week versus the Eagles Griffin was sacked twice, but that number would have been 6 or 7 times, if not for Griffin's amazing escapability. What is even sadder is the fact that it was only in about 25 dropbacks. Dallas overall ranks 21st in the league with 20 sacks, Ware though ranks 4th in the league with 10 of those sacks. Regardless of which side he's rushing from the Redskins need to account for Ware on every play, and would do well to help out both Trent Williams and Tyler Polumbus with a tight end or back. Yes Griffin may escape some of his rushes, but that is the last resort and shouldn't be the game plan for stopping Ware.

5. Stay Creative on Defense:

The Redskins Defense is going to be their weakest link, but last week showed they can still do their part to help get a win. The Redskins last week were able to get a lot of pressure on Nick Foles, and forced three total turnovers. They held the Eagles to just 257 yards of total offense. Now they were helped by playing a rookie quarterback in his first start, behind an offensive line missing a number of starters, so a repeat performance is unlikely. That doesn't mean though the defense can't still have some degree of success. Last week saw the Redskins utilize a number of more creative blitzes which led to a number of big defensive plays. The Redskins should continue with that, to help mitigate the injuries and ineffectiveness overall. The Cowboys could be missing both their LT and top two running backs meaning the Skins can have some advantages. They can afford to play their safeties back to ensure they don't get beat deep, at the same time they should look to overload the left side of the offensive line. Tony Romo will still make some plays, but it can lead to some big sacks/turnovers for the defense as well.

Dallas Week: Big Short Week as Redskins Prepare for Thanksgiving Match-up

November 21, 2012 in Washington Redskins Keys to the Game

By Staff Writer John Manuel:

Now that the Redskins are back in the playoff race (well slightly) after beating a horrible Eagles team, the next two weeks will clearly determine where they end up this season.  Win both and they are sitting in great shape in the NFC East.  Lose both and they are done.

The Redskins vs. Cowboys rivalry heats up on Thanksgiving Day this year with 2nd place in the NFC East on the line.

The Redskins vs. Cowboys rivalry heats up on Thanksgiving Day this year with 2nd place in the NFC East on the line.

Last time we looked at a two game stretch it was New York and Pittsburgh and that didn't go well.  So let’s just start with Dallas for now and Thursday’s game.  Here are five things that must happen to win there.

1- Dallas seems to play everyone the same no matter how good or bad a team is.

Go to Atlanta and barely lose, home to Cleveland and barely win.  Each week their opponent is in the game so it comes down to things like turnovers and penalties.

As for penalties, we must worry because the Skins are the worst.  So this needs to change right away.  The Dallas crowd doesn't really concern me so hopefully false starts will be at a minimum.  We can't get 15 yarders either.

As for turnovers, Griffin has been amazing but they cannot have key fumbles like the second half of the Giants game.  Have to get to Romo also but we look at that next.

2- And here we go on Tony Romo.

Washington needs to get to Romo early and often.  Last week we said they need to take advantage of the Eagles poor offensive line and they did.  Time to do this again.  And if the ball bounces off Dez Bryant's hands they need to be there to snag it.  That's if Bryant doesn't break curfew Wednesday night, a traditional party night.

Romo like Griffin can buy time and our defensive backs really don't like sticking with receivers for long periods of time, so we have to run him down quickly.  I predicted before the season a beginning of the end of Romo's time in Dallas and this would be a good week to start that.

3- Make Jason Garrett coach.

The Redskins need to get up early and see if Jason Garrett is a true NFL coach.  He was able to bring them back against the Browns last week but that was against a horrible coach in Pat Shurmur.  So it’s time to call out the $7 million tan man Mike Shanahan and see if he can out-coach Garrett.  Shanahan proved me right week one against the Saints but many times has killed me.  A good sign will be Jerry Jones on the sidelines by the mid third quarter if things are going well.

4- Is Brandon Banks still on the roster?

I think so but he is now really only known for being part of shaky offensive play calls.  Do something Banks in the return game and do it this week.  As I have said many times I wouldn't mind giving Santana a chance on a punt return or two because we need something.

Really think Shanahan blew it not adding Shawne Merriman and dropping someone like Banks or Grossman.  Merriman is older and worn down but he looked pretty good for Buffalo last week.  Key again is that they need something from Banks.  Special teams have covered fine and Kai Forbath has been perfect on kicks, so it’s time for the return game to step up.

5- Finally I think Robert Griffin plays big in a nationally televised game back in his home state.

This season has shown for him not to fold at all under pressure in these types of situations.  RG3 and Luck have gone back and forth all season as the better rookie quarterback and last week Griffin proved better and I think it will continue this week.  The Skins have to attack downfield like last week and look for big plays.

I think they can run the ball against Dallas without a guy like Lee in there but Griffin has to be able to do more than slants and screens.  Garcon although hurt does make the defense have to watch for him, and hopefully he can go.  I could easily see Griffin putting on a show in Big D on Thanksgiving.