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Redskins-Chargers: 4 Keys To the Game Presented by Papa John's

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Redskins.com breaks down some of the key matchups to keep an eye on during Sunday's game against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium.

"Redskins-Chargers: 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.


OFFENSE

Jason Campbell vs. Chargers Pass Rush

In losses to the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys the last two weeks, Campbell was hit hard early and often. He was sacked a combined eight times and the barrage of hits eventually impacted his accuracy.

Campbell continues to play behind a makeshift offensive line that is experiencing more change with right guard Mike Williams on injured reserve.

Pass protection has been a problem for the Redskins ever since Randy Thomas and Chris Samuels went down with season-ending injuries. Redskins passers have been sacked 45 times, fifth-most in the NFL. Campbell has been sacked 42 times, even though he regularly takes three-step drops.

The Chargers employ a 3-4 defensive alignment, similar to Dallas, so they certainly have looked at game film of the Redskins' 17-0 loss to the Cowboys last Sunday.

This season, the Chargers have posted 34 sacks, 12th most in the league. They are ranked 10th in pass defense, allowing an average of 204.9 yards per game.

Outside linebackers Shaun Phillips and Shawne Merriman, the Upper Marlboro, Md., native and former Maryland Terrapin, lead with seven and four sacks, respectively. Merriman may not play due to a foot injury.

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DEFENSE

Redskins Pass Defense vs. Philip Rivers

The Redskins' secondary has been a strong suit most of the season, led by DeAngelo Hall and his team-leading four interceptions.

The unit is ranked fifth in the league in pass defense, allowing an average of 200.1 yards per game.

The secondary is battling injuries heading into the season finale, though. Second-year pro Kareem Moore is expected to start at one safety spot. With LaRon Landry's status uncertain due to headaches, it's possible that Fred Smoot could move from cornerback to the other safety spot.

The Chargers enter Sunday's game with the league's fifth-ranked pass offense. They average 268.3 yards per game.

Rivers has had a Pro Bowl season, completing 299-of-465 passes for 3,337 yards, 27 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

If the playoff-bound Chargers remove their starters, then Volek takes over at quarterback. Volek is a 10-year veteran, but he has not played regularly since the 2004 season.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Redskins Kick Coverage vs. Darren Sproles

Led by special teams coordinator Danny Smith, the Redskins have excelled in punt and kickoff coverage all season.

They are ranked third in the NFL in kick coverage, yielding 19.6 yards per return, and seventh in punt coverage, allowing 3.6 yards per return.

H.B. Blades has emerged as the Redskins' top special teams player, leading with 29 tackles. Kareem Moore is next with 21 tackles.

In Sproles, the Chargers have a speedy, shifty return specialist who is among the most dynamic in the league. He is not among the league leaders this year, though.

Sproles' 24.0-yard kick return average is ranked 18th in the NFL (among players with more than 20 kickoff returns).

On punt returns, he is ranked 22nd in the league (among players with more than 20 kickoff returns) with a 7.4-yard average, including a 77-yard return for a touchdown.

1-on-1

Rocky McIntosh/H.B. Blades vs. Antonio Gates

McIntosh has been one of the Redskins' steadiest defenders this season. He is second on the defense in tackles with 109--behind London Fletcher--with 109.

He has improved in pass coverage over the years and has one interception and two forced fumbles this season.

With Brian Orakpo lining up more at defensive end in recent weeks, H.B. Blades has seen increased action at outside linebacker. He has more coverage quickness and can stay with tight ends downfield.

The Chargers move Gates, 6-4 and 260 pounds, around the line of scrimmage, so both McIntosh and Blades could be assigned to him at times.

Gates leads the Chargers with 78 catches for 1,145 yards--a 14.7 yards-per-catch average that is impressive for a tight end--and has seven touchdowns. He has logged 60 or more catches and seven or more touchdowns each of the last six years.

Of course, Gates may not play if the Chargers decide to rest their starters for the postseason. If Gates sits, then Brandon Manumaleuna, a ninth-year veteran, takes over at tight end.

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