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Need to Know: Redskins need to contain Bucs' Martin

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Need to Know: Redskins need to contain Bucs' Martin

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, October 21, four days before the Washington Redskins host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Five early thoughts on Redskins vs Bucs

—The Redskins are favored in this game by three and a half to four points, depending on where you look. Last year the Bucs came into Fed Ex Field on a five-game losing streak and were 7.5-point underdogs. They won 27-7, one of their two victories on the season. The game was the beginning of the end for Robert Griffin III, who threw two interceptions and drew the pubic scorn of Jay Gruden for his play.

—In 2012, many Redskins fans were upset when Bucs RB Doug Martin was chosen to the Pro Bowl as an alternate ahead of Alfred Morris. They were both rookies and while Morris rushed for 1,600 yards, Martin had 1,450 on the ground and another 450 receiving. After two injury-plagued seasons, Martin is rounding back into his rookie form. In five games (the Bucs are coming off of their bye) he has 405 yards rushing, seventh per game in the NFL, and another 94 receiving. The Redskins have had trouble with Devonta Freeman and Chris Ivory in the last few weeks and if they don’t turn things around defensively, Martin could go off and Washington will have a tough time winning if that happens.

—Without doing any advanced statistical analysis, I’d guess that Jameis Winston is probably the quarterback most statistically similar to Kirk Cousins in 2015. In five games as opposed to six for Cousins, Winston has one pick fewer than his counterpart on Sunday and has thrown one more touchdown pass. Cousins has a better completion percentage by about 10 percentage points but Winston averages a yard and a half more per attempt. Cousins has a 77.4 passer rating compared to 77.6 for Winston. It’s a pretty even matchup at QB.

—One thing Cousins has been able to do well this season is stay upright in the pocket, with help from the revamped (and, against the Jets, re-revamped) offensive line. He has dropped back 235 times and has been sacked just seven times, a sack percentage of 3.0. Something will have to give this week as the Bucs have sacked quarterbacks on 9.2 percent of the dropbacks, fourth in the NFL. Tackle Gerald McCoy leads the team with 4.5 sacks, followed by end Jacquies Smith, who has 4.

—If the Redskins are going to get their rushing game back in gear, this could be the week. The Bucs are giving up 120 yards per game on the ground and they have played only one team, the Panthers, better than 16th in the league in rushing. Of course, the Redskins fancy themselves to be one of the better rushing teams in the league but their dismal rushing performances in the last two games (85 yards combined) have dragged them down to 17th in the league with 107.2 yards per game.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Practice 11:35; Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins news conferences and player availability after practice, approx. 1:30

Days until: Bucs @ Redskins 4; Redskins @ Patriots 18; Saints @ Redskins 24

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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.