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Thursday, December 1, 2011
Five-star: Mat McBriar holds the fort

By Todd Archer

Five-star question: Will Patrick Peterson, averaging 19.2 per punt return the past four games with three touchdowns, hit his average or return a punt for a touchdown Sunday against the Cowboys?

This is probably not the best time for Mat McBriar to be in a mini-slump with Patrick Peterson on the other end of his punts, but if you go by history the Cowboys should be able to keep the rookie returner under his 19.2-yard average.

Over the last few years McBriar has faced some of the NFL’s best returners, from Dante Hall to Devin Hester to DeSean Jackson to Ted Ginn and he has more than held his own.

Of course, he was healthy in those matchups. This case of drop foot has affected him some, although he said the pain has subsided for the most part recently.

McBriar will have to limit Peterson’s access to the full field. McBriar is adept at keeping his punts outside the numbers. Washington’s two returns a few weeks ago came on punts that were close to the middle of the field, which stretched the coverage team.

That came after McBriar had a 23-yard punt out of bounds. He was conscious of that happening again and his aim was off.

His aim can’t be off against Peterson. He has shown the willingness to catch a punt anywhere and return it. The 99-yard return against St. Louis is the classic no-no-no, yes-yes-yes play. His other returns for touchdowns are 89, 82 and 80 yards.

Look for McBriar to kick the ball near the sideline or out of bounds or use his flip-flop technique to force fair catches.