Redskins.com's Brian Tinsman breaks down the key players and matchups to keep an eye on during Sunday's Redskins-Panthers showdown at FedExField.
“Redskins-Panthers: 4 Keys To the Game” is presented by Papa John’s.
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WINNING THE TRACK MEET
The Redskins' offense opened the season with completions in three consecutive games of 68 yards or longer. In the five games since, the Redskins have a long of 37 yards, completed against the Steelers last week.
In the interim, the Redskins have lost top receiver
The Panthers' defense is 15th in the NFL in passing yards allowed, giving up 19 plays of 20 yards or more. Using role players like
RUN THE BALL (AND THE CLOCK)
As the Redskins defense battles injuries in the front-seven and secondary, it is imperative for the offense to take the burden of ball control and allow them to rest. In Week 1 against the New Orleans Saints, the Redskins had a league-leading 39 minutes of possession, as the Saints offense became one-dimensional.
In the seven weeks since, the Redskins have averaged only 29 minutes per game, sinking to 16th in the NFL at just over 30 minutes per game. With no imminent returns to the starting lineup on defense, the Redskins should emphasize a methodical approach to keep them fresh until the fourth quarter.
With a talented quarterback and improved receiving corps, it is tempting for the Redskins to stray from the run. However, with the top rookie running back and the second-leading rushing attack in the NFL, the Redskins are all-around best suited to run the ball and milk the clock.
LIMIT THE OPTION
The story has been how
The Panther's quarterback enjoyed his best statistical game of his career against the Redskins last year, completing 78.3 percent of his passes for 256 yards and a touchdown, earning a 127.5 passer rating. He also ran 10 times for 59 yards and another touchdown.
The Redskins have struggled to put consistent pressure on the quarterback this season, but that had little effect on Newton last year. Despite having the best statistical performance of his young career, Newton was also sacked four times, primarily by Redskins linemen.
Newton has struggled in 2012, on the wrong side of a 5:8 touchdown-interception ratio. The key is to contain Newton on the option, cover Steve Smith and force Newton to make mistakes. The Panthers have lost five-straight games, but with only one lopsided loss.
NO NAME DEFENSE
Under defensive-minded head coach Ron Rivera, the Panthers have gotten young on defense in a hurry. With linebacker Jon Beason done for the season, the most notable name is Luke Kuechly, who leads the team in tackles with 62.
The Panthers boast a 4-3 defensive front, against which the Redskins have played seven-of-eight games. The Redskins' outside running game struggled against the Steelers' 3-4 front last week, but the Redskins should look to find holes this week.