By RedskinsGab Columnist – Rajan Nanavati
If the Redskins are to upset the Packers this Sunday, here are five keys for doing so:
1. Get out to a fast start: In the Packers three wins this season, their formula has been the same: build a big lead, make the opponents throw away their game plan, and then use the blitz to make the opposing QB’s life miserable while they try to playing catch-up; the Packers have lead their opponents by at least 14 points at some point during the game in every game they won.
Like the Redskins, the Packers defense is more geared towards pressuring the opposing QB and generating turnovers, perhaps at the expense of a consistent run defense (they’re giving up over 118 yards per game on the ground). If the Redskins can establish their offense early and run the football with some level of effectiveness, they’ll stop the Packers front seven from simply pinning their ears back and making a beeline for the quarterback, and take advantage of the weakest part of the Packers defense.
2. Play “keep away:” The Packers have way too much talent on offense to try to go toe-to-toe with in a shootout. The last thing the Redskins want to do is let Aaron Rogers play pitch and catch with his cadre of playmakers at wide receiver and tight end. The best thing for Redskins is to run the football, milk the clock, hit the Packers defense with a few timely play action passes, and most importantly, keep the Packers offense off the field.
One of the key “chess matches” within the game itself will be how the Redskins attack the Packers defense using tight ends Chris Cooley and Fred Davis. The Packers have been torched by opposing tight ends in each of the last two weeks, but they haven’t faced a duo as talented as Captian Chaos and Sleepy D. Cooley is 2nd on the team in targets and leads the team in touchdown receptions. I still maintain that Davis is one of the most talented tight ends in all of football, and a player who the Redskins don’t nearly use enough.; Similar to his 62 yard catch and run against Houston, Davis was a couple of inches away from another huge reception against the Eagles, who were completely caught with the pants down on a Donovan McNabb rollout pass.
If the Redskins can control the clock with the running game coupled with the intermediate passing game, they’ll put pressure on the Packers offense to keep up, hopefully forcing them into mistakes (more on that in a minute).
3. Keep Dononvan McNabb upright: Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers, like his Redskins counterpart in Jim Haslett, forged his reputation with the Steelers back in their “blitzburg” days. So, it shouldn’t be any surprise that Green Bay leads the NFL in sacks. Outside linebacker Clay Matthews Jr. has seven sacks himself, which is more than 10 other entire NFL defenses.
Barring any unforseen setbacks, Big Trent Williams will be back in the lineup this week to guard McNabb’s blindside, sending Stephon Heyer back to the bench (and not a moment too soon). But Williams is still going to have to shake off some rust and get back in playing shape before he’s really back at full speed, and he’s going to have to do so quickly unless he wants Matthews ensuring that Rex Grossman has to enter the game.
The Redskins used a lot of double tight end formations last week, and I’d expect the same this week, with Cooley or Davis helping out on Williams side as he gets his “game legs” back.
4. Don’t let Aaron Rodgers get comfortable: Let me say this up front: when Aaron Rodgers is “on,” there may be no better quarterback in the league (not named Peyton, anyawy). He’s deadly accurate, a ridiculously quick release, and great zip on his passes. But what you won’t read in the stat sheets or box scores on Monday is that Rodgers has played very streaky this season, especially now that the Packers are almost completely one-dimensional and he’s carrying virtually the entire offense on his shoulders.
Want to know a secret that none of the talking heads will tell you? Donovan McNabb has thrown for more yards and has a better yards per attempt (YPA) average than Aaron Rodgers this season. It’s true. With almost no running game to speak of (the Packers average less than 95 yards per game on the ground), some untimely suspect playcalling, and even more suspect play from their offensive line, Rodgers hasn’t always put together a complete peformance in games this year.
If the Redskins harass Aaron Rodgers enough, they can disrupt his rhythm and force force him into mistakes. Rodgers already has a couple of games this season where he has thrown multiple interceptions. The Packers have already been struggling with protection issues on the edges, especially against speed rushers (why hello there, Brian Orakpo), and now it looks like they’ll be starting rookie tackle Brian Bulaga on the right side in place of the injured Mark Tauscher.
5. Don’t beat yourself: The Redskins have had several promising drives on offense stall because of a mental error or lack of discipline from someone on offense. Pentalites have killed Redskins drives this season perhaps even more effectively than opposing defenses. If someone’s not jumping offsides, then someone else is holding. If it’s not someone whiffing on a blocking assignment, then it’s someone dancing around in the backfield and losing several yards (you are not missed, Larry Johnson).
If the Redskins bury themselves in third and long situations or keep handing the ball back to Green Bay after three-and-outs, they’ll be playing right to the Packers strength. The last thing the Redskins want to do is make it any easier for the walking-wounded Packers to come in DC and steal a win.