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Need to Know: Redskins vs. Patriots a big opportunity for Cousins

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Need to Know: Redskins vs. Patriots a big opportunity for Cousins

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, November 4, four days before the Redskins visit the New England Patriots.

Five early thoughts on Redskins vs. Patriots

—After the Patriots lost left tackle Nate Solder for the season a couple of weeks ago, they flipped right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, a seven-year veteran, over to the left side. Not many coaches would make a move like that but according to Bill Belichick, Vollmer is doing fine. “He’s done a great job of making that transition over there the last couple weeks,” said Belichick. “We’ve really needed him to do that. Sebastian is one of the best teammates, a guy who always puts the team first as much as anybody we have on our team.” A mostly-effective Vollmer is probably the best option to protect Tom Brady’s blindside.

—The pass rush has been getting to Brady, with and without Solder. He has been sacked 18 times this year, 5.9 percent of his dropbacks (20th in the NFL). But if the Redskins get to him they had better sack him. Per Pro Football Focus, he’s been under pressure on 96 of his 311 dropbacks this year but when he has been able to get the pass off his passer rating is a 118.2. Yeah, that’s a lot better than most quarterbacks are when they have plenty of time to throw.

—The raw stats say that teams have had a reasonable amount of success running against the Patriots. They give up an average of 4.2 yards per carry, 21st in the NFL. The thing is, they don’t have very many rushing attempts against them, presumably because they are averaging 3 points per possession and 35 points per game on offense so the teams are trying to catch up. But if the Redskins can finish drives with touchdowns, the ground might be a promising route.

—This will be an interesting test for Kirk Cousins. He made a strong case for being the starting quarterback of the future, or at least at the start of 2016, with the comeback against the Bucs. But he could give back a lot of the capital he earned in that game if he is unable help keep the Redskins competitive. If he presses and goes on an interception binge, his stock will go down considerably. Should Cousins maintain his composure, minimize turnovers, and make proper decisions, he can add some value to his stock.

—The Redskins are 14-point underdogs. The last time they were double-digit dogs they went into Dallas on a Monday night last year and beat the Cowboys with Colt McCoy at quarterback. What’s that I smell? Is it an up—, oh, never mind. That Dallas team was a flawed group that was on a roll. These guys are better coached and better put together from the top guy on the roster down to the 53rd. A Redskins win is not impossible but it is highly unlikely.

Timeline

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

Days until: Redskins @ Patriots 4; Saints @ Redskins 11; Redskins @ Panthers 18

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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.