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Redskins-Rams: 4 Keys To The Game

A look back at top images in games between the Washington Redskins and St. Louis Rams.

**'s Andrew Walker breaks down the key players and matchups to keep an eye on during Sunday's Redskins-Rams 2014 Week 14 showdown at FedExField.

"Redskins-Rams: 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.



The Washington Redskins' defense couldn't have asked for a better start last Sunday against Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts' No. 1-rated offense, forcing turnovers on their first two drives and, in both instances, giving the Washington offense the ball with prime starting field position.

But the Redskins couldn't only muster three total points out of those two drives, and, before they knew it, the Colts had regained their form, took the lead and weren't looking back.

Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said this week that he didn't feel his offense was "breaking the huddle with any sense of urgency" during those two early drives. Later in the game, however, as Washington tried to play keep-up with Indianapolis, the team found a little rhythm because it was playing with that intensity Gruden was looking for from the start.

"I just want to see us with a more of an upbeat tempo and more 'Go get 'em' type attitude, hunger attitude, run around, fly around to the football," the first-year head coach said. "Defensively, same thing. A lot of times we are looking around trying to get everybody lined up instead of getting to our guys and set and ready to kick some tail."

Gruden said after Sunday's game that he was going to stick with Colt McCoy as his quarterback for Sunday's game against the St. Louis Rams at FedExField. Perhaps that continuity will help McCoy and the offense bring a little more intensity from the opening kickoff.

"You know, he's listening to the play, then he's got the play and he's waiting for guys to get back to the huddle," Gruden said. "So we've just got to work on our tempo and that's something that can be coached and maybe we will install a little bit of no huddle, just to pick it up and change the tempo a little will be key for our offense."

On paper, the Rams aren't one of those teams that really stand out as doing anything particularly good or bad. Their offense ranks anywhere from 17th (in points per game) to 26th (in pass yards per game) in the major statistical categories, while their defense ranks anywhere from 13th (in third down percentage) to 23rd (in yards allowed per play).

The Redskins, meanwhile, are in the top 10 in four categories: yards per play (seventh), passing yards per game (10th), time of possession (eighth) and rushing yards allowed per game (ninth).

But, as the saying goes, the games aren't played on paper, and the Rams have really stepped it up of late — especially on defense, leading all NFL teams with eight takeaways in Weeks 12 and 13. The Redskins aren't far behind, however, as their six takeaways in that same timespan are tied for second in the league.

But back to the Rams. In the past two weeks, their defense has been all over the field, earning two fumble recoveries and an interception in their Week 12 loss to the San Diego Chargers, and then earning three interceptions and two more fumble recoveries in their Week 13 throttling of the Oakland Raiders.

With this in mind, McCoy is going to have to do a much better job holding onto the football than he did last week against the Colts, when he fumbled four times. Luckily, just one of those fumbles was lost, but that odd-shaped football doesn't always bounce your way.

Those who thought St. Louis defensive end Robert Quinn this season might've lost a step from his 2013 Defensive Player of the Year campaign probably changed their minds when they watched him play last week against the Raiders.

In all, Quinn had three sacks on the day, forcing two fumbles, in the Rams' 52-0 victory at the Edward Jones Dome.

On the year, Quinn now has 34 tackles with nine sacks and four forced fumbles. Yes, getting back to his 2013 numbers of 19 sacks and seven forced fumbles is unrealistic for Quinn at this point of the season, but the North Carolina product is finding ways to make plays in other areas this year, already collecting a career-best five passes defensed through 12 games.

One of the matchups of the day on Sunday will be Quinn against Redskins left tackle Trent Williams. Williams last Sunday returned after missing almost two entire games with a sprained right MCL and ankle suffered early in Washington's Week 12 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and, for the most part, played well in his return.

With one more week to recover, Williams — a two-time Pro Bowler — should be in much better shape to go against a monster like Quinn, who has one career sack in two games against the Redskins (2012). Williams and his teammates along the line are going to hope to limit Quinn's appearances in the backfield on Sunday in order to give McCoy, running back Alfred Morris and the rest of the Washington offense time and space to operate efficiently.

Sitting at 3-9 for a second-straight season, the Redskins players and coaches acknowledge they haven't given their fans much to cheer about recently at FedExField.

Some at recent home games have even resorted to booing — and booing loudly — to literally voice their displeasure with the team's performance.

Yes, the Redskins definitely get it, but as outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan put it, the team needs its fans now more than ever.

"I understand their frustration. We're not playing well right now and haven't played well all season, really, with the exception of a couple games," he said. "So I understand their frustration, but at the same time, we need them more than ever now. We don't need anybody jumping ship because we're not jumping ship."

McCoy acknowledged after last week's game how important it will be for the team to take care of its home field Sunday against the Rams.

"I can be better and I think we all can be better," he said. "And we just have to continue to grind and continue to improve. The most important thing is to find a way to get a win. We're going back home this week, so I'll put my best foot forward and keep going."

Kerrigan said he's looking forward to seeing the Redskins clean some things up and play with some passion on Sunday so that his team can give the FedExField something to cheer about — and often.

"We still got four games left and this is our job and we have a lot of pride in here and we're going to try to get some wins," he said.


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A list of stats and notes from the Washington Commanders' 38-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, presented by BDO by the Numbers, as compiled by Washington Commanders Public Relations.