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Need to Know: Stranger things needed for the Redskins to win without running

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Need to Know: Stranger things needed for the Redskins to win without running

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, November 8, four days before the Washington Redskins play the Minnesota Vikings at FedEx Field.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Practice 1 p.m.; Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins news conferences, open locker room after practice, approx. 3 p.m.

Days until:

—Redskins @ Saints (11/9) 11
—Giants @ Redskins Thanksgiving (11/23) 15
—Redskins @ Cowboys Thursday night (11/30) 22

Winning without running an uphill battle for the Redskins

In their game against the Cowboys, the Redskins lost and gained only 51 yards rushing. That dropped the Redskins to 3-21 under Jay Gruden in games that they gained fewer than 90 yards rushing.

But they went off the script during their 17-14 win over the Seahawks. They ran for 51 yards, moving that record up to 4-21 when rushing for fewer than 90 yards. Perhaps they found a formula for being able to win without running the ball. But all four of the wins with a feeble rushing game had some unusual elements that are hard to duplicate.

Here is a look at those four games.

Redskins 31, Bucs 30, 10/26/15—This was the “You like that!” game, the one that put the Redskins and Kirk Cousins on the map that year. Washington had to come back from a 24-0 deficit to win, the largest in team history. The also got a considerable boost from 16 penalties flagged against the Bucs, costing them 142 yards.

Redskins 38, Eagles 24, 12/26/15—This was the closest to a “normal” game in the group. Cousins just had such a hot hand passing, 31 of 46 for 365 yards and four touchdowns, that they didn’t need much of a ground game to compliment it. The only odd stat was that Philly put the ball on the ground seven times (Redskins recovered two).

Redskins 16, Ravens 10, 10/9/16—This one had a couple of unusual plays that swung the balance of the game towards the Redskins. One was Jamison Crowder’s 85-yard punt return for a touchdown. This might be business as usual for many teams but no Redskin had returned a punt for a touchdown since 2008. Then in the third quarter, Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley picked off a Cousins pass and appeared to be headed to the end zone, or at least to a first and goal. But Ty Nsekhe forced a fumble that went out of bounds in the end zone, giving the Redskins the ball with their 13-10 lead intact. Without either one of those plays, the Redskins likely come out of Charm City with an “L”.

Redskins 17, Seahawks 14, 11/5/17—The Redskins fought hard and they should get lots of credit for the win. But they needed the first game-winning touchdown drive that started in the last two minutes of the game they’ve executed since at least 1999. They got some help from the Seahawks in the form of three missed field goals and 16 penalties for 138 yards. Also, they were outgained by 193 yards (437-244). Since 2012, teams getting outgained by 190 yards or more are just 18-136, a .117 winning percentage.

Looking at these games, the Redskins need a whole lot to go their way to win if they can’t get going on the ground. Gaining 100 yards on the ground is common and relatively easy to duplicate; a 24-point comeback, a trio of opponent field goal misses, a pile of laundry on the field working against the other team and the double-turnover trick are not.

If the Redskins are truly going to climb into playoff contention they will need to run the ball consistently. They will run out of rabbits to pull out of their helmets sooner rather than later.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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Need to Know: Final thoughts on Redskins vs. Giants

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Need to Know: Final thoughts on Redskins vs. Giants

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, November 23, seven days before the Washington Redskins play the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Redskins Kickoff 7:30 NBC Sports Washington; Redskins vs. Giants, NBC, 8:30  

Days until:

—Redskins @ Cowboys Thursday night (11/30) 7
—Redskins @ Chargers (12/10) 17
—Cardinals @ Redskins (12/17) 24

Final thoughts on Redskins vs Giants

Look out for Eli—There are many reasons why the Giants are 2-8 but Eli Manning is not one of them. He isn’t nearly the turnover machine he has been for much of his career. His interception percentage this year is 1.6; he hasn’t been under 2.3 percent interceptions this decade. Manning only has 14 touchdown passes but considering that Odell Beckham, who went out in the fourth game of the season, still leads Giants wide receivers in touchdown receptions, that’s not bad.

Running game stuck—What makes Manning’s performance even more impressive is the fact that he doesn’t get much support from a running game. The Giants are 26th in the league with 920 yards. They have gained some traction lately after installing Orleans Darkwa as the starting running back; he is averaging 4.8 yards per carry for the season and 71 yards per game over the last three games. The Redskins certainly don’t want to let him get going tonight.

Reverting to reality—The Giants ranked 32nd in total defense in 2015. They dropped millions on free agents such as Janoris Jenkins, David Harrison, and Olivier Vernon and jumped to 10th. Now, this year they are 31st and equally bad against the pass (29th) and the run (30th). Health hasn’t been a huge issue, although Vernon has missed a few games and Jenkins was suspended. Redskins fans know full well that spending sprees don’t necessarily make for permanent improvements and Giants fans are learning it this year.

Keys to winning

  • Run the ballThe Redskins are 4-2 this year when rushing for 90 yards or more.
  • Continue to protect the ball—The Redskins have turned the ball over just twice in their last three games.
  • Don’t give them hope—The Chiefs let the Giants hang around last week and New York stole a win. The Redskins need to get on top early and mash down on the gas pedal.

Prediction—It’s hard to see a scenario where the Redskins lose this one. Even in their injury-depleted state they are battling every game and the same can’t be said for their opponents today. The weather forecast is for cold temperatures but not much wind, ideal conditions for Cousins to throw for 300 yards. For once, the Redskins get up early and keep going.

Redskins 31, Giants 13

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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Everybody thinks the intentional grounding call against Kirk Cousins was wrong, except Troy Aikman

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Everybody thinks the intentional grounding call against Kirk Cousins was wrong, except Troy Aikman

The referees made a fairly obvious mistake last week in the Redskins loss to the Saints when they flagged Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins for intentional grounding late in the game. 

Let's be honest: the call was terrible.

Cousins never felt a pass rush on the play, and was very obviously throwing the ball away. Jay Gruden talked about the play on Monday, and could not figure out how a flag came out in that situation. 

We had two receivers in the area. Quarterbacks throws it away all the time that are uncatchable balls whether they are in the pocket or not. As long as there is a receiver in the area, you can throw it whether they are looking or not. Guys run bad routes – one guy runs a hitch and he’s supposed to run a go and the quarterback throws the go ball, it’s not grounding. So I don’t know why the confusion.

The NFL even reached out and apologized to Redskins team president Bruce Allen for the blown call, a hollow gesture that did not generate much excitement from Cousins (via 106.7 the Fan). 

Whatever they do to say, ‘we’re sorry, wrong call,’ it’s tough because there’s nobody bringing that up in February or March when we're making decisions about which direction to go with the organization. We appreciate the clarification but you know it really doesn’t do much.

If you're keeping score, the NFL, the Redskins head coach and the Redskins quarterback all know the call was wrong. 

You know who doesn't think the call was wrong? Fox analyst, and former Cowboys Hall of Fame QB, Troy Aikman.

Grounding? Free rusher? Decide for yourself below.