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Need to Know: Five things the Redskins can learn from the conference title games

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Need to Know: Five things the Redskins can learn from the conference title games

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, January 20, 50 days before NFL free agency starts.

Nickel coverage

Here are five things the Redskins can learn from yesterday’s conference championship games:

1. A quarterback needs weapons, the more the better—Tom Brady just didn’t have anyone to throw to. Peyton Manning has several good options. The Redskins can’t say, hey, we have this one guy or these two guys, we’re good. An NFL team needs to keep on collecting playmakers.

2. Use the QB boot near the goal line—Rarely did the Redskins use the mobility of Robert Griffin III to create opportunities near the goal line. The quarterback that did yesterday was, oddly enough, Manning. In the second quarter he faked a handoff going left and rolled right, creating a nice hole in the defense for Jacob Tamme. He caught Manning’s pass for the TD.

3. On offense, you have to do both—Last week the narrative was that all of this passing stuff is overrated since all four winners in the divisional round ran the ball more than they passed it. Yesterday the Broncos called 43 passes and 28 runs. The Seahawks also called more passing plays (29) than rushing plays (26), opposite of their pattern for most of the season. Different games call for different strategies and if you’re going to navigate your way through the playoffs and to the Super Bowl you have to be able to emphasize whatever works.

4. Don’t be afraid of “retread” coaches—Many Redskins fans seemed to have an irrational fear of getting another head coach who had been fired or walked away at some point. Three of the four coaches in the final four teams fit that description and two once-fired coaches, John Fox (Carolina) and Pete Carroll (Jets, Patriots), will face off in New Jersey. We hope that the Redskins are set for a while at the head coaching spot with Jay Gruden but when another search is underway keep this in mind.

5. A mobile QB doesn’t have to run—Colin Kaepernick was the 49ers offense. He passed for 153 yards and ran for 130, accounting for 92 percent of San Francisco’s total yards. Russell Wilson netted zero yards rushing but he kept pass plays alive with his legs over and over. It might be better for the Redskins to use Griffin more like the Seahawks used Wilson than modeling him after Kaepernick.

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Timeline

—It’s been 22 days since the Redskins played a game; it will be about 230 days until they play another one.

—Days until: NFL Combine 30; Offseason workouts start 77; NFL Draft 108

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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.