Key’s To The Game: How Washington Can Beat The Lions

Steve O Speak

Normally when a 4-3 team plays a 1-5 team, you would think that even being on the road the 4-3 team would be the favorite, well it should come as no shock then that the Redskins are the underdogs, since they have been anything but normal this year.

Washington may be 4-3 right now and in the thick of the playoff race, but it hasn’t been pretty. They have barely squeaked by in all their wins, and in most cases they have been outplayed in the game. Washington has come up with key plays at crucial times to find away to win, but they have hardly looked impressive. In fact for the season, the Redskins have given up more points then they have produced (-3 point margin). Washington is also notorious for playing down to their opponent, and allowing weaker teams stay in ball games.

The Lions on the other hand are a weaker opponent as their 1-5 record suggests, but they are by no means a pushover. They have been competitive in just about every game this season, and in fact they have a positive point differential at plus 6 for the season. Only the Lions and the Chargers are teams with a .500 record or below to have a positive point differential, so that is fairly impressive. Now a big part of the reason is their 44-6 win over the Rams, but remember this is a win over a Rams team that beat the Redskins by two touchdowns. The Lions are getting their young QB Matt Stafford back in the lineup today and are coming off a bye week, so they do have some things going for them.

Here are the Keys to the Game to Ensure a Redskins Victory:

Stop Ndamukong Suh: Detroit’s top draft pick this year has already created quite a name for himself by tallying 4.5 sacks already this season. He is an incredible force in the middle of the Detroit line. If Suh isn’t accounted for, then McNabb is going to face considerable pressure up the middle, and Torain won’t be able to run. The Redskins have had some issues in interior pass blocking since Kory Lichtensteiger has joined the starting lineup, and he will be tested today. I expect they will give him help with Casey Rabach shifting over, but even the two of them might not be able to contain Suh. I also imagine the Lions will try some stunts and internal blitzes to try to get Suh blocked one-on-one, so the Redskins backs better be prepared to help out. While double teaming Suh could leave one of the Lions’s other pass rushers free, it is a risk the Skins need to take. Detroit has some other solid defensive linemen, but no one near Suh’s caliber. Washington should hedge their bet, by activating Derrick Dockery this week (even if he doesn’t start). Overall he isn’t a good fit for the Skins blocking scheme, but he has the size and bulk to try to contain Suh.

Get The Tight End’s Involved Early and Often: The Lions have really improved with their corner back play this year (though it is far from perfect), but the Redskins can exploit their linebackers in coverage. Washington has two stellar tight ends, and they need to find away to get both involved to have a more consistent offense. Right now Fred Davis is just window dressing, and it is hurting the Skins offense. This should be a coming out party for Davis against these linebackers. If Washington gets the tight ends involved early, it may make the Lions use their safeties to cover them. This will keep them from blitzing McNabb or double teaming Moss. Either way it should help make McNabb’s life quite a bit easier.

Put Pressure on Matt Stafford: Stafford might have a ton of potential, but he hasn’t put it together just yet, so Washington should be very aggressive in attacking him today. Bring the heat, and hopefully he will make the bad decisions you usually see with young QB’s (and should also lead to a couple of sacks). The Lions don’t have a strong offensive line, so Washington should have an advantage, but they should also bring their share of blitzers to show a number of different looks. The Redskins need to get creative and not just blitz linebackers and safeties, but bring corners as well. If done right they could get a couple of key plays, that could give them the victory.

Play Albert Haynesworth More: Sure no defensive tackle can play every down, but they need to include Haynesworth at end on more of their base 3-4 packages, and not just on obvious passing downs. Haynesworth has generated more penetration than any other d-lineman all season, and he has been inactive for 3 games. While he needs to be saved for all passing downs, using him against the run will help slow down the rushing attack. And if they are double or triple teaming Haynesworth (as the Bears did at times) then one or two other defenders will be free to make the play.

Don’t Let Calvin Johnson Beat You: It might be easier said then done, but Calvin Johnson needs to be contained, even if that mean’s double coverage for the entire game. Johnson is one of the best receivers in the league and nearly impossible to stop one-on-one, so the Redskins shouldn’t even try. If they slow down Johnson, it will put a lot of pressure on Stafford and the rest of the receivers and tight ends. Although the Lions have  some decent options, Stafford has worked the longest with Johnson, so he might not be on the same page with the rest of his receiving options. If neutralizing Johnson doesn’t slow down the Lions passing attack, you can always change your game plan, but you have got to at least try to take him out of the game.

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