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Need to Know: Another special teams challenge on tap for the Redskins

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Need to Know: Another special teams challenge on tap for the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, September 29, five days before the Redskins host the Eagles.

Five early thoughts on Redskins vs. Eagles

QB battle less than thrilling—For one of the few times this year the Redskins could field the better quarterback in a game. Kirk Cousins isn’t exactly tearing up the league but Sam Bradford has the same 3-4 touchdown to interception count as Cousins and has a worse completion percentage (Cousins 69.2%, Bradford 62.4 percent) and a lower yards per pass attempt average (Cousins 6.7, Bradford 5.8). Bradford just doesn’t look comfortable in Chip Kelly’s system at this point.

Protecting the quarterback—The Redskins have done a very good job of protecting the quarterback so far. Their four sacks allowed is tied for ninth best in the NFL. But the Eagles have allowed Sam Bradford to get sacked only twice. This could be an X-factor is the game; one of the teams could get an decided advantage by breaking through and racking up three or four sacks.

Containing Sproles—The Redskins did a good job of bottling up Rams punt returner Tavon Austin a week after he had returned a punt for a touchdown against the Seahawks. Now the Redskins face Darren Sproles, who took one back all the way against the Jets on Sunday. Sproles is also a threat from scrimmage, although he has been pretty well bottled up so far this year.

Lack of Eagles big plays—Reuben Frank, who covers the Eagles for our sister site, CSN Philly, tweeted out the following stat on Monday morning:

The Redskins have four plays that covered a third of the field so far. The Eagles’ big plays likely will come at some point; they had 21 of them last year. But you have to wonder if Chip Kelly doesn’t sometimes regret giving big-play wide receiver DeSean Jackson his walking papers in 2014.

Will Murray break out?—In his years with Dallas, the Redskins contained DeMarco Murray pretty well, holding him under his career averages in both yards per carry (4.8 career, 4.6 vs. Redskins) and yards per game (82.5 career, 74.4 vs. Redskins). Murray has become the poster child for futility in Philadelphia with 11 yards on 21 carries after being a big splash signing in free agency. The Redskins will need to keep him bottled up. If he gets rolling, even just to the extent of having his average game against the Redskins, it could get the whole Eagles offense rolling.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Off day

Days until: Eagles @ Redskins 5; Redskins @ Falcons 12; Redskins @ Jets 19

In case you missed it

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Kirk Cousins breaks down the terribleness of FedEx Field grass

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Kirk Cousins breaks down the terribleness of FedEx Field grass

For years, the Redskins struggle with their home field as the fall turns to winter. It's been happening so long it's become an expected passing of the seasons, like the transition from Halloween jack-o-lanterns to Christmas lights dotting people's front yards. 

Well, on Thanksgiving night, the turf at FedEx Field again showed how bad it can be. On a second half interception returned for a New York Giants touchdown, replay showed that Kirk Cousins' foot got stuck on the dirt, and it played a role in his sailing a ball to the sideline. The bad turf was not the only reason for the interception, but it was definitely a reason. 

Beyond the pick, the field was just ugly. Twitter blew up making fun of the Redskins home grass, and the national broadcast showed just how unsightly the long brown patch between the hash marks looked. 

On Friday, the normally diplomatic Cousins opened up about the grass.

"It probably doesn't look like a professional NFL field should," the quarterback said on 106.7 the Fan (full audio here). "If you think the field is rough now on Thanksgiving, we've got two more home games in mid-to-late December. That's probably going to be a bigger challenge."

Asked about the field's impact on the interception on Thursday night, Cousins ignored it. But plenty of other players have suggested the field is a known problem in the second half, and something they just must deal with. 

"I don't know why it is that way or what causes it," Cousins said. "I've kind of learned to accept it and understand it's part of the deal. Playing here on the field has never been that great in the second half of the season for whatever the reason."

[h/t @BenStandig for the Cousins quotes]

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When Samaje Perine got going, so did the Redskins' offense

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Bob Youngentob for NBC Sports Washington

When Samaje Perine got going, so did the Redskins' offense

At halftime of the Redskins’ Thanksgiving night game against the Giants, Samaje Perine had three yards rushing and his team had three points. Washington had racked up all of 113 yards.

Coincidence? Not entirely. Although the Redskins are primarily a passing team they need to run the ball to pass effectively.

“We had to get the running game going,” said Jay Gruden after the game.

In the second half, Perine and the offense did get it going. Perine ran for 97 yards and Redskins put up 210 yards and 17 points. It’s safe to say that it wasn’t a coincidence.

The Redskins didn’t make any halftime adjustments to get the ground game in gear.

“We just had to stay the course,” said Perine. “We knew they were going to come out fired up, they just came off a big win. We just had to stay the course and then things started going our way.”

MORE REDSKINS: MUST-SEE PHOTOS OF THE WIN

Perine was more steady than spectacular. His longest run was 16 yards. He came out of the locker room and ran for six and 10 yards on his first two carries. Later in the third quarter the Redskins were backed up at their own 10. Perine ran four straight plays for 39 yards and the Redskins were near midfield.

Although they didn’t score on that drive they did change field position. That was part of the Redskins’ strategy playing with an injury-depleted offense.

“If you had to punt in a game like this and play field position, it’s not the end of the world because our defense was playing so good,” said Gruden.

Not only did the running game flip the field, it flipped the time of possession. In the first half, the Giants had the ball for 17:40 compared to 12:20 for the Redskins.

“We had to get on the field and control some of the clock,” said tackle Morgan Moses. “We had to give our defense a rest. Samaje put his foot in the ground and got extra yards when needed and we were able to move the chains.”

Moses wasn’t the only one enjoying seeing Perine pile up some yards.

“As a defensive player, you want to see that,” said safety D.J. Swearinger. “We say, keep running it. Keep running him. Let him keep getting those carries, put a dent in the defense. It was a good sight to see.”

RELATED: FIVE KEY MOMENTS IN RESKINS VS GIANTS

Swearinger got to watch a lot of Perine. The Redskins piled up 22:17 in possession in the second half, while Swearinger and his defensive mates had to defend for just 7:43.

Last night was the second time in four days that Perine has rushed for 100 yards or more; he had 117 in New Orleans on Sunday. No Redskin has rushed for 100 yards in consecutive games since Alfred Morris did it in November of 2013.

He will have a chance to extend that streak to three on Thursday against the Cowboys, who are ranked 17th in rushing defense. That would put him in some elite company in Redskins history, including Larry Brown (twice) and Stephen Davis.  A steak of three straight 100-yard games was last done by Morris in 2012.

It may be a little early to look forward, but the Redskins record is five straight 100-yard games, held by Clinton Portis (twice) and Ladell Betts.  

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.