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Redskins-Patriots: 4 Keys to the Game

Redskins.com breaks down key matchups to keep an eye on during Sunday's Redskins-Patriots game at Gillette Stadium:

OFFENSE

Jason Campbell vs. Patriots' Secondary

It's true: there are few weaknesses on the Patriots. The defense is ranked third overall in the NFL, ninth against the run and fourth against the pass.

The Patriots play a 3-4 defensive alignment, and sometimes that leads to opportunities in the deep passing game. With three down linemen and four linebackers a step back, the Patriots can hit gaps to stop the run and also minimize the short passing game.

So why not take some shots downfield?

If Jason Campbell has solid pass protection and can use his mobility when pressured, he can be accurate in the downfield passing. Santana Moss, Antwaan Randle El and Brandon Lloyd have the speed to get open downfield.

The Patriots have a solid secondary led by cornerback Asante Samuel and strong safety Rodney Harrison. Samuel has three interceptions this year and nickel cornerback Randall Gay has two.

If the Redskins can hit a few plays deep, perhaps even on trick plays, it will force the secondary to play back, opening up the underneath passing game for Chris Cooley.

DEFENSE

Redskins' Secondary vs. Moss/Stallworth/Welker

For the third time this season, the Redskins are faced with the NFL's top-ranked passing attack. They handled Detroit and Green Bay in previous weeks, but there's a greater challenge against New England.

Everyone has heard the numbers by now. Tom Brady is on a historic pace with 2,125 passing yards and 27 touchdown passes. Randy Moss has 44 catches and 10 touchdowns, but it's Wes Welker who leads the offense with 47 catches and five touchdowns.

Both Moss and Donte Stallworth average more than 16.5 yards per catch. Then there's tight end Ben Watson, who has caught just 18 passes but has five touchdowns.

The Redskins are the best pass defense New England has faced this year, though.

The Patriots have become a big-play offense, but the Redskins' secondary has allowed just one play of 30 yards or more. Sean Taylor's presence has kept offenses from attacking the Redskins downfield.

Shawn Springs, Carlos Rogers and Fred Smoot are tasked with coverage of the Patriots' wide receivers. As always, disrupting pass routes at the line of scrimmage is a key.

But they'll get significant help from safeties Taylor, LaRon Landry and Pierson Prioleau, each of whom will need to be in position to break up Brady's passes with punishing hits.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Frost/Suisham vs. Patriots' Kick Return Units

Derrick Frost and Shaun Suisham have been among the Redskins' pleasant surprises of the 2007 season, but in recent weeks both have struggled with consistency.

Suisham needs solid distance on kickoffs to allow the Redskins' coverage teams to pin the Patriots deep in their own territory. It won't be easy: the Patriots are ranked No. 1 in the NFL in kick return average.

Frost will also need to boom every kick on Sunday, forcing the Patriots' offense to drive long distances for scoring opportunities. The Redskins continue to have the NFL's top-ranked punt coverage units..

Frost has a 42.1-yard punt average, with a 37.6 net average. He has pinned 11 punts inside the 20-yard line, which is fourth best in the league.

The Patriots' kick returner is Ellis Hobbs, who is averaging 29.9 yards per return on 17 attempts. The punt return specialist is Wes Welker, who averages 10.1 yards-per-return on 17 attempts.

1-ON-1

Andre Carter vs. Matt Light

The Redskins will need to pressure Tom Brady to keep the New England offense off the field. When they're not blitzing, Andre Carter will need to help provide pressure from the front four.

Carter has five sacks in six games this season and has emerged as a top pass rusher. He also has a team-high 10 quarterback pressures, 30 tackles and two forced fumbles.

He has never faced Patriots left tackle Matt Light in a regular season game, though. Light emerged as a Pro Bowl player last year and he's part of an offensive line that has allowed just seven sacks this year.

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