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Redskins-Panthers: 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 Redskins-Panthers game at Bank of America Stadium.

"Redskins-Panthers: 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

Clinton Portis vs. Panthers Run Defense

Last Sunday against Tampa Bay, the Redskins got their ground game back on track, with Portis picking up 98 yards on 25 carries.

Portis was close to 100 yards rushing, but he still hasn't reached the mark in the last nine games. And his average of 3.9 yards per carry is below his career average of 4.5 yards per carry.

Through four weeks, the Redskins are ranked 21st in the NFL with 100.0 rushing yards per game, far below what they averaged in 2008. A year ago, the Redskins had the 8th-best rushing attack with 130.9 yards per game.

Against Carolina, the Redskins go up against the NFL's worst rushing defense. The Panthers are ranked 32nd in the NFL after allowing 212 rushing yards to a Dallas Cowboys offense that was without Marion Barber on Sept. 28.

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Carolina lost run-stuffing, 345-pound defensive tackle Maake Kemoeatu to an Achilles injury and he was placed on injured reserve. Kemoeatu's replacement is second-year player Nick Hayden.

DEFENSE

Redskins Run Defense vs. DeAngelo Williams/Jonathan Stewart

The Redskins remember Williams and Stewart from 2008 preseason.

Williams had 101 yards and a touchdown on nine carries and Stewart had 100 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries in Carolina's 47-3 preseason won over the Redskins at Bank of America Stadium. It was part of a 228-yard effort by the Panthers.

The two-pronged rushing attack carried over into the 2008 regular season. Williams compiled 1,515 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns while Stewart had 836 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns as a rookie.

Surprisingly, run defense has been a problem for Albert Haynesworth, London Fletcher and company this year. The Redskins are ranked 22nd in the NFL against the run, yielding an average of 128.0 yards per game.

Speedy, cut-back runners like New York's Ahmad Bradshaw, Detroit's Kevin Smith and Tampa Bay's Carnell Williams appear to have success against the Redskins. Williams fits that mold, too.

For the Redskins, staying in gaps, fending off blocks and smart safety play are among the keys to slowing Williams and Stewart.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Glenn Pakulak vs. Jason Baker

Hunter Smith has a groin injury and is not expected to play vs. Carolina. Smith, who has 13 punts for a 43.5-yard average this season, has not been able to practice since suffering the injury last Sunday.

The Redskins are expected to sign practice squad punter Glenn Pakulak to the 53-man roster. Pakulak was with the New Orleans Saints for eight games last year and had 24 punts for a 47.7-yard average.

Baker is a strong-legged kicker who has posted 11 punts for a 51.8-yard average in three games this season. His net punting average is 30.5, though, and the Panthers are ranked 32nd in the league in punt return average.

Baker has also had six punts blocked, including four since the start of the 2008 season. That has certainly caught the eye of Redskins special teams coordinator Danny Smith.

1-on-1

DeAngelo Hall vs. Steve Smith

Smith and Hall have had some heated matchups through the years, when Hall was in the NFC South as a member of the Atlanta Falcons from 2004-07.

In 2007, Hall shut down Smith, but he had one costly series. Hall was whistled for pass interference on Smith on a 37-yard pass and then was called for unnecessary roughness after he jammed Smith hard at the line of scrimmage.

Smith won both matchups in 2005, collecting 16 passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns in two games.

Hall has the speed to keep up with the 5-9, 190-pound Smith and the physicality to keep him from getting off on his routes. But Smith, a four-time Pro Bowler, relished making big plays and has a knack for making spectacular catches.

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