Gameday Preview: Washington Redskins vs. Denver Broncos
By: Les Barnhart
Category: Washington Redskins News
October 8, 2005 at 415pm
The juggernaut Washington Redskins head west to the Rocky Mountains this weekend to face off with the Denver Broncos. In addition to the change in altitude, the Redskins will be faced with a pounding ground game and a wily quarterback in Jake “The Snake” Plummer. It will also serve as a homecoming game of sorts for Clinton Portis, who faces the team with whom he played his first two NFL seasons. The Redskins come into the game on the heels of an overtime win at home over Seattle while the Broncos won on the road against the Jaguars.
This game has all the makings of a classic heavyweight fight as both teams are anchored by solid defensive units that are able to shut down the run. Considering that both teams come into every game intent on running the ball, this should be classic throwback football in which the team that controls the point of attack will go a long way in determining who wins this game. The Redskins defense comes in ranked 5th overall in the NFL but it is their rushing defense that has been the most impressive in allowing an average of 83.3 YPG. Their record of not allowing a 100-yard rusher has been extended to eight straight games. The Redskins, hurt by injuries in their defensive backfield and inability to get pressure on the quarterback, would appear to be susceptible to the pass as they rank 16th in the league (allowing 207.0 YPG). The Broncos defensive unit is equally adept to defending the run as they are allowing an average of 79.0 YPG (4th best in the league) and held the Jaguars to a franchise low 72 yards. Consider that they have faced LaDainian Tomlinson and Priest Holmes/Larry Johnson this season and the 79.0 yard average becomes even more impressive. And just like their defensive counterparts, their Achilles heel may be their pass defense (212.3 YPG) and they may be without CB Champ Bailey (hamstring) and CB Darrent Williams is nursing a bad ankle.
With the outcome of this game perhaps being determined by who can pass the ball, the so-called critics would have you believe that the Broncos hold the decided advantage but that may not be the case. The Redskins passing (204 YPG) may be finding their stride behind the play of Mark Brunell and Santana Moss. While they haven’t set the scoreboard on fire, they appear to have found some chemistry. For this to continue they will need to get some production from the other wide outs or teams will slide coverage over to try and limit Moss’s production. If the Broncos are without Bailey, the Redskins could build on their passing game to open the running game for Portis. The Broncos have the weapons in their passing attack (182.5 YPG, 25th in league) to exploit the Redskins secondary with Rod Smith and Ashley Lelie, as well as the use of their tight ends. The problem with the passing attack has come from Jake Plummer’s inconsistency. Plummer has long been labeled as inconsistent and the Redskins will need to put defenders in his face to keep him from settling in. If Plummer is afforded the time, he can be as good as anybody in the league, especially at home where Plummer, in 16 games has a 94.8 passer rating and has completed 63% of his passes for 4,003 yards while tossing 27 TD’s against 13 interceptions.
The Redskins and the Broncos will try and run the ball despite facing the 4th and 5th ranked defenses (against the run). Both teams offer a one-two punch out of the backfield. The Redskins use Ladell Betts as an effective change of pace to Clinton Portis while the Broncos use Tatum Bell to compliment Mike Anderson. Heading into the preseason, many expected Bell and Anderson’s roles to be reversed but a nagging injury to Bell and a strong preseason from Anderson has provided the Broncos with a problem that every team would like; two quality backs to choose from. Both teams have found success on the ground despite facing strong defenses in the early part of the season. The Redskins are averaging 136.3 YPG while the Broncos are gaining 144.3 yards per game. Those represent the 6th and 3rd ranked rushing offenses respectively.
The battle at the line of scrimmage will again be a determining factor in the outcome of this game. The Redskins offensive line continues to gel and has been affording Brunell time to throw and have been able to open holes for the running game. On the defensive side of the ball, the Redskins defensive line will need to continue their strong rush defense but will also need to get pressure on Plummer without having to depend on blitz packages that leave the unit susceptible to the big play. The Broncos have done a good job of protecting their quarterback thus far and will again need a solid performance against the schemes that Gregg Williams’ will undoubtedly throw at them.
In a game as close as this one appears to be, several factors could determine the outcome. One that has to be considered when playing in Denver will be the weather and the adjustment to the change in altitude. Another key factor, as always, is turnovers. The glaring advantage is in the favor of the Broncos (+5) while the Redskins stand at -4. With the Redskins standing undefeated, those turnovers have not hurt the team as badly as they could. That is a testament to the strong play of the defense, even though they haven’t been able to force turnovers themselves. For the Redskins to remain undefeated, they have to find a way to reverse their current turnover trend.
· The last time that these two teams met, Kent Graham, in a backup role, tosses 2 4th quarter touchdowns on their way to wiping out a 10 point deficit to win 17-10 (11/15/01).
· The Redskins look for their first 4-0 start since the Gibbs’ led 1991 team that finished 14-2 and won the Super Bowl.
· 14 of Santana Moss’ 15 receptions have resulted in first downs. 10 of those have come on 3rd down.
· The Broncos lead the series against the Redskins, 5-4, and have won 2 of the last 3 meetings between the teams.
· Joe Gibbs is 2-2 against the Broncos while Mike Shanahan is 2-1 against the Redskins.
Here are our exclusive key player match-ups:
Lemar Marshall vs. Mike Anderson
At 230 pounds, Mike Anderson is a big back and better suits Coach Shanahan's style of running between the tackles. Anderson and the Broncos will continue to do what has been successful for them in 2005 and run straight ahead.
Lemar Marshall is slightly undersized at MIC and relies on his speed and ability to read plays. The Redskins' defensive line will need to work hard in the trenches to keep men off of Marshall and allow him to move laterally and make plays.
Look for Marshall to stuff Anderson inside thanks to his good tackling technique and a strong effort from the defensive front four. Lemar will need to post ten tackles or more to accomplish the task, as the Broncos will be coming at him all day long.
Santana Moss vs. Champ Bailey
Last week, Bailey's sore left hamstring forced him to sit out a game after playing 99 straight. This week Champ is still banged up but is expected to go. He normally cuts off half of the field and takes his opponents best WR one on one
Santana Moss may be small in size, but he's the big-play wide-out he was brought in to be. Moss will push the corners deep and has taken a liking to the double-move. He's very explosive and has a nose for the first down marker
Look for Santana to test Bailey's hamstring early. Although Bailey practiced on Thursday he did not go full speed. Champ may opt to “jam” the smaller man at the line of scrimmage but what happens after 5 yard may be game changing
Carlos Rogers vs. Ashley Lelie
Ashley Lelie has emerged as the top big-play receiver for the Broncos and while he hasn't done much this season, Denver continues to throw the ball his way, hoping for some deep receptions.
First-round pick CB Carlos Rogers made his first start of the season and as expected he made some mistakes. But he also forced a fumble and seemed to settle down as the game went on.
Rodgers was drafted because he can do it all... from making the big hit to locking down the opponent’s receiver. His long arms are easily able to breakup passes when the ball hangs in the air, something that tends to happen when thrown by Jake Plummer. Lelie and Plummer haven’t hooked up on a pass over 16 yards this season.
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