A look back at some of the top images in games between the Washington Redskins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Redskins.com's Andrew Walker breaks down the key players and matchups to keep an eye on during Sunday's Redskins-Buccaneers 2014 Week 11 showdown at FedExField.
"Redskins-Buccaneers: 4 Keys To The Game" is presented by Papa John's. Every Monday, fans can order a large cheese pizza for only $9.99, plus for each touchdown that the Redskins score, fans get one free topping. And with a Redskins victory, fans get double the toppings.
KEEP ALFRED GOING[
Robert Griffin III's return Week 9 against the Minnesota Vikings brought back the threat of the quarterback keeper for the Washington Redskins' offense.
Perhaps not coincidentally, this led to running back Alfred Morris turning in his best performance of the season. He posted a season-high 92 rushing yards on 19 carries and matched his season best with two rushing touchdowns.
The formula for Morris' success against the Vikings was pretty simple: Griffin III's mere presence meant the Minnesota defense was weary of the quarterback using his legs against them, at times turning their focus on running downs away from Morris. Then, the Redskins were able to find success with the deep ball – particularly to wide receiver DeSean Jackson – which oftentimes brought fewer purple jerseys inside the box.
These two factors – matched with Morris' ferocious, never-give-in running style – helped the third-year back out of Florida Atlantic turn in a vintage Alfred performance, and there's no reason to believe he can't keep this trend going Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who rank 18th in the league in rushing defense.
Morris is also continuing to establish himself as one of the best running backs in team history. Morris' 19 rushing attempts Week 9 against the Vikings gave him 763 career carries, exceeding the 750 minimum attempts needed to qualify for the team's record for career rushing average.
Morris' 4.58-yard career rushing average is more than a third of a yard higher than the 4.19-yard career average posted previous record holder, Stephen Davis. He now ranks in the Top 10 in team history in rushing (No. 1 – 4.58), rushing touchdowns (No. 7 – 26) and rushing yards (No. 8 – 3,493) and is 12 attempts shy of entering the Top 10 in carries (763).
McCOY THE MONSTER
Is Gerald McCoy the next Warren Sapp? It's certainly hard not to draw comparisons to the Buccaneers Hall of Fame defensive lineman.
For the past two-and-a-half seasons, McCoy has simply been a beast along the Tampa Bay defensive front. Lining up as a defensive tackle in the Buccaneers' 4-3 defensive scheme, McCoy has been one of the more productive linemen in the league since 2012, collecting a combined 19.5 sacks, 76 tackles, eight passes defensed and two forced fumbles.
The two-time Pro Bowler and 2013 First-Team All-Pro hasn't slowed down a bit this season, with five sacks and two passes defensed.
One major key to Sunday's game will be how head coach Jay Gruden and offensive coordinator Sean McVay choose to try to attack McCoy, who will primarily be lined up against guard Chris Chester, but will be a handful for any lineman, tight end or running back tasked with blocking the 6-foot-4, 300-pound Oklahoma product.
If Washington can limit McCoy's presence in their backfield, then they could have a successful day on offense at FedExField on Sunday.
SLOW DOWN EVANS
The Buccaneers are getting an immediate return on their seventh-overall pick in May's NFL Draft.
Rookie wide receiver Mike Evans is leading the team with 585 receiving yards on 39 receptions (13.0 average) and has a team-best five touchdowns on the year.
Evans – a huge target at 6-foot-5 – has come on especially hot of late, turning in back-to-back games of seven receptions and at least 120 receiving yards, and is averaging one touchdown reception over his last five games.
Evans and Vincent Jackson give Tampa Bay a formidable duo at the wide receiver position, and Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said his two young cornerbacks – David Amerson and Bashaud Breeland – are up to the challenge on Sunday.
"You've got to mix up your coverages," Gruden said. "You're not going to expect to play bump and run, man-to-man all day, you're going to have to mix in some Cover 2, mix in some Cover 3 and some blitz pressures and all that good stuff, but we have to really be sound with our technique at corner because both those guys can hurt you real bad and both quarterbacks have shown the ability to get them the ball on the outside and make big plays."
GET ON A ROLL
The Redskins find themselves at 3-6 for a fourth straight season. From here, they can go in one of two general directions: get hot, like the 2012 team that won seven straight and claimed the NFC East title, or continue to be inconsistent, like the 2013 squad that wouldn't win another game the rest of the year.
Several Redskins remain from that 2012 team that pulled off the improbable and defeated the Dallas Cowboys in their final regular-season game to win its first division title since 1999. The chatter in the Washington locker room lately has been along the lines of 'Why can't we do the same thing this year?'
"Your goal is to win every game – obviously – that you play," Gruden said. "I feel like we've got the ability to do that. We've just got to go out and do it and perform at a level a lot higher than we've been performing in – at a consistent level that we have not really done from week to week to week, play to play to play, quarter to quarter. [It's] not going to be easy by any stretch."
Griffin III, meanwhile, knows how cliché the "take it one game at a time" approach is, but said focusing on getting a win Sunday against the Buccaneers – and nothing else beyond that – can be the team's only approach for now.
"Obviously we want to do what we did in 2012, but we can't look at the big picture right now," Griffin III said. "We've got to take care of everything that we can do every day to get better, and it starts with Tampa. They're not going to come in here and just lay down and let us win a game. We've got to go take it from them. So, that's what we're focused on."
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