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Redskins-Cowboys: 4 Keys To Victory

Posted Nov 20, 2012

Redskins.com's Brian Tinsman breaks down the key players and matchups to keep an eye on during Thursday's Redskins-Cowboys showdown at Cowboy Stadium.

Redskins.com's Brian Tinsman breaks down the key players and matchups to keep an eye on during Thursday's Redskins-Cowboys Thanksgiving showdown at Cowboys Stadium.

“Redskins-Cowboys: 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.


LET'S GET PHYSICAL, PHYSICAL

There is no good time of year to play two NFL division games in five days, and the Redskins have been cast as the underdog forced to travel on the road.  But given the timing of the Redskins' bye week less than two weeks ago, the Redskins may actually in a better position to bring the smash-mouth approach to Thursday's game.

In last week's game against Philadelphia, the Redskins were the model of efficiency on offense, gaining 361 yards on just 49 offensive snaps (7.1-yard per play average) in 60 minutes of football.  The blowout was such at the end, that the coachings staff was able to rest a number of starters on offense and defense without jeopardizing a strong performance.

Meanwhile in Dallas, the Cowboys needed 71 plays to gain 320 yards (4.1-yard per play average), and played an additional nine minutes in overtime.  Quarterback Tony Romo slung the ball 50 times, as the Cowboys struggled to run the football.

This is a prime opportunity for the Redskins to dictate the pace and physicality of the game.  Both teams have three extra days to rest up after the short week, so Week 13 should not be a concern. Win the battle in the trenches, impose the running game on Dallas, and grind out an old-fashioned victory on Thanksgiving.

SLINGIN' ROBERT GRIFFIN

Quarterback Robert Griffin III may have to shed his rookie label if he performs as efficiently as he did on Sunday.  Throwing just one incompletion all afternoon, Griffin III became the first quarterback in nearly 20 years to throw for at least 93 percent completion rating and four touchdowns in a game.

The last quarterback to do that? Hall of Fame 49ers quarterback Steve Young, who threw for 93.8 percent and four scores in a 42-3 victory over the Atlanta Falcons.  His offensive coordinator? Future Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan.

Griffin III's mobility is key to this statistic, and not just as a dual threat. By moving around the pocket and forcing the defense to spy his every move, Griffin III can take advantage of better opportunities that open up down the field. He also has the luxury of making something out of nothing, just as he did on the 28-yard rush against the Eagles. By being patient and taking what the defense gives him, Griffin III has the opportunity to put up historic numbers through the air.

ROASTING THE TURKEY

The Redskins defense played their best football all season last Sunday, not allowing a touchdown and forcing six turnovers.  That effort was keyed up front by an aggressive pass rush that blitzed more than they had all season to this point.

Here is why that worked: Brandon Meriweather's presence in the secondary gave the coaches the confidence to bring the heat.  Additionally, rookie quarterback Nick Foles was ripe for the picking, and the Redskins did a great job of keeping him off balance.

Unfortunately, Meriweather is done for the season after tearing his ACL in the third quarter. Second-year safety DeJon Gomes played well in his place, and the Redskins will need him to play at a high level down the stretch if they want continued success.

Romo is also a seasoned veteran and is not as susceptible to mistakes as a rookie quarterback. Romo has burned the Redskins with his deceptive mobility in the past, so the pass rush needs to contain and hit home. 

But look for the Redskins to bring pressure up front as they seek to replicate Sunday's success. Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith and running back DeMarco Murray have been ruled out of this week's contest, making that job a little bit easier for Ryan Kerrigan and company.

PLAY FOR PRIDE, PLAYOFFS

The Redskins lost a 'must-win' game against Carolina in Week 9, but backed up the playoff talk with a win on Sunday. If the team has any shot of winning the division, they control their destiny down the stretch and need just one Giants loss in a competitive NFC East.

If the Redskins win on Thursday, it will be the first victory over Dallas since Week 1 of the 2010 season, a game that most current Redskins players were not around for.  This is an opportunity for defensive end Stephen Bowen to beat his former team and for Griffin III to make his triumphant return to Texas.  It is also the team's first game in front of a nationally-televised offense since losing to the Cowboys in Week 3 last season, in Dallas.

With a win in Week 12 and a Giants' loss, the Redskins set up a battle for first place in the division at home next week.  The playoffs are still a very real possibility, but it starts with taking care of business against an arch rival on Thanksgiving Day.

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