Dec 18, 2005, 10:40 AM EST
The three biggest factors in Sunday’s game:
You can reach Rich Tandler by email at WarpathInsiders@comcast.net
Ball control—The Cowboys lead the NFL in average time of possession. If they have a considerable edge there on Sunday it will be very difficult for Washington to win. Defensively for the Redskins, preventing third down conversions will be critical. They allow them at a rate of 37%, about in the middle of the NFL pack. They’ll have to step up and improve this number, or at least put in an average performance. Against a Dallas team that is largely one-dimensional—Gregg Williams wasn’t at Redskins Park until 2 AM this week figuring out how to stop Julius Jones and Marion Barber. On offense, as was pointed out here earlier this week, Clinton Portis has to average the 4.4 yards a carry that Dallas has allowed this year.
Courage—Sometime in the third or early in the fourth quarter, sometime before it’s no-brainer go for it time, one of the teams will face a fourth and short on the far end of field goal range for its kicker. Gibbs or Parcells, perhaps both, will face a decision that could well determine the success of the season. It’s going to be a low-scoring game and chances to put up points will be few and far between. The coach with the courage to go for it will give his offense a second wind and perhaps a critical edge.
The Middle—Washington likely will have both of its starting defensive tackles in the lineup for the first time since October as Joe Salave’a and Cornelius Griffin are slated to start. If they can consistently get push against Dallas guard Marco Rivera and Larry Allen—no easy feat—they will open up the rest of the defense to blitz the pass and attack the run. On the other side, Casey Rabach has to control nose tackle La’Roi Glover, especially on passing downs. The shortest route to the quarterback is up the middle and if Glover is consistently winning his battle with Rabach, Mark Brunell will have defenders in his face before he can even set up to pass.