San Diego Chargers (6-4) at Washington Redskins (5-5)
November 27th, 2005 at 1pm
CBS Sports (Kevin Harlan and Randy Cross)
The Washington Redskins had a chance last week to stay within reach of the NFC East when they hosted the Oakland Raiders in a game that the Redskins needed to - and were expected to - win. The 16-13 loss that they suffered may have taken them out of the playoff race all together. While they still have a chance at their first postseason since 1999, they will have made an already difficult road that much tougher. They will need help in the form of losses from several teams while they themselves can ill-afford to lose another game. The Redskins stand two full games behind the Giants and Cowboys. The Redskins own the tiebreaker over the Cowboys, while the Giants have it over the Redskins. They have a chance to make up a game against both as they will face them in two of the final three weeks of the regular season, but they will need to keep themselves in position to make those games mean something other than just the Redskins serving as spoiler.
The Redskins defense will again be tested as the high powered Chargers offense (averaging 363.3 yards per game) comes calling to FedEx Field along with one-time Redskins head coach Marty Schottenheimer. The home field had been kind to the Redskins before last week's loss to the Raiders. The Redskins defense has been able to maintain a top ten ranking all season (currently 9th, allowing 299.4 YPG) despite being unable to generate a consistent pass rush or force turnovers. As a team, the Redskins have an unfathomable minus 13 turnover differential.
San Diego offers a multifaceted attack that can beat you on the ground or through the air. The ground attack is lead by "LT," LaDainian Tomlinson, but he is just as dangerous catching passes out of the backfield as well. His 31 catches are the third most on a team that boasts six receivers with double digit receptions and another that has nine. Drew Brees has proved to all that last season was no fluke as he has thrown 18 touchdowns against 8 interceptions and 2,438 yards this season. Brees has connected on 67% of his 302 pass attempts and is coming off the Bills game in which he completed 17 of his first 18 passes and ended 28 for 33 overall for the game. Even more impressive is that of the five incomplete passes, two were thrown away by Brees and another was dropped by his favorite target, tight end Antonio Gates. Gates left the Bills game in the third quarter with a sprained right foot. His status against the Redskins is uncertain but he has indicated that he may play. Without him in the passing game, the Chargers lose their leading receiver (56 receptions for 784 yards and 7 TD) despite his missing the first game due to a team issued suspension. The Chargers are confident that they can still win without Gates in the lineup should his injury keep him out of the game.
The Redskins will again be looking to find a way to get pressure on a quarterback that will shred their secondary if afforded the time. The Chargers offensive line has done an excellent job of protecting their quarterback as they have allowed only 14 sacks this season. Conversely, the Redskins defense has only recorded 15 sacks this season. The Redskins will undoubtedly be forced to blitz, which will open them up for the big play. They will also need to find a way to contain Tomlinson. That is something much easier said than done. If Gates is able to play, it will pose the same problem for the Redskins as other defenses have faced; trying to find a linebacker that can cover the talented tight end. For the Redskins to be successful and limit the Chargers offense, they will need their best performance all season.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Redskins will need to again find the consistency they have lacked in several games this season. The Redskins come into the game with the 13th ranked offense (337.6 YPG) and since opening the season 3-0, they have managed to win only 2 of the following 7 games. They have also lost 9 straight to AFC opponents. The biggest problem for the offense has been themselves, as they lack consistency. They have been looking for additional weapons in their passing game to compliment Santana Moss. Chris Cooley has slowly begun to fill that role and his 46 receptions place him second on the team behind Moss' 57 grabs. After Moss and Cooley, the consistent production falls off quickly with David Patten having been lost for the season due to injury. Clinton Portis continues to power the ground game, averaging 85.6 yards per game. Ladell Betts has battled injuries to serve as the change of pace back for Portis and that has been effective. Betts is averaging 4.1 yards per carry on 54 rushes this season and has 8 receptions for 74 yards and a touchdown. The Redskins will need to take care of the ball as well as protecting their quarterback. The once solid offensive line has become increasingly more porous as they have allowed 26 sacks this season. The Chargers defense comes into the game allowing 315.5 yards per game and has benefited from an offense putting points on the board to bail them out. They have allowed 20+ points in 5 of their last 7 games, winning 5 of them. Their defense is solid but not spectacular and they are helped by their offense's ability to score. They have an emerging defensive stud in former Maryland Terrapin Shawne Merriman, a player that many wanted the Redskins to go after. Merriman leads the team with 7 sacks this season.
This game has two teams seemingly headed in different directions. The Chargers come in as winners in 6 of their last 8 games after opening the season 0-2. The two losses came on the last plays of each game and against Pennsylvania teams. The Redskins, after opening the season at 3-0, have dropped 5 or their last 7 games. The last two losses (Tampa Bay and Oakland) were especially painful considering that the Redskins should have won both games. The Redskins may want to take the Eagles blueprint for success against the Chargers in their week seven game when they were able to shut down Tomlinson and the offense until late in the game. Considering the Redskins inability to rush the passer and their troubles against the run, the Redskins could see their playoff hopes placed on life support while Schottenheimer and the Chargers continue their push for the postseason.
Key Player Match-Ups:
LaDainian Tomlinson vs Lemar Marshall By Bernie Marshall
Lemar Marshall is having a solid year and is coming off a game in which he returned an interception for a score. This week he’ll have to try and stuff the Chargers' impressive running game.
The Chargers figure to use their best weapon, LaDainian Tomlinson led by fullback Lorenzo Neal. Neal will be the lead blocker into the hole, a hole that must be plugged by Lemar Marshall. This will allow other members of the linebacking corps to make tackles on Tomlinson.
Few people are successful at stopping L.T, or any running back running behind Neal for that matter.