By: Steve Balestrieri
On Sunday the New England Patriots are traveling to the nation’s capital to take on the Washington Redskins, a city where the Patriots have never won.
Here are some of the things to watch for the Patriots to win. Earlier this week I posted on PatsFans a list of key matchups for the game which can be found here:
Win the battle on the edge: I wrote earlier that this game will be won or lost on the edge on both sides of the ball. Andre Carter and Mark Anderson will be counted upon to give the Patriots the pass rush necessary to force Rex Grossman into mistakes. Washington’s QBs have been sacked a lot this year and both Grossman and John Beck have thrown more interceptions than touchdowns.
Carter is going against a backup in Sean Locklear since their LT Trent Williams as well as their leading receiver TE Fred Davis have been suspended for violating the NFL’s drug policy.
On the other side of the ball, the Redskins will be suspect in the middle of the field with Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski operating in their familiar places. To find them, Tom Brady will need time and the Redskins’ edge rushers in Brian Orapko and Ryan Kerrigan are very good. Both Matt Light and Nate Solder will again have their hands full this week. If they give Brady time, he should find holes in the Washington secondary.
Play 60: Not the NFL’s school play 60 but play an entire game. One of the common refrains we’ve heard this week around Foxboro was the Patriots’ lack of playing a complete game. Tom Brady said so himself on Wednesday that “we still haven’t put together a 60 minute game yet.” So you can bet that comes from Bill Belichick himself.
The team needs to start quickly and put the hammer down and not let the Redskins hang around late into the game nor allow them back into things ala the fourth quarter collapse against the Colts last week. The Redskins have lost a lot of games this season and are out of the race for the playoffs. If the Patriots get off to an early and comfortable start, the Redskins will be prone to making the mistakes that got them there.
Re-establish the Running Game: The Redskins haven’t allowed a 300 yard passer all season, the closest anyone came was the Cowboys Tony Romo with 293 and that was an overtime game. For the Patriots to be successful, they need to run the ball effectively. That will slow the outside charge of Orakpo and Kerrigan and make them more vulnerable to play-action, something Brady excels in.
The Patriots running game sputtered against a Colts team that was week in that area last week. Offensive Coordinator Bill O’Brien will have to mix in the play calling with some runs featuring BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead and Stevan Ridley early to give the running game some confidence.
Tune in tomorrow night to Patriots 4th & 2 with host Russ Goldman and fellow PatsFans writers Damien Jarratt, Derrick Havens and myself as we break down the game from Sunday, also appearing is Special Guest Lyndsay Petruny from Patriots All-Access.