Redskins.com breaks down some of the key matchups to keep an eye on during Sunday's Redskins-Chiefs game at FedExField.
"Redskins-Chiefs: 4 Keys to the Game" is presented by Papa John's.
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Clinton Portis vs. Chiefs Run Defense
Portis has produced some of the best performances of his career against the Kansas City Chiefs--but most of those games were early in his career when he was with the Denver Broncos.
Overall, Portis has rushed for 630 yards on 102 carries, a lofty 6.1 yards-per-carry average, and 10 rushing touchdowns against the Chiefs. He also has 17 receptions for 255 yards and one touchdown.
This year, Portis has 91 carries for 338 yards, a 3.7 yards-per-carry average, and the Redskins are averaging 94.8 rushing yards per game, 25th in the league.
With the Redskins starting a revamped offensive line due to the neck injury to Chris Samuels, establishing success on the ground game becomes important.
Kansas City has the NFL's 32nd-ranked defense and they are 25th against the run.
This offseason, the Chiefs implemented a 3-4 sheme and the transition is taking longer than anticipated. The defensive front is led by outside linebackers Mike Vrabel and Tamba Hali.
When last the Redskins saw Vrabel, in a 2007 game against the New England Patriots, he recorded 13 tackles, three sacks and three forced fumbles.
Redskins Pass Rush vs. Matt Cassel
After years of struggling in the sack department, the Redskins' defense is showing signs that it is finally getting consistent pressure on quarterbacks.
The Redskins have 10 sacks, including six in the last two games. Andre Carter leads the way with 3.5 sacks and rookie Brian Orakpo has 2.5. The defense is ranked 11th in the league in sacks after finishing 28th last year.
Kansas City is struggling on the ground--Larry Johnson is averaging just 2.4 yards per carry--so the pressure could be on Cassel to move the ball through the air.
Cassel has been sacked 14 times this season, 28th worst in the league, as the Chiefs' offensive line has struggled in pass protection. He was sacked four times last Sunday vs. Dallas and five times the week before by the New York Giants.
If Cassel has time, he has a dangerous receiver in Dwayne Bowe, who leads the Chiefs with 15 catches for 181 yards and three touchdowns.
Redskins Kick Coverage vs. Jamaal Charles
The Redskins' kickoff coverage units have been among the league's best the last few years and they are a proud bunch.
So yielding a 55-yard kickoff return last week to Carolina--a play that started the Panthers' comeback--was a surprise and a disappointment.
The Redskins are still allowing just 18.9 yards per kickoff return, second-best in the NFL. The group, led by H.B. Blade's 13 tackles and Reed Doughty's nine tackles, excels at swarming ball-carriers.
Charles is the Chiefs' kick return threat. He is a second-year player out of the University of Texas and has blazing speed.
This season, Charles has returned 14 kickoffs for a 23.6-yard average, with a career-long of 53. The Chiefs are ranked 16th in the NFL in kick returns this season.
Stephon Heyer vs. Tamba Hali
Left tackle is regarded as Heyer's natural position and he played four games at the position last year when Chris Samuels was sidelined with injury.
Samuels is out again this Sunday and Heyer takes over on the Redskins' revamped offensive line.
Heyer has struggled at times playing left tackle. He yielded 3.5 sacks in four starts last year and was beaten for a safety in last Sunday's loss to Carolina.
At left tackle, Heyer faces off against the opposing team's best pass rusher. This Sunday against Kansas City, that would be Tamba Hali, a 2006 first-round draft pick out of Penn State.
Hali, 6-3 and 275 pounds, is regarded as a high-energy player. He has two sacks this year and has 20.5 career sacks in 52 games. He also has forced 13.5 fumbles in his career.
This offseason he transitioned from defensive end to linebacker in the Chiefs' 3-4 alignment.