Sunday’s game against the Eagles is a must win for the Washington Redskins. Both teams are at the bottom of the NFC East with records of 3-6. The Skins must win to keep what little hopes they have of making the playoffs. The Eagles are spiraling out of control after a tough loss to the Dallas Cowboys last week. Head Coach Andy Reid is on the hot seat and the Redskins Head Coach Mike Shanahan may be there with him if his team suffers a fourth loss in a row.
The Eagles starting quarterback will be rookie Nick Foles, Mike Vick was knocked out of the game last week with an concussion. That would seem to be a good thing for Washington but recently they haven't fared too well against rookie quarterbacks. They are the only team in the NFL to lose to eight straight rookie quarterbacks dating back to at least 1950. All eight defeats have have been since the 2006 season. So while most teams are excited to play against inexperienced rookie quarterbacks, the Redskins have reason not to be too excited.
Either way, rookie or no rookie, the Redskins must find a way to win this game. And I have 10 keys to that will lead them to victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.
1.Play with intensity and a sense of urgency.
First and foremost the Skins must play like their life is on the line. Too many times this team has come out of the gate too flat and lacking emotion. They must play with the passion that the fans have. For all intents and purposes this is a playoff game for the Skins, so they must play like its one. Come out early and let Philly know that they're in for a long day. Set the tone early with big plays, and vicious hits. Get the crowd into the game early and make it uncomfortable for Philly and their rookie quarterback. Swarm to the ball on defense.
2.Take the handcuffs off of RG3.
We all know that Robert Griffin III is a dynamic athlete with world class speed. We all know that he’s great when running the football. But he’s also great at throwing the football. Shanahan must give him the chance to prove it. They don’t have to abandon the Pistol formation, the zone reads, or the speed and zone read option.
But they can throw in some no huddle to change the tempo and dictate to the defense, while catching them off guard. Throw downfield more, Griffin is great at throwing the deep ball. Work the seam routes a little more. Give him the a little more responsibility allowing him to audible or even call his own plays from the no huddle from time to time. RG3 can be a legit NFL pocket passing quarterback...so let him play like one.
3.Dominate the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, offensively and defensively.
On offense the Skin’s o-line must dominate at the point of attack. This will allow rookie running back sensation Alfred Morris to get going in the ground game. The Skins have the number two ranked rushing offense, averaging 165 yards on the ground per game. Philadelphia is ranked fifteenth in rushing defense, allowing 112 rushing yards per game. Once Washington establishes the run and is pounding the rock it opens up the playfake offense. Which allows the offensive to dictate to the defense because they are off guard, they don’t know what’s coming next. Also the deep balls work best off of playaction, so dominating the line of scrimmage is essential to the teams success on offense.
Defensively Washington must stop the run first and foremost. Don’t let the rookie quarterback depend on LeSean McCoy and his running game. McCoy is one of the best backs in the league so you definitely don’t want him to get going. Stopping the run will also force the Eagles offense to rely on the passing game, causing them to be more one dimensional. This is the situation the Washington defense wants the rookie QB Nick Foles to be in. From there the defense can tee off rush upfield and get pressure causing Foles to make some mistakes.
4. Get Pressure on Foles.
As i previously stated Foles is a rookie QB so you want to get pressure on him, preferably from up the middle. Pressure should cause Foles to make some mistakes. Pressure will also keep him from getting comfortable in the pocket. You want him to get “happy feet” and to start feeling pressure, even when it’s not there. The Eagles have given up 29 sacks and over 70 hits on the quarterback so far this season.
5. Confuse Foles with different looks from the defense.
Throw multiple looks at Foles, pre snap and post snap. He is very inexperienced so the different looks will confuse him and most likely confuse him into making some turnovers. Throw stuff at him that he hasn’t seen before, cause him to think about what he’s doing and cause him to be hesitant in the pocket.
6. Win the turnover battle.
The Redskins have been pretty good in the turnover section so far this year with a +7 ratio. They must continue that trend against Philly. Protect the ball on offense and get the ball back on defense. The defense needs to get the ball back and give RG3 and company some good field position, or the defense can score themselves...which they have done pretty well this year. The Eagles are turning the ball over 2.3 times per games, which leaves them ranked 31st in that category. Washington is ranked 8th averaging just 1 turnover per game.
7. Take advantage of all opportunities.
It’s always crucial to take advantage of your opportunities in every game, but even more so when you're playing a division rival in what will most likely be a close game. Doing so can very easily be the difference between winning and losing. When an opportunity presents itself take advantage of it. Whether it be a chance for a big play down the field, a loose ball fumbled onto the ground, or a chance to make an interception...get it done.
Don’t drop passes, don’t overthrow wide open receivers, don’t miss the sack when you have the QB all lined up. Take advantage of the momentum when you have it. Capitalize on the Eagle's mistakes. Make the big play when the opportunity presents itself.
8. Play mistake free football.
The Redskins are the most penalized team in the NFL. This cannot continue if they want to make a run for the playoffs. Cut down on the penalties, especially the penalties that happen at critical times of the game, those are back breakers. As I said earlier, don’t miss easy throws, don’t continue to drop the ball, like they have the past two games. Don’t miss tackles, and don’t miss sack opportunities. Play a sound disciplined football game in all three phases of the game...offense, special teams, and defense.
9. Win the 3rd down battle.
Third downs have been the Redskins kryptonite this season, on both offense and defense. The Redskins offense is converting just 28% of their third downs, thats bad enough to be ranked 31st in the league in that category. The Redskins defense is ranked 29th while allowing opposing offenses to convert on third down 43% of the time.
The Skins must get better in both areas and what better time to start than now? Getting positive yardage on first and second down, creating manageable third down situations, will go a long way in helping them improve in that area. They must stay out of third and seven or longer. Keep the chains moving at all cost.
Defensively they have to get stops and get off the field. Cause some three and outs, and demoralize Foles and the Eagles offense. Don’t allow them to gain any confidence throughout the game. Give them no hope at all.
10. Just have fun and play with confidence.
The Redskin players need to go out there and have fun playing this game, like we all used to do. Play with swagger, know that they are going to win this game and don’t play scared to make mistakes. Don’t be uptight, show some emotions and get back to playing for the love of the game. Play for the fans in the crowd and have the same passion, heart, and sense of pride that the Redskins fans have.
If the Redskins do these things they will come out of the game victorious and ready to make a run to the playoffs.
Where To Watch Online: Redskins vs. Eagles