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KEY MATCHUP

Redskins LB Brian Orakpo and DE Andre Carter vs. Cowboys Ts Flozell Adams and Doug Free

Orakpo, who plays right end in passing situations, was shut out during last week’s 45-12 loss to the New York Giants, just a week after tying a franchise record with four sacks. He leads all rookies with 11. He’ll aim to make up for failing to bring down Tony Romo on the play when the Cowboys quarterback threw the touchdown pass that beat the Redskins with just 2:41 left on Nov. 22 in Dallas.

The additions of first-round choice Orakpo and All-Pro defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth have greatly enhanced a pass rush that has soared from 24 sacks in 2008 to 38 so far in 2009. The biggest beneficiary has been Carter, who led the Redskins with just four sacks last year. Carter, who moves from right end to left end on passing downs, also has 11 sacks, 10 in the nine games before last week. He’ll play the final two games with a torn left biceps. If Orakpo and Carter — whose 22 sacks are the most by an NFL pairing — get one more sack, they’ll be Washington’s top duo of the past 23 seasons.

Adams, a five-time Pro Bowl pick, has looked every bit of his 34 years often this year. Romo has been sacked 31 times in 509 dropbacks — compared with just 20 sacks in 470 dropbacks last season.

Free, whose first start came in the Week 10 victory against Washington, is getting his first significant playing time in place of the injured Marc Colombo.

THREE KEYS

1. The first quarter

Last week’s first 15 minutes against the Giants were a disaster for the Redskins, who were outgained 134 yards to minus-3 yards, had the ball for just 86 seconds and trailed 14-0 just two plays into the second quarter. That can’t happen against Dallas, which is plus-30 in first-quarter scoring. Washington is minus-38.

2. Limit big plays

Last week against a Giants offense that ranks seventh in yards per play, Washington was beaten for catches of at least 25 yards by three receivers and for a 31-yard run. Dallas is full of playmakers — Miles Austin, Roy Williams, Felix Jones, Marion Barber, Patrick Crayton, Jason Witten and Tashard Choice among them.

3. Control the rush

DeMarcus Ware, who had a sack in six straight games against the Redskins until that streak ended Nov. 22 in Dallas, leads a strong pass rush. New York beat Washington’s line, which includes expected reserves Mike Williams and Levi Jones, for five sacks and 12 hurries last week.

THE EDGE

WHEN THE REDSKINS HAVE THE BALL

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About the Author
David Elfin

David Elfin

David Elfin has been following Washington-area sports teams since the late 1960s. David began his journalism career at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, the University of Pennsylvania (B.A., history) and Syracuse University (M.S., telecommunications). He wrote for the Bulletin (Philadelphia), the Post-Standard (Syracuse) and The Washington Post before coming to The Washington Times in 1986. He has covered colleges, the Orioles ...

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