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FOXBORO (CBS) – The New England Patriots take on the Redskins on Sunday, and although Washington has lost seven of their last eight, the Pats are looking at a battle in the trenches.
“This is a big ‘do your job week’ because of some of the things they do,” nose tackle Vince Wilfork said on Thursday. “They run the ball very, very well. That starts up front with the defensive line and the inside backers. We have to do a good job stopping the run; playing the run well to be successful. If not, we’ll lose this ballgame.”
Wilfork says do not look at the stats, which ranks Washington 31st in rushing with just 87.5 yards per game on the ground.
“People can say whatever they want to say about it, but trust me, this team right here can run the football,” he said. “They have some guys that can run it. I don’t care what backs they put in, I don’t care what linemen they shuffle around, they’re all physical and they all take pride in running the football.”
The Redskins have been playing musical chairs at running back, with head coach Mike Shanahan going back and forth from Roy Helu and Ryan Torain. Helu had 162 yards and a touchdown run in last Sunday’s loss to the Jets, while Torain did not see the field at all.
Helu has had back to back 20+ carry games, rushing for 100 yards and a score in each of them. It looks as though he will be Washington’s premier back on Sunday, but you just never know with Shanahan.
Stopping the Redskins rush attack will force Rex Grossman to throw the ball more. The Redskins QB will be without his Number-1 target in tight end Fred Davis, who was suspended last week for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. While Grossman has struggled this season, and even saw time on the bench, he is still brimming with confidence and not afraid to try for a big play.
“I think in his aggressiveness, there are probably some throws that he’d like to have back. I think that’s part of what makes him good is that he is aggressive,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said of Grossman. “Defensively just because it looks like you have fairly good coverage on a player doesn’t mean he won’t try to stick it in there. Sometimes he makes plays and sometimes it doesn’t quite get into that spot, but he’s definitely not afraid to be aggressive and throw it in there. I think defensively you have to respect that.”
Grossman, who has six picks in his last four starts, throwing more will mean good things for the secondary; even if it is the Patriots.
But to get him throwing, the Patriots need to stop the run first.
“It’s a big, big challenge for us. As a defensive player, you have to live for these games. It’s one of these games where there won’t be much trickery, you won’t do a lot of guessing. It’s just knowing what a team wants to do,” said Wilfork.
Tune in to the Patriots-Redskins game Sunday on WBZ-TV and 98.5 The Sports Hub at 4:15pm. Pregame coverage begins on WBZ-TV with Patriots Gameday at 11:30am and at 1pm on The Hub. Stay tuned after the game for all the reaction and analysis on 98.5, and over on MYTV38 with Patriots Fifth Quarter.