One number to know heading into Washington's Week 10 meeting with Bucs

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One number to know heading into WFT's meeting with the Bucs originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Before every one of Washington's matchups for the 2021 season, Pete Hailey will present one number to know for that particular battle.

Here's what's on his mind, and what should be on your mind, for when the squad welcomes the Bucs in Week 10.

53

When facing a quarterback as lethal as Tom Brady, a common line of thinking is that the opposing offense should run the ball as much as possible, which'll chew up as much clock as possible, which in turn will give the ball to said lethal quarterback as little as possible.

Washington, though, may want to consider doing the exact opposite this weekend against Brady and the Buccaneers.

This year, Tampa Bay has the league's second-best run defense, as opponents are averaging just 78 yards per game against them. And that's on top of their efforts in 2020, when they had the best run defense in the sport.

Clearly, the Bucs know how to bully those who try to beat them on the ground. And that's where this week's number comes into play.

In Tampa's six victories this year, their foes have posted roughly 93 rushing yards per outing. In their two losses, on the other hand, that output drops to 53. Pretty backwards, right?

No, it's not a huge sample size, or even a medium sample size. However, it does seem at least a tad notable that when the Rams took out the Bucs, they did so with just 35 rushing yards, and when the Saints defeated them, they totaled just 71.

For further context, those were two of the defending champs' three best performances when it came to limiting enemy ball carriers — and yet they also resulted in the only two blemishes on their record. 

Of course, Washington doesn't have Matt Stafford whom they can entrust to chuck the ball all over the field, or a Saints-like defense that they can lean on. The Burgundy and Gold should attempt to find some semblance of balance at FedEx Field, because having Taylor Heinicke drop back 50 times doesn't sound that appealing.

But with a still-hobbled Antonio Gibson and an offensive line that's going to be without its consistent center in Chase Roullier, coordinator Scott Turner also has to be realistic about how much is possible on run plays. At a certain point, there is no point in bashing into perhaps the NFL's most imposing front seven.

When Washington gave Tampa a scare in the Wild Card round last January, they did so behind 86 rushing yards — but 46 of those came from Heinicke. The running backs only contributed 36 to that number.

For them to be as competitive this time around, a similar formula might be necessary. It may not match up with conventional thinking, but beating a squad as stacked as this one may require an unconventional plan.