The Redskins host the New England Patriots on Sunday hoping to put a dent in the Patriots' chance at the number one seed in the AFC. Here's what they need to do to make that happen:
1. The Patriots have scored 30 or more points nine times this season. The Redskins haven't scored 30 points since Week 15 of last season. This isn’t a game for Washington to get involved in a shootout, because Tom Brady will win. The Patriots' weakness is in the secondary so it will be tempting to air it out, but the thing to do is hand the ball to Roy Helu 25 times, control the clock and keep Brady off the field.
2. That doesn’t mean Rex Grossman shouldn’t play a part in this game. The Patriots have the worst passing defense in the league and Vince Wilfork will make it difficult to automatically establish the run. Grossman needs to make timely throws – especially if the Redskins get down early – and keep the offense two-dimensional.
3. In 2007, the Patriots flat out intimidated Washington and you could see it from snap number one. This year, New England isn’t nearly as talented, but they still maintain that same aura of invincibility. If they score first, the Redskins’ response will be crucial towards determining the course of the game. Early signs of life will keep the confidence level high and if Washington can hang around into the second half they might have a chance.
4. It may sound defeatist, but you can’t shut down Tom Brady – you can only hope to contain him. To do that, Washington should play to their strength and rush the passer in a variety of ways. They have 33 sacks this year that have come from every level of the defense, so it shouldn’t be hard to mix it up. They question is, can they do enough to overmatch a Patriots offensive line that has given up just 21 sacks this season?
5. There hasn’t been one player in the NFL more essential to red zone passing than Rob Gronkowski this season. The tight end has 13 touchdown receptions and has quickly become Brady’s primary target inside the 20. 80 percent of his 65 catches have been for first downs as well, so Gronkowski is the bread and butter of the Patriots offense.
The Redskins will have to decide whether to match a safety or linebacker on him. However, a defensive back is likely too small and a linebacker too slow. That’s why he’s been the nightmare matchup for opposing defenses all year. Double-teaming is also a huge risk because Brady isn’t the type of quarterback to lock on one receiver.