Gameday Preview: Redskins vs. Cardinals
By: Les Barnhart
Category: Washington Redskins News
December 11th, 2005 at 4pm
Sun Devil Stadium
FOX Sports (Curt Menefee and JC Pearson)
The Redskins playoff hopes got just a bit brighter last week with their win on the road over the St. Louis Rams. The victory over the Rams, which snapped a three game losing streak for the Redskins, was a total team effort which saw both Clinton Portis and Rock Cartwright rush for over 100 yards. The Redskins defense also rose to the occasion and held the powerful Rams offense to only 191 total yards after allowing more than 300 in each of their last three games. With their win, they evened their record at 6-6 and more importantly closed to within one game of a possible wild card spot. They sit two games behind the NFC East leading Giants and face them in FedEx Field on Christmas Eve. Three of the Redskins’ remaining four games are against division opponents. The teams that the Redskins trail for the wild card (Tampa Bay 8-4 and Dallas, Minnesota and Atlanta 7-5) face several playoff bound teams in the next four weeks. If the Redskins can get hot and stay hot for the next four weeks, not only could a wild card spot be theirs but the division isn’t entirely out of the question either.
Before the Redskins and their fans start to get giddy about their chances to sip postseason champagne for the first time since 1999, they will need to make a difficult trip to the desert to play the Arizona Cardinals. Making the trip to Arizona is never an easy thing for any team and the Redskins appear to be catching the Cardinals in full stride. They have won two of their last three games and it seems that Kurt Warner and his dynamic duo of receivers, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, have found their rhythm. Warner has thrown for over 300 yards in four of their last five games. Fitzgerald is tied for the NFL lead with Carolina Panther Steve Smith with 82 catches. Anquan Boldin’s 68 grabs has him fifth best in the league. The Cardinals offensive attack (349.9 yards per game) is centered primarily on their passing game which is statistically the best in the league, averaging 280.5 yards per game. Their running game has struggled to find much success this season despite having two quality backs in Marcel Shipp and rookie J.J. Arrington. Their 69.4 yards per game average on the ground is last in the NFL. The Redskins defense (298.5 YPG, 9th) comes into this game having played perhaps their best game against the Rams, albeit against a rookie quarterback, but they also shut down one of the best running backs in Steven Jackson. This week the Redskins face an offense that they seem to match up well against. The Redskins secondary has been playing well as of late and has been able to force some turnovers to help themselves. The approach would seem to be that they will need to pressure Warner in order to keep their talented receivers (Fitzgerald and Boldin) in check. If they allow Warner time to throw, he has shown that he still has enough to make defenses play for it. The Redskins are allowing 188.5 passing yards per game (10th) and will be facing an offense that will challenge them to again step up their performance.
The Redskins offense, which is averaging 338.8 yards per game (12th) will be facing a Cardinal defense that allows slightly less than that at 319.8 yards per game (20th). The Cardinals play the run and pass about the same, giving up 112.5 (19th) on the ground and 207.3 (18th) yards through the air. The Redskins, after carving up the Rams defense for 413 yards (257 of that on the ground) will look to keep pounding the ball with Clinton Portis and after last weeks’ 9 carry/118 yard performance, Rock Cartwright. Portis has raised his yards per game average to 90 yards and has reached the end zone seven times this season including twice against the Rams. They will also look to get back Ladell Betts this week after he had been sidelined with a knee injury. Betts’ return allows not only another option out of the backfield but also gives them back an explosive kick returner. The success of the Redskins running game will be critical this week with the status of Santana Moss being uncertain after he “tweaked” his hamstring in practice on Wednesday. While he is being listed as probable, you would have to believe that the team will not want to risk hurting their leading receiver. If Moss is unable to go, the passing game will be exposed for their lack of depth beyond tight end/H-back Chris Cooley. Taylor Jacobs may be called on to step into the number one spot but he has had limited success this season.
The Redskins face their first of four must win games when they kick it off against the Cardinals. The Cardinals play well at home and considering the home field advantage they have in the desert, it is easy to see why teams struggle in Arizona. This game will show a lot about the Redskins’ character and heart. They have a legitimate shot at the playoffs but they will need to help themselves by winning games that they should win. This week’s game against the Cardinals is just that. As the mantra in TheHogs.net chat room was mentioned…four in a row and they go (to the playoffs). First it’s the Cardinals and the Redskins had better not overlook them or the next three games will be for pride only and they have had six years full of those.
- Coach Joe Gibbs is 20-4 against the Cardinals.
- The Redskins lead the series with the Cardinals; 70-44-2 including the Redskins current 4 game winning streak.
- Nine of the Redskins’ twelve games this season have been determined by 7 points or less.
- Coach Gibbs needs 1 win to tie Steve Owen for 13th most wins in NFL history with 153.
- Mark Brunell needs 4 TD passes for his 3rd 20 TD season and the first by a Redskins QB since Brad Johnson (24) in 1999.
- Brunell’s 1.4% interception rate (5 INT in 370 attempts) is the best in the NFL.
- Clinton Portis needs 121 rushing yards for his fourth consecutive 1,200 yard season.
- Larry Fitzgerald leads the NFL with 21 catches of 20+ yards.
- Anquan Boldin needs 8 yards to reach 1,000 yards receiving. He will join Fitzgerald as the 2nd duo to reach 1,000 yards in a season (Rob Moore and Frank Sanders, 1997)
Here are this week's key player match-ups:
Anquan Boldin vs. Shawn Springs
By Bernie Marshall
Shawn Springs will really have to keep an eye on Anquan Boldin this week because Denny Green will line him up anywhere in hopes of gaining an edge. Boldin has lined up alone in the backfield (last week's 54yd TD), in the slot and, at of course at wideout and sometimes even in the same series. He runs a lot of option routes, which allows him to read the coverages.
Springs must play him tight to take away the short routes but be well aware of his speed and ability to go deep. Limited help will be available from the Safety with Larry Fitzgerald on the other side. Though Springs is known for his coverage skills, he will definitely be tested by Boldin and 2 time Pro-Bowler Kurt Warner
Advantage: Shawn Springs
Chike Okeafor v Jon Jansen
By Scott Hurrey
Okeafor will try to use his speed and agility to beat the much bigger Jansen. To keep Okeafor in check, Jansen will need to concentrate on his footwork to facilitate good lateral movement, as Okeafor will likely incorporate spin, rip and swim moves to try to get to Mark Brunell. If Okeafor starts to have success, look for Coaches Gibbs and Bugel to bring help in the way of Robert Royal and Chris Cooley.
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