LANDOVER, Md. — In the aftermath of Sunday’s 42-24 loss in Washington, the Packers’ defense was left to process all the events that had unfolded at FedExField.
What began as a promising evening for the defense quickly turned in favor of the Redskins, whose third-ranked passing offense proved hard to disrupt in generating more than 500 total yards.
That isn’t how things started, though.
With the Packers’ offense off to a slow start, it was actually the defense that set the tone early in forcing Washington to punt on its first two possessions.
However, quarterback Kirk Cousins and his litany of receiving weapons didn’t stay down for long. The Redskins found their rhythm near the end of the first quarter and proceeded to score on seven of their next eight drives.
Asked where things went wrong, it was no secret to defensive back Micah Hyde and many other Packers defenders.
“Third downs and big plays,” Hyde said.
The defensive production fell short in both areas with Washington converting 9-of-14 on third-down plays (64 percent) and finishing with six plays of more than 20 yards.
The Redskins’ three biggest came in the fourth quarter with Cousins connecting with receiver Pierre Garcon for a 70-yard touchdown and then hitting Jamison Crowder for a 53-yard completion that set up a Rob Kelley 1-yard touchdown run with 3 minutes, 54 seconds left.
Kelley, who was largely bottled up for the first 58 minutes, then broke a 66-yard gain off a run on the right side to set up his third touchdown run of the day and seal Washington’s sixth win in its last eight games.
“The effort is there. We just can’t give up explosive plays,” linebacker Nick Perry said. “We have to get more. We have to get back to winning football games.”
While the Packers have had issues to work out in recent weeks, they still entered Sunday’s game with the 10th-ranked defense in the NFL and a top-five run defense.
Although Green Bay has had to forge ahead without its top two cornerbacks, Sam Shields (concussion) and Damarious Randall (groin), the defense felt good about its prospects Sunday with Pro Bowl linebacker Clay Matthews’ return to the lineup.
After missing three games with a hamstring injury, Matthews’ presence helped create more one-on-one opportunities for Perry and elephant-rusher Julius Peppers.
Perry recorded his seventh sack of the year to end Washington’s first series, while Peppers’ third-quarter sack and second-quarter pass deflection ended two other drives.
Unfortunately for Green Bay, Cousins fought through the early pressure to complete 21-of-30 passes for 375 yards and three touchdowns (145.8 passer rating).
“That’s tough,” said defensive lineman Mike Daniels of the big plays. “We’ve got to find a way to eliminate it.”
The most frustrating part for the defense was not being able to get the necessary stop to give its surging offense a chance to retake the lead.
After going three-and-out on its first three series, the Packers’ offense scored on four of its next five drives. The only one it didn’t convert ended in a 36-yard missed field goal.
The defense will need to dust itself off with another prime-time matchup against Philadelphia awaiting the Packers next Monday night.
“To put everything that you do in a week and come out here and perform like that, that was embarrassing,” Hyde said. “We gave away way too many big plays. It’s frustrating. It’s tough. Sunday night game, we wanted to come in and show what we could do, perform well; just like we have that mentality week-in and week-out and we just didn’t.”
New territory: With left tackle David Bakhtiari limited with a knee injury, Jason Spriggs practiced all week with a starter’s mindset in case he was needed on Sunday.
The rookie second-round pick ended up playing extensively against Washington, but his reps came in place of injured right guard Don Barclay, who left with a shoulder injury at halftime.
Spriggs, a four-year starting left tackle at Indiana, never played guard, but felt comfortable subbing in next to right tackle Bryan Bulaga, who quickly briefed him on what to expect.
“We talked about the game, talked about how they were playing us and what stunts were coming,” said Spriggs, who finished last week’s game against Tennessee at left tackle in place of Bakhtiari.
“Just different indicators to attempt to get a jump on, especially since I hadn’t been in a game with him. It was just more what he was doing. So when I got in there, we could work well together.”
Bradford debuts: Linebacker Carl Bradford, a fourth-round pick in 2014, made his NFL regular-season debut on Sunday and ended up seeing action on defense after Blake Martinez exited with a knee injury in the fourth quarter.
Bradford was on the active roster during his rookie season, but didn’t dress for any games. He’s been on the practice squad for the past two seasons during his transition from outside to inside linebacker.
Martinez’s injury wasn’t the only one the Packers’ defense had to weather. Demetri Goodson, who started at boundary cornerback, left in the first half after injuring his knee on a punt return.
Safety Kentrell Brice also left with a back injury in the fourth quarter and didn’t return.
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