COMMENTARY | It's unlikely, not expected and most believe it won't happen. However, it isn't impossible for the Washington Redskins to upset the Denver Broncos this Sunday afternoon in Denver, Colorado. If they want to pull off the stunning victory and shock the NFL world, here are five keys that they'll have to take care of to make it happen.
Key Number 1: Tight Coverage
We learned a lot from the Indianapolis Colts' win this past Sunday night and I'll reference them a couple of times in this post. The first one being their tight coverage on the Broncos' receivers. The defensive backs came and played strong press coverage and got in their faces at the point of attack. They were aggressive on the snap of the ball and were able to knock receivers off course and disrupt the timing of the offense. Doing so will help with the second key.
Key Number 2: Pressuring Peyton Manning
Another thing that the Colts taught us was that pressuring Peyton Manning is possible and can be very beneficial. They sacked Manning four times and hit him a whopping 10 times. That kind of pressure forced him to scramble and make a few errant throws. That all starts with the coverage. If the coverage isn't tight enough, then Manning will just fire the football right past blitzing linebackers and into the arms of his receivers.
Key Number 3: Stopping Julius Thomas
Julius Thomas has been a pretty reliable option for Peyton Manning at tight end. At 6-5, 250-pounds, why wouldn't he be? Through seven games, Thomas has been targeted at least four times each game and has had a touchdown catch in all but one game. On the season, he has eight touchdown receptions with 422 yards receiving on 36 catches.
Due to his size, Thomas becomes a favorable matchup for the Broncos against the Redskins' linebackers. At 6-4, Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan are the two tallest linebackers with London Fletcher standing at 5-10 and Perry Riley standing at 6-0. Athletically, Orakpo and Kerrigan don't match up well with Thomas and Riley and Fletcher don't match up well size-wise. They'll need to figure out how to keep Thomas from becoming Manning's favorite target despite the obvious mismatch.
Key Number 4: Robert Griffin III
It's hard to not make him a key to the game at this point. He is such an impact player that the whole team relies on his play making ability in order to make anything happen. Against the Chicago Bears, while it was Roy Helu Jr. that scored three touchdowns, it was Griffin that made everything come together on offense and he'll have to do that again on Sunday.
The Redskins will need Robert Griffin III to build on last week's performance and continue to effectively run the football. He'll need to keep the ball on the read option, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan will need to call more quarterback runs and Griffin will have to make good throws as they have an advantage in the passing game. The Broncos' pass defense is worst in the league and by using RG3's ability to run, they could really open things up through the air. That could be the difference.
Key Number 5: Best Defense is a Good Offense
The best way to keep the Broncos' offense from scoring points is to simply not let them get on the field. Indianapolis was able to hold the football more on offense, having a time of possession three minutes longer than Denver's. Doing so allowed them to control the game and took precious seconds away from Manning's comeback attempt at the end of the game.
Washington needs to do the same in order to find success. They need to put together scoring drives, not just drives, of 8-12 plays and at least four minutes long. If the offense gets off to a slow start and goes three and out on the game's first few possessions, the Broncos could be winning 21-0 before the first quarter and then a comeback seems highly unlikely.
While it's a daunting task, it's not impossible. The Redskins can't afford a slow start by either the offense, defense or special teams like we've seen each game up until now. They'll need to be firing on all cylinders right from the get-go if they want to leave Denver with a victory on Sunday afternoon.
Brian Skinnell is a contributor for RantSports.com and Yahoo Sports. You can follow him on Twitter, @Brian_Skinnell.
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Peyton Manning
- Denver Broncos
- Washington Redskins
- Julius Thomas
- Indianapolis Colts