Unconventional Wisdom: The Redskins Must Stop the Running Game To Beat The Saints
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On Sunday, the Washington Redskins will enter the most hostile environment that Week 1 has to offer: the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. The dome will be flooded with thousands of hooligan fans, all who feel as if they were personally hogtied and robbed by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell during the offseason.
They’ve chanted for years in New Orleans, “Who dat? Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?” Little did they know it would ultimately be Goodell, and the commissioner beat them Saints more than anyone could have imagined, levying out the most severe punishment in NFL history. The commissioner didn’t discriminate, as he punished coaches, the general manager, and players all for their roles in “Bounty Gate.” Whether you like it or not, his rulings seem to be final.
Playing in the Superdome on opening day is a tough pill to swallow for any team in the National Football League. But this year, opening up at New Orleans will be a dog sized pill to swallow, as the home town seeks revenge.
With Week 1 only days away, Saints fans are ready for heads to spin and blood to be shed, and the players want nothing more than to deliver. And lucky for Commissioner Goodell, he won’t be anywhere near the field of play when that blood is to be shed; he’ll let the Redskins deal with the hard hitting and the rowdy crowd. But don’t worry, the Redskins have a plan.
The Redskins game plan against the Saints will be simple, or, as some would say, old school — run the football on offense and stop the run on defense. If the Redskins can do this, they will put themselves in a position to win the game.
Each season, teams make the mistake of believing that you have to shut down the Saints passing attack to defeat New Orleans. But factually that’s incorrect.
Drew Brees threw for 5,476 yards last season as he shattered Dan Marino’s single-season passing record. This led many to overlook the key component to the Saints success: Their rush attack.
Looking back at last season, most would be surprised to learn that the Saints were also highly-ranked in the running game, as they finished ranked 6th in the NFL. This means the Saints are versatile in their attack, and they actually play better when they run the football.
The key to beating the Saints is to turn them into a one-dimensional offense. In each of the Saints four losses last year, the team did not rush for over 100-yards. In fact, they weren’t close to having a 100-yard game in these contests.
In the playoffs last season, the 49ers couldn’t stop Drew Brees at all, but they held the Saints to only 34-rushing yards and they won the game. To beat the Saints, the Redskins must contain running backs Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles. If they can do that, they will have a chance to win.
This merely gives the Redskins a chance, because in that Saints playoff loss to the 49ers, San Francisco scored 36 points. You also have to score touchdowns to beat the Saints.
Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III will have to go toe-to-toe with Drew Brees and be the same dynamic type of player that he was in college. RG3 will not have time to “adjust to the speed of the game.” He must come out and be the best player on the Redskins roster if Washington is to win.
Griffin III is known for wearing cool T-shirts with phrases such as, “Pressure makes diamonds,” and this situation will quickly help him to put his money where his mouth is. Some quarterbacks freeze up and take sacks when the game is on the line. Other quarterbacks feel right at home when the pressure is at its greatest. Maybe Robert Griffin III will feel right at home in the Superdome, or maybe he won’t.
Only time will tell.
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Kevin Ross is a freelance writer covering all things Washington Redskins. His work can be found on Examiner.com.