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Posted at 10:32 AM ET, 12/09/2011

Redskins-Patriots: Key matchups to watch

The Washington Redskins on Sunday meet the New England Patriots for the ninth time in the history of the franchises. Washington owns a 6-2 record against New England, but the last time the teams faced off, the Patriots handed the Redskins a 52-7 thrashing in Foxborough.

Under normal circumstances, the Redskins would have a tough time keeping up with the Patriots. New England this season has scored 41 touchdowns. Washington, meanwhile, has mustered only 19 all year. And now the going gets tougher for the Redskins, who are without top playmaker Fred Davis and left tackle Trent Williams.

“I wouldn’t say it’s more pressure, but it’s definitely going to be tough to go out there and get a win,” cornerback DeAngelo Hall says. “But the guys in this locker room, we’re not going to quit. We’re going to go out there and fight to get a win.”

Here are some key matchups for this game:

WSH cornerbacks vs. NE wide receiver Wes Welker

Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett and Hall all call Welker the best route-runner in the NFL. That’s a big reason why Welker leads the league both in catches (93) and receiving yards (1,253) and has eight touchdowns despite being only 5-foot-9. He lines up in the slot much of the time, so while Hall may find himself matched up with Welker some, a lot of the responsibility of covering him likely will fall on Kevin Barnes. The Redskins occasionally have put fellow corner Josh Wilson on the opponent’s slot receiver, however, and put Barnes on the outside. It will take a collective effort to limit Welker.

WSH tackles Sean Locklear/Willie Smith vs. NE defensive end Andre Carter

The Redskins haven’t yet announced Trent Williams’ replacement, but it will be either eight-year veteran Sean Locklear, who started two games this season at that spot with Williams injured, or Smith — an undrafted rookie, who boasts good athleticism and size. Carter, who spent the last five seasons with the Redskins, has revived his career after signing with New England this offseason and boasts nine sacks. He had a four-sack game against the Jets this season. Carter has long arms, great strength and explosion off the edge. Locklear or Smith must try to fend him off to give Rex Grossman time to throw.

WSH safeties Oshiomogho Atogwe, Reed Doughty vs. NE tight end Rob Gronkowski

The Redskins could be without strong safety LaRon Landry for a second straight game (groin strain), so they’ll rely heavily on Atogwe, Doughty and rookie DeJon Gomes, to try to limit Gronkowski, who leads the NFL with 13 touchdown catches. The 6-foot-6, 256-pound tight end also ranks seventh in the league with 65 catches and ninth in the NFL with 928 receiving yards. Washington’s linebackers aren’t strong in coverage, so the safeties will have to help over the top. The Redskins don’t have anyone in their secondary that has even close to the type of size that Gronkowski boasts, so Shanahan said the defensive backs will have to use their athleticism and leaping ability to try to combat Brady’s favorite red zone target.

WSH running back Roy Helu vs. NE middle linebacker Brandon Spikes

The Redskins will need another well-rounded effort from their rookie running back, who averages 4.7 yards a carry (15th in the NFL) and leads all rookie running backs with 42 receptions (third overall among NFL rookies). Washington’s offense runs best when the Redskins can put together a balanced attack that features runs from Helu and play-action passes. The Redskins in the last two weeks have started games with strong execution and game-opening touchdown drives. They couldn’t sustain that effectiveness against the Jets, however. But if Spikes and his fellow defenders can take away the run and put Washington in an early hole, it could be a long day.

WSH wide receiver Santana Moss vs. NE cornerback Kyle Arrington

Santana Moss hasn’t had the impact that he has had in years past for the Redskins. Part of that has to do with the four-week injury absence, and part of it has to do with the fact that teams are able to concentrate on shutting him down because the Redskins have few threats outside of Moss. Moss (averaging a career-low 10.9 yards per catch) needs to have a big game for the Redskins to help boost their struggling offense, which now is missing Davis (59 catches, 796 yards, three touchdowns). Arrington leads the NFL with seven interceptions and will likely match up with Moss often. Jabar Gaffney (46 catches, 665 yards, three touchdowns) also needs to have an effective game for the Redskins as he faces his former team, the Patriots.

More Redskins news:

Five storylines to follow

Patriots defensive player to watch

Patriots offensive player to watch

By  |  10:32 AM ET, 12/09/2011

 
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