FOXBORO -- The reeling Redskins look like yet another easy mark for New England. Of course, that doesn't mean Tom Brady will make it through the game unscathed. Quite the contrary. For the second week in a row, Brady and the Patriots offensive line is going up against a monster pair of pass rushers -- last week Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis of Indianapolis -- this time, linebackers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan.
"I feel like every week we're talking about pass rushers, but we've played quite a few good pass rushers this year," Brady said before Wednesday practice. "I think Orakpo and Kerrigan are right up there in terms of their ability to set the edge in the running game, to collapse the pocket, to strip sack the quarterback. Even if they're not sacking the quarterback, they're forcing the ball out quickly.
"I think they're the key to the whole defense."
Defense is one of the few things Washington is doing well.
The Redskins have racked up 33 sacks this season for fifth-most in the NFL. Unfortunately for their victims, they're coming in from all angles; Washington is one of only three NFL teams with four different players having at least 4.5 sacks on the season. Kerrigan has 6.5, Orakpo 6.0, Adam Carriker has 5.0, and Stephen Bowen 4.5.
Keeping Brady upright will make for one hell of a day for Matt Light and the rest of the offensive line.
"Orakpo and Kerrigan play within that system really well," Light said. "I think both of them are very good at being relentless up the field. Mobile, mover type of guys; they've got great motors."
The respect inspired by these bookend partners is even more impressive considering how young they are. Orakpo has just two seasons under his belt. Pro Bowls? Two. Kerrigan, Washington's first-round pick in the 2011 NFL draft, has 61 tackles (seven for losses) and 26 quarterback pressures. His four forced fumbles is tied for third in the NFL.
The point of all the numbers is simple: they determine the degree of difficulty Brady will have with execution. When it comes to pass rushers, he said, a quarterback understands they're going to find him at some point. Brady won't have all day to figure out the best play possible. Routes will have to be coordinated with the protection and the protection will have to be excellent.
"Not sure if "fun" is the technical term for this match up," Light laughed. "Challenging... yeah, yeah sure. 11-years worth of being challenged. It's getting to be... "
Well, let's just say some of the thrill has gone.
Oh, but the Redskins could provide a few thrills with their versatility. Washington's pass rush has helped produce one of the league's top third-down defenses: 104 of opponents' 164 opportunities have been third-and-6 or longer, and only 25-percent of those (26 chances) have been converted.
No big deal, says Brady. The Patriots will just have to prepare for... everything.
"That's the challenging part from the quarterback standpoint is they do a lot of different things in their nickel groupings, so you have to be prepared for a variety of looks. They can pressure the quarterback, they can play a lot of double coverage, and everything in between. So you have to prepare for a three-man rush, you prepare for an eight-man rush at times.
"I think that's the thing that really keeps offenses off balance is that you're really not sure what you're going to get from down-to-down. They really seem to mix it up."
Another predicted win for the Patriots? Yup. It just might be another ugly one.