The Green Bay Packers lost, 31-17, to the Washington Redskins in their first road contest of the season. With rain falling throughout the afternoon, the Packers were plagued by sloppy play, key drops and 11 penalties for 115 yards to fall to 1-1-1 on the year.
Washington jumped out to an early 14-0 lead in the first quarter and kept pouring on the yardage over the next few possessions. The Redskins answered the Packers’ lone first half touchdown with a five-play, 74-yard scoring drive to take an 18-point lead into the locker room, and they didn’t look back from there.
The Skins’ defense battered Aaron Rodgers throughout the game, but no. 12 eventually found his footing and finished with 265 yards and two touchdowns on 27-44 passing. That relatively pedestrian stat line (by his standards) doesn’t tell the whole story though. Rodgers completed plenty of excellent throws and runs that were nullified by his teammates. As expected, the NFC has already turned into a bloodbath, meaning the Packers can’t afford these non-competitive games. Rodgers is doing everything he can with a seriously injured knee; after Sunday’s performance, the rest of his team can no longer say the same.
Here are five more reactions after Sunday’s loss in the nation’s capital.
1. Packers’ secondary struggles in the first half
After the Vikings tore up the Green Bay defense through the air at Lambeau last week – including 21 balls, three touchdowns, and 259 yards to receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs – the Redskins continued to bludgeon the green-and-gold secondary to start Sunday’s game. Alex Smith worked an early connection with tight end Jordan Reed, and Jamison Crowder, Vernon Davis and Paul Richardson provided plenty of big plays down the field.
While HaHa Clinton-Dix did steal an interception – a rarity against the ever-careful Smith – the rest of the defensive backs group allowed both big plays and costly penalties. On the Redskins’ third drive of the game, Jaire Alexander, Tramon Williams and Davon House all picked up obvious pass interference penalties en route to an easy Washington touchdown for Adrian Peterson. (We’ll get to Peterson in a moment). Green Bay did lock down the Redskins’ offense after the break, but much of that was due to the Redskins’ own penalties and conservative play calling.
The Packers have invested heavily in their secondary recently – over the first two rounds of the last two drafts, the Packers have taken four defensive backs – but the results just are not there yet, even after coaching changes on the defensive side of the ball following last season. Getting torched by Minnesota’s cast of Pro-Bowlers is one thing; struggling to keep up with Washington’s so-so passing attack on a wet day is another. Rodgers is still working magic on one leg, but Green Bay is going to struggle to rip off wins if opponents continue to slice up its secondary.
2. Untimely drops stall Green Bay drives
Yes, it was wet, and yes, the slippery sod at FedEx Field added an extra degree of difficulty for receivers. But while the Washington pass catchers hauled in the pigskin, the Packers routinely came up small in the big moments.
On Green Bay’s first drive of the day, Randall Cobb dropped the ball on third and nine when he had acres of room to run in front of him. In the second half, Cobb again failed to hang onto a low throw on fourth down in Redskins territory. (Toss in Cobb’s fourth quarter fumble, and this was not his finest game.) But maybe the costliest drop of the afternoon came early in the fourth, when backup tight end Lance Kendricks mishandled a perfect strike from Rodgers deep down the sideline. Washington didn’t take advantage of either second-half drop, but the Packers lost field position, time and momentum with each miscue.
3. Adrian Peterson turns back the clock against familiar foe
Back to Peterson. Sunday’s matchup at FedEx Field was Peterson’s 18th career game against Green Bay, and despite turning 33 during the offseason, the former Viking still turned in one of his finer performances versus the Packers. Entering the game, Peterson had totaled 13 touchdowns and nearly 1,800 yards on the ground all-time against his former NFC North rival, all coming on 5.1 yards per attempts. On Sunday, the future Hall of Famer tallied another 120 yards and two touchdowns on just 19 attempts.
4. Aaron Jones provides big spark in the running game
Jones missed the first two games to suspension after violating the league’s substance abuse policy, and he was rarin’ to go against the Redskins this week. The second-year player rushed for 42 yards on six carries, providing a perfect speed complement to Jamaal Williams’ power and Ty Montgomery’s pass-catching. The Redskins were content to let the Packers keep the ball on the ground in an effort to slow down Rodgers, but Mike McCarthy may have found a versatile mix of backfield talent going forward.
5. Are the refs out to get Clay Matthews?
Matthews has now earned three roughing-the-passer flags through three games this season, including one on Sunday after driving into Smith for a sack. During the game, FOX’s refereeing expert Dean Blandino said he disagreed with the call, which was flagged because Matthews – in the eyes of the referee – landed on Smith with the full weight of his body.
After Anthony Barr broke Rodgers’ collarbone last year, the NFL has emphasized this new rule to protect quarterbacks from crushing blows – which has ironically come back to bite the Packers twice in the last two weeks with questionable calls against Matthews. The roughing call did not ultimately hurt the Packers on Sunday, but after last week’s flag totally turned the game against Minnesota, Matthews and Packers fans have to be feeling both snake-bit and confused.
The Packers return to Lambeau Field next weekend for a noon game against Buffalo. That might have seemed like a cupcake victory on the schedule, but after the Bills stomped Minnesota on the road this week, Rodgers and company will need to be firing on all cylinders to grab their second victory of the year.