Entering the Washington Redskins' Week 15 bout with the Atlanta Falcons, with news breaking (via ESPN.com's John Keim) that franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III will be inactive for the remainder of the season, the onus—for once—isn't on a Redskins quarterback to win the game.
So, which crucial matchups does Washington have to win in order to defeat the Falcons?
Let's take a look at three such matchups below:
In Week 13 and 14, Ryan averaged 258.5 yards per game and threw a combined three touchdowns. And most notably, Ryan only threw one interception.
For White's part, he had 18 receptions and 217 yards in that time span.
Enter Hall. If Washington is to keep Ryan and White from being the latest quarterback-receiver combo to roast its defense, it'll be up to Hall to stop them.
While it may not be reflected in the atrocious defensive statistics the Redskins own, Hall has turned in a Pro Bowl-caliber season in 2013. This is a sentiment that ESPN.com's John Keim has also expressed:
He's having a very good season and will merit Pro Bowl consideration. Perfect? No. He's better now in man and even more so in press man. Elite? No. But he's made big plays against good quarterbacks and receivers, and you don't see him giving up long passes or having bad breakdowns.
With that said, if Hall can uphold Keim's lofty billing and neutralize White in one-on-one coverage, the Redskins will be able to shift their coverage towards Gonzalez and Douglas.
Seeing that Atlanta isn't adept at running the football or stocked with other receiving threats, such a move would significantly hamper the Falcons' offensive attack.
LT Trent Williams vs. DE Osi Umenyiora
Washington's poor offensive line play has already brought an end to one quarterback's
If Cousins is to avoid a similar fate, the onus will be on Williams to neutralize the one sack artist Atlanta has, Umenyiora.
The 6.5 sacks that Umenyiora has registered this season is a far cry from the numbers he posted in his heyday with the New York Giants.
Still, as it stands, his total sacks lead the Falcons. As a team, Atlanta has only tallied 27 sacks this season.
Then, there's Williams. After an excellent start to the season, Williams has struggled recently.
Mind you, that was with a mobile quarterback as the starter. Griffin III may have been lacking the explosion that he exhibited in 2012, but he is still substantially more mobile than Cousins.
Combine that with Umenyiora's track record against the Redskins in William's tenure, and Week 15 may not be the week that Williams will get back on track.
Umenyiora has registered four sacks in his last four contests against the Redskins.
If Washington's best offensive lineman can't protect Cousins' blindside, then it stands to reason that the new starting quarterback will succumb to the same treatment that was bestowed upon his predecessor.
Essentially meaning that you can take New York Giants safety Antrel Rolle's comments on Griffin III and insert Cousins' name in his place.
WR Pierre Garcon vs. CB Desmond Trufant
Williams' job may be to protect Cousins, but if Washington's receivers can't give him a target to throw to, it'll be all for nothing.
Seeing that potential targets like Jordan Reed and Leonard Hankerson are still hampered by injury, it's Garcon who'll have to step up.
Already setting career highs in receptions and yards in 2013, Garcon should be up for the challenge, especially since he'll be going against a rookie in Trufant.
With Atlanta defensive coordinator Mike Nolan benching veteran Asante Samuel in favor of rookie Robert Alford, Trufant will draw the unenviable task of covering Garcon.
Now the No. 1 corner in Atlanta, Trufant has made a habit of getting his hands on the football, but not catching it.
Trufant has only snagged one interception, but he's defended 14 passes this season, which is 11th in the league.
Going against Garcon, he'll certainly have his share of passes to defend. Despite the lack of chemistry between the two, Cousins targeted Garcon 12 times in his first NFL start in 2012 and connected with him six times for 65 yards.
With the offensive line still being a question mark, the Redskins would be best served by using bubble screens to get Garcon the ball early and often. In doing so, Washington would offset the Falcons' pass rush and also get its best playmaker the ball in space.
Still, as crucial as the latter two matchups are, the matchup between Hall and White is
the one that the Redskins must win.
Atlanta has shown that they can only win one way, via the passing game. If Hall loses his matchup with White, then Ryan, like seemingly every other opposing quarterback, will have a big game in yet another Washington loss.
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