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Three and Out

Three and Out

The three biggest factors in Sunday’s game:

You can reach Rich Tandler by email at WarpathInsiders@comcast.net

Ball control—The Cowboys lead the NFL in average time of possession. If they have a considerable edge there on Sunday it will be very difficult for Washington to win. Defensively for the Redskins, preventing third down conversions will be critical. They allow them at a rate of 37%, about in the middle of the NFL pack. They’ll have to step up and improve this number, or at least put in an average performance. Against a Dallas team that is largely one-dimensional—Gregg Williams wasn’t at Redskins Park until 2 AM this week figuring out how to stop Julius Jones and Marion Barber. On offense, as was pointed out here earlier this week, Clinton Portis has to average the 4.4 yards a carry that Dallas has allowed this year.

Courage—Sometime in the third or early in the fourth quarter, sometime before it’s no-brainer go for it time, one of the teams will face a fourth and short on the far end of field goal range for its kicker. Gibbs or Parcells, perhaps both, will face a decision that could well determine the success of the season. It’s going to be a low-scoring game and chances to put up points will be few and far between. The coach with the courage to go for it will give his offense a second wind and perhaps a critical edge.

The Middle—Washington likely will have both of its starting defensive tackles in the lineup for the first time since October as Joe Salave’a and Cornelius Griffin are slated to start. If they can consistently get push against Dallas guard Marco Rivera and Larry Allen—no easy feat—they will open up the rest of the defense to blitz the pass and attack the run. On the other side, Casey Rabach has to control nose tackle La’Roi Glover, especially on passing downs. The shortest route to the quarterback is up the middle and if Glover is consistently winning his battle with Rabach, Mark Brunell will have defenders in his face before he can even set up to pass.

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Jay Gruden at Senior Bowl: Redskins 'totally anticipate' Kirk Cousins will return in 2017

Jay Gruden at Senior Bowl: Redskins 'totally anticipate' Kirk Cousins will return in 2017

MOBILE – Jay Gruden provided a glimmer of optimism for Redskins fans freaked out about Kirk Cousins' contract situation. 

"I totally anticipate him coming back to the Washington Redskins," Gruden said. 

The Redskins coach talked from the sidelines of the Senior Bowl where he and much of the team's staff were scouting college seniors. 

Gruden explained he had texted back and forth with Cousins a few times this offseason and looked forward to watching him play in the Pro Bowl. 

Since Gruden named Cousins starter in 2015, the quarterback had passed for more than 9,000 yards and twice broken Skins franchise passing records. 

Some indications of a long term deal for Cousins land in the $120 million range, but the Washington organization also has the flexibility to use the franchise tag this season at a cost of nearly $24 million. 

MORE REDSKINS: Who else might want to trade for Cousins?

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The Final Countdown: Redskins defense can't stop Matt Stafford for 5th worst play of 2016

The Final Countdown: Redskins defense can't stop Matt Stafford for 5th worst play of 2016

As should be expected when a team goes 8-7-1, there were plenty of good moments and a lot of frustrating times during the Redskins’ 2016 season. Over the next couple of weeks, Redskins Insiders Rich Tandler and JP Finlay will take detailed looks at the 10 best plays of 2016 and, to present a more complete picture of the season, the 10 worst.

No. 5 worst play of 2016

Redskins at Lions Week 7

0:22 left in Q4, Lions ball at the Redskins 18, 3rd and 10, Redskins leading 17-13

Matthew Stafford pass short left to Anquan Boldin for 18 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

More Redskins: Podcast--All eyes now on Cousins

Tandler: The Redskins had just taken the lead on a nifty 19-yard option run by Kirk Cousins with 1:05 left to play. All they had to do was keep the Lions out of the end zone but the defense was not up to the task. In fact, it was laughably easy for Stafford. The first three times he dropped back he completed passes for 23, 14, and 20 yards and just like that the Lions were in the red zone. It looked for a minute like the Redskins might hang on as two passes went incomplete. But on third down Stafford found Boldin open inside the five and the defense couldn’t get there quickly enough to keep him out of the end zone.

Related: Gruden's fate hinges on Manusky

Finlay: 65 seconds was all the 'Skins defense needed to preserve a win by holding the Lions without a touchdown. 65 seconds away from a five-game win streak, and knowing what we do now, a playoff berth. The Redskins defense couldn't stop Stafford, or Boldin, and lost in Detroit. A gut wrenching loss as the momentum on the Washington sideline seemed incredibly high just minutes before when Cousins ran in what looked like the game-winning score. 

10 best plays countdown

10 worst plays countdown

RELATED: 2017 NFL MOCK DRAFT 1.0

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN and @Rich_TandlerCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!