By Chris Havel
Special to Event USA
Washington rides fast start to victory as Green Bay deals with injury, sloppiness
GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Packers’ steady descent into the NFL’s cluster of averageness has come full circle.
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It started way back when with a nail-biting win against Chicago. It continued last week with an exciting yet infuriating tie with Minnesota. It ended Sunday with a painful loss at Washington.
Green Bay’s 31-17 setback to the Redskins on rain-soaked FedEx Field in Landover, Md., occurred on three fronts.
The Packers (1-1-1) were beaten by the opponent, the officials and mostly themselves.
The league may be getting soft, as the Packers’ Clay Matthews said after the game, but it’s not like Green Bay was hard as nails. The Packers dropped four passes, committed 11 penalties for 115 yards and yielded four touchdown drives in the first half.
The officials weren’t sharp, either. They continued the “roughing-the-passer” controversy with yet another awful call on Matthews. In addition, they ignored what should’ve been an obvious roughing call on the Redskins.
Packers head coach Mike McCarthy’s sideline bull-rush of an official was almost as impressive as the official’s ability to backpedal. The Packers may want to sign the ref up as a cornerback option until Kevin King returns from injury.
Despite all that, Washington (2-1) deserves credit for getting its stuff together at the worst possible time for Green Bay.
The Redskins rode a fast start – keyed by head coach Jay Gruden’s play-calling and Alex Smith’s quarterbacking – to cruise to victory in a game that was never seriously in doubt.
Washington put together touchdown drives of 75, 79, 98 and 74 yards in the first half. The Packers’ defense has surrendered an opening drive touchdown in three straight games.
The Redskins’ opening drive was capped by a 46-yard touchdown pass to Paul Richardson – his only catch of the day – despite double-coverage. Safety Kentrell Brice couldn’t locate the football in time to be of any help to cornerback Jaire Alexander.
Brice is not up to the task of being a starting NFL safety, period.
The Redskins’ next touchdown drive featured three pass interference calls on three different Packers’ defensive backs. All three calls, in my opinion, were the correct call.
Is that how new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine teaches it?
After an inconsequential field goal sliced Washington’s lead to 14-3, the Redskins put together the drive of the game.
Starting deep in their own territory, they went 98 yards in eight plays to make it 21-3. The drive was kept alive when Smith hit tight end Jordan Reed for a 34-yard gain on third-and-6 at the Washington 6-yard line. Adrian Peterson took over from there. He burst off right tackle on a 41-yard gallop to set up the first of two short-yardage touchdown runs in the half.
Aaron Rodgers answered with a 64-yard touchdown strike to Geronimo Allison to slice the Redskins’ lead to 21-10 with 2:15 to play in the first half.
It proved to be false hope when Washington answered.
Smith connected with ageless tight end Vernon Davis for a big gainer of 50 yards. After several short completions, Peterson dived in from the 2 to make it 28-10 at half.
The Packers’ defense yielded only a field goal the rest of the way, but it was too little, too late.
Peterson finished with 120 yards on 19 carries and two touchdowns. At 33, he looked like the running back of old, rather than an old running back.
Brice took out teammate Mo Wilkerson when he whiffed on a tackle attempt and leg-whipped the Packers’ defensive end in the process.
Wilkerson, a key offseason acquisition in free agency, was taken by ambulance to a local hospital. It’s likely his season is over.
Bryan Bulaga also left with a back problem, which created more problems for an already troubled right side of the offensive line. Justin McCray struggled and was benched for Byron Bell.
The receivers, in particular Randall Cobb, also struggled.
Cobb had two drops, a lost fumble and only four catches for 23 yards in 11 targets.
“I didn’t give us an opportunity to win,” Cobb said after. “A third-down drop on the first drive, the fourth-down drop, a fumble, I played terrible and didn’t give us an opportunity to win. No, it has nothing to do (with the rain). We’ve played in these conditions before. It’s on me.”
Actually, it’s on everyone in green and gold.
Rodgers, limping on his heavily braced left knee, missed some throws and had others dropped. Tight end Lance Kendricks’ drop on a perfect throw deep down the right sideline was especially painful to watch.
Rodgers finished 27 of 44 for 265 yards, two touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 93.5. He also was sacked four times, which keeps the Packers on pace to give up 64 sacks this season. If it continues Rodgers won’t be around at season’s end.
Aaron Jones provided a spark upon his return, but instead of lighting a fire it merely hissed and sputtered before being doused by the Redskins’ salty defense.
Meantime, the Packers and Matthews are left to sort it all out.
Afterward, a perplexed Matthews said, “Unfortunately this league’s going in a direction I think a lot of people don’t like. I think they’re getting soft.”
To be fair, the same could be said of the Packers.