GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers could have looked past the Washington Football Team. Who would have blamed them? They had won five in a row and have a short week before facing the undefeated the Arizona Cardinals. Washington was 2-4 and going nowhere fast.
“I don’t think anybody overlooks any opponents or looks past people,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said on Wednesday. “I think there are games you play well and games you don’t play well. The games where you give the media opportunities to talk about trap games or people looking ahead and different things based on your performance, but I don’t really feel like there’s a correlation between the mindset necessarily and the outcome sometimes. I know what’s in front of us. I know what’s after this game. A short week against an undefeated opponent, a long week against the Kansas City Chiefs. Personally, I don’t ever look past anybody, but you know what’s on the schedule. That’s just kind of normal. Anybody who doesn’t say that is probably just doing cliché talk.”
The Packers took care of business, improving to 6-1 with a 24-10 victory at Lambeau Field. Rodgers threw three touchdown passes and the defense recorded its first four red-zone stops of the season.
The first half was not a work of art. Washington’s defensive line, with its four first-round draft picks, spent most of the first 30 minutes harassing Rodgers. Green Bay’s running game was mostly terrible. But, it was mismatch at quarterback and that’s what wins most games.
Washington struck first on Taylor Heinicke’s 40-yard touchdown pass to Terry McLaurin against Eric Stokes. In seven games, Green Bay has given up four touchdowns and one field goal on opening possessions.
Green Bay answered in resounding fashion. Not long after getting out of the blue medical tent, receiver Davante Adams scored on a 15-yard touchdown catch. On fourth-and-3, Rodgers bought time to his right and threw back across the field to Adams, who caught the ball at the 10 and sprinted into the end zone.
After an exchange of blocked field goals and a key fourth-down pass breakup by Eric Stokes, the Packers drove to the go-ahead touchdown with 15 seconds remaining in the first half. Allen Lazard caught five passes for 60 yards on the drive, including a 10-yarder for the score.
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Rashan Gary turned the game for good with his sack/strip to start the third quarter. Dean Lowry recovered the fumble and Rodgers threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to tight end Robert Tonyan to give Green Bay breathing room at 21-7.
Washington outgained the Packers 430-304, and Heinicke actually had more total yards (363) than Rodgers (291). But Green Bay got the red-zone stops and won the turnover battle 2-1. In its six-game winning streak, Green Bay has allowed 17 or fewer points four games with an average of 18.0. Of course, that comes against some of the worst offenses in the NFL. That’s about to change. Arizona entered this week ranked fourth in scoring.
What it means: The Packers have won six in a row and will take at least two-game lead into the next week. Chicago (3-3) plays at Tampa Bay (5-1) and Detroit (0-6) plays at the Rams (5-1) in the afternoon slate of games. Minnesota (3-3) is on its bye. Green Bay and Minnesota are entering the meat of their schedules. Up next for the Vikings: home against Dallas, at Baltimore and the Chargers, home against the Packers and at San Francisco.
Key moment: Green Bay was fortunate to lead 14-7 at halftime given the way Washington was handling both sides of the line of scrimmage. On the second play of the second half, Rashan Gary got around veteran left tackle Charles Leno. Just as Taylor Heinicke was ready to throw the ball, Gary knocked the ball out of Heinicke’s throwing hand. Dean Lowry recovered. Moments later, Aaron Rodgers threw a touchdown pass to Robert Tonyan to make it a 14-point game.
Key stat: The Packers entered the game having allowed 15 touchdowns in 15 opponent red-zone possessions. The streak is over. Green Bay got not one, not two, not three but four red-zone stops – consecutively. The first two stops were huge given the direction of the game. The first came on a fourth-and-goal sneak in which De’Vondre Campbell and Rashan Gary managed to keep Taylor Heinicke out of the end zone from just inches away. The second came on Adrian Amos’ fourth-down breakup from the 4. The third came on slot cornerback Chandon Sullivan’s end-zone interception. The fourth came following back-to-back sacks, the first split between Kingsley Keke and Gary and the next a solo sack by Keke.
MVP: Aaron Rodgers was ruthlessly efficient, going 27-of-35 passing for 274 yards and three touchdowns, good for a passer rating of 127.6. Maybe more importantly, it wasn’t just The Davante Adams Show. Adams caught six passes for 76 yards and the opening score, but Allen Lazard caught five passes for 60 yards and one touchdown and Robert Tonyan had his best game of the season with four receptions for 63 yards and one touchdown.
Looking ahead: The Packers are about to embark on the toughest part of their schedule. On Thursday night, they’ll play at undefeated Arizona. Then, it’s a trip to Kansas City. That completes a stretch of four road games in five weeks. The Packers will return home to face Seattle, which might have Russell Wilson back at quarterback. Then, it’s a game at Minnesota and a trip to Los Angeles to face the Rams. Finally, they’ll get their Week 13 bye.
So, after beating up on the likes of Ben Roethlisberger, Justin Fields and Taylor Heinicke in recent weeks, the Packers will get Kyler Murray on Thursday, Patrick Mahomes next week, perhaps Wilson, and then Kirk Cousins and Matthew Stafford. Are the Packers and that defense for real? We will find out soon.