Redskins vs. Chiefs: Five story lines to follow Sunday

December 6, 2013

The Giants made up their minds to take away Alfred Morris. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

The Washington Redskins will attempt to end a four-game losing streak Sunday when they host the Kansas City Chiefs at 1 p.m. on CBS. The Redskins enter the game at 3-9, while the Chiefs, trying to end a three-game losing skid themselves, are 9-3.

Washington is 2-1 against AFC opponents this season, but the team has a history of struggling against the Chiefs, having won only one of eight meetings.

Here are five story lines to follow in this game.

1. Sources of motivation: The Redskins have nothing but pride to play for at this point; the Chiefs need a victory to remain in the playoff mix in the AFC. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of a fight Mike Shanahan’s team puts up. They say they will embrace the role of spoiler. But will they be able to match the Chiefs’ sense of urgency?

2. Griffin’s mental fortitude: Once again, Robert Griffin III’s week was filled with controversy, as he faced more questions about his relationship with Coach Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, and his level of confidence in the coaching staff. Griffin said all the right things this past week. Now he needs to again show an ability to block out continued distractions and execute at a high level. Last week he played arguably the best he has all season, completing a season-high 75 percent of his passes and rushing for 88 yards against the Giants. But Griffin failed to deliver the win. A quality performance and victory this week would help lessen some of the scrutiny on his team, and slightly cool his coach’s seat. Griffin and his teammates will face a stiff test from the Chiefs’ defense, which leads the NFL with 26 takeaways (14 interceptions and 12 fumbles).

3. Running game: This game will feature two of the league’s top running backs in Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles (third with 1,011 yards) and Washington’s Alfred Morris (fourth with 996). The Redskins boast the No. 1 rushing attack in the league with 150.4 yards per game while the Chiefs generate 124 (11th). Both teams like to run to set up their offenses and ease pressure on their quarterbacks. The defense that manages to take away the opposing rushing attack and force the opponent into a one-dimensional attack most likely will win this game as neither of these teams are built for a pass-heavy attack. But Charles can hurt you in more than just one way. He also is heavily involved in the passing game. Playing a similar role to Brian Westbrook for Andy Reid in Philadelphia, Charles leads Kansas City with 55 catches.

4. DeAngelo Hall vs. Dwayne Bowe: The Chiefs wideout is averaging a career-low 11.8 yards per catch and has yet to record a 100-yard game. But in his last game against DeAngelo Hall and the Redskins, Bowe recorded six catches for 109 yards while helping his team to a 14-6 victory. Hall this season has fared well against the top receivers in the league this year; we’ll see if he can deliver once again. Alex Smith this season has 16 touchdown passes and just six interceptions, but two have come in the past two weeks.

5. Special teams play: The Redskins’ special teams woes returned last week as a bad snap by Kyle Nelson led to a tipped punt that traveled just 18 yards, and then a holding penalty on Nelson moved the ball further upfield. The Giants capitalized with a scoring drive for a lead they never relinquished. The Redskins will face another talented kickoff return man in Quintin Demps, who ranks seventh in the NFL, averaging 27.9 yards an attempt. We’ll see how they do with this latest Challenge. Meantime, Washington gets top kick returner Niles Paul back in the mix after he missed last game because of illness.

Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag on Tuesdays.

What’s ahead:

● The Redskins practice Friday at 11:50 a.m.

More from The Post:

Haslett predicts Orakpo, Kerrigan will reach 10 sacks

K. Shanahan says relationship with Griffin is good

Fletcher on track for 253rd consecutive game

Chiefs, Reid come to town with 3-0 record vs. NFC East

Orakpo’s play is boosting his value at the right time

D.C. Sports Bog: Rob Ford on RGIII’s knee | On the team name | His picks | More

Follow: @MikeJonesWaPo | @MarkMaske | @Insider | Insider on Facebook

The Post Sports Live crew offers bold predictions for when the Kansas City Chiefs take on the Redskins on Sunday at FedEx Field. (Post Sports Live/The Washington Post)
Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.
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Mark Maske · December 6, 2013