GREEN BAY—Something different happened at Lambeau Field on Sunday.
“They played a lot of one high,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said of the Redskins’ defensive strategy.
Huh? A single safety in the middle of the field against a team that would rather throw the ball than run it? Did something happen since the Packers saw a steady dose of two safeties in the middle of the field last season?
Yeah, the Redskins loaded up against the run. They invited Rodgers to attack the secondary, and he did, 42 times for a record-setting 480 yards.
Here’s the best news of all: The Redskins still couldn’t stop the Packers’ running game.
Mike McCarthy wrinkles his nose at run-the-ball questions. His body language suggests that such queries are from the “Stone Age” of football but, hey, coach, what’s not to like about a run-pass balance that produced 580 yards, 28 first downs and a degree of frustration that left one Redskins defensive back to spread his arms to his sideline, as if to say, “What do you want us to do?”
“Run-pass balance, it’s more about the things you’re able to stay in at the line of scrimmage. We don’t get as caught up in it,” McCarthy said.
Rodgers seemed to like it. Only four of his pass attempts weren’t caught, and his stats are the thing of which MVPs are awarded.
“I think it was more the running game and the way they played,” Rodgers said.
Yes, one safety in the middle of the field is better than two safeties in the middle of the field, if the thing you want to do the most is throw short passes that produce long runs, or even long passes that produce no runs. Rodgers threw passes of both varieties on Sunday. That’s Packers football.
This was the kind of win the Packers needed. They needed to wallop somebody. They needed to do it in all three phases. They needed to quiet the critics that want to label the Packers as being soft. They needed to execute a run-pass balance that’ll cause future opponents to pick their poison.
Maybe most of all, they needed to win this game to prove to themselves the loss in San Francisco is, indeed, in the rearview mirror, and that they would not allow that loss to haunt them as the one last January had for an entire offseason.
“We were disappointed but we tried to take the positives from it,” Rodgers said when asked to describe the Packers’ mindset as the week began. “There was urgency. There was a better focus from the guys. I’m proud of the guys for their focus.”
Did the coach sense Sunday’s performance coming as he observed his team in practice last week?
“No,” McCarthy said. “We’ll be better this week. The energy is incredible. There’s a different personality to this football team. This team has a chance to be really good. It has a lot of good football in front of it.”
McCarthy’s team was really good on Sunday. It was a loss the likes of which Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan is not accustomed. Shanahan’s team was the unlikely subject of an ambush. Coming off the loss in San Francisco, the Packers were an angry team. They needed to take it out on someone, and the Redskins became that team.
“I like the vibe of this team,” Rodgers said. “I think you’re seeing some leaders step up. Guys that are respected leaders in the locker room are taking a bigger role in the locker room, especially vocally. That’s not my forte.”
That’s OK. He does some other things pretty well. Complete game coverage