World’s Best Preview Two-Minute Drill: Pressure’s on Run Defense

Bill Huber

GREEN BAY, Wis. – If the Green Bay Packers are going to avoid a major upset today, it will be up to their maligned run defense to turn in its best performance of the season.

With Adrian Peterson and Derrius Guice, the Redskins have one of the better one-two punches in the NFL. Behind Guice’s 129 yards and Peterson’s 99 yards, the Redskins ran for 248 yards in an upset win at Carolina last week.

“They’re two very physical runners,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. “I think Washington’s got a really good offensive line and they’re going to try to pound the ball. I don’t think it’s any secret what they’re going to try to do to us. You see those guys, they’re physical, they both have a nasty stiff-arm and they’re really solid backs. Obviously, Adrian is a Hall of Famer.”

Green Bay’s run defense has been vulnerable all season. It enters the game ranked 25th in run defense per game (123.0) and 28th per carry (4.69). Particularly troublesome is the first-down run defense, which is allowing 4.70 yards per carry. It’s hard to create third-and-longs when it’s second-and-5.

It’s fair to point out defensive coordinator Mike Pettine often hasn’t lined up his defense with the sole intention of stopping the run. That will change in this game, because Washington’s run offense is excellent and its pass offense is bad.

“They play with a sixth offensive lineman more than anybody certainly that we’ve faced this year,” he said. “I think the number in our breakdown was just over 60 plays. That’s not including down on the goal line. We’re all about matching people, so when they put an extra lineman out there we want to make sure we’re matching big with big.”

Peterson is Peterson. Guice, a second-round pick last year who missed his rookie season with a knee injury, showed his potential against Carolina in this play and this play.

“They finally got to see the two-headed monster of us,” Guice said. “Those are the days I’ve been waiting on.”

Video: Smith Brothers on Adrian Peterson

PROLIFIC PETERSON: Peterson is moving up the NFL all-time rankings. With 108 rushing touchdowns, he needs two to tie Walter Payton for fourth-most in NFL history. With 13,960 rushing yards, he’s sixth all-time and 141 yards behind Curtis Martin for No. 5.

Peterson has been a Packers killer throughout his career. Including the 120 yards from last year’s Redskins victory, Peterson has rushed for 1,988 yards in 19 career games (including playoffs) against Green Bay. His regular season total of 1,899 yards in 18 games ranks third by an opponent in Packers history. Payton is No. 1 with 2,484 yards in 18 games and Barry Sanders is No. 2 with 2,059 yards in 19 games.

DON’T LAUGH AT THIS DEFENSE: It’s easy to overlook the Redskins due to their 3-9 record, rookie quarterback, league-worst offense (14.4 points per game) and leaky defense. Washington is 23rd in points allowed (24.2), 19th in total defense, 15th in yards allowed per carry (4.21), 22nd in opponent passer rating (96.0) and 30th in third down (46.8 percent).

However, the Redskins are 3-4 under interim coach Bill Callahan because their defense has started playing much better. Under Callahan, Washington is tied with Chicago for ninth points allowed (19.9 per game), 10th in rushing yards allowed per carry (3.87), ninth in opponent passer rating (84.5), second in sacks (27) and 20th on third down (40.0 percent).

Washington’s biggest name on defense, cornerback Josh Norman, is on the bench but the secondary has improved.

“Fabian Moreau and Quinton Dunbar have played really well in the last few weeks,” Callahan said of his new starting corners. “Timely picks to put us in position and really provide a spark for our team, similar to what Fabian did on Sunday in Carolina. We’re getting good, quality play. We can get a lot better, I know that.”

DOING IT AGAIN: Quietly, Aaron Rodgers is on pace to throw for 4,084 yards, 29 touchdowns and three interceptions. If Rodgers can reach 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns, which is no guarantee with two December home games and trips to Minnesota and Detroit to close the season, he’ll add to another footnote to his amazing history.

Here is the list of quarterbacks in NFL history with 4,000-plus yards, 30-plus touchdowns and three or fewer interceptions.

(No quarterback has done that.)

In fact, no quarterback has ever had 4,000 yards, 30 touchdowns and four interceptions. And in fact, Part 2: the only quarterback with 4,000 yards, 30 touchdowns and five interceptions was Rodgers in 2014.

“I don’t think [the preparation] will ever be perfect because he’s one of the greatest quarterbacks to play in our league, arguably,” said Callahan, who had backup Case Keenum playing the role of Rodgers this week. “You do everything you can. You work the cadences, you work the breakouts, you work the scrambles and you work the movements.”

HISTORY LESSON: The Packers lead the series 18-15-1. Washington has won the last two matchups – home games in 2016 and 2018. Green Bay has won four straight at Lambeau Field.

The most famous game in series history was played on a Monday night at Lambeau Field in 1983, the Packers’ famous 48-47 victory. Lynn Dickey threw for 397 yards and three touchdowns as the teams combined for 1,025 yards of total offense. Green Bay survived when Redskins kicker Mark Moseley – the reigning MVP – missed a 39-yard field goal.

“Listening to people talk about that game today, you'd think about 250,000 people were there that night,” Dickey said. “Almost everyone I talk to tells me they were there.”

LAFLEUR’S NOT-QUITE PERFECT 10: LaFleur is 9-3, which is tied with Mike Holmgren and Mike Sherman for most wins by a first-year Packers coach.

None of this year’s other first-year coaches are even .500. Arizona’s Kliff Kingsbury (3-8-1), Cincinnati’s Zac Taylor (1-11), Cleveland’s Freddie Kitchens (5-7), Denver’s Vic Fangio (4-8), Miami’s Brian Flores (3-9), the Jets’ Adam Gase (4-8) and the Buccaneers’ Bruce Arians (5-7) are a combined 25-58-1 for a combined .304 winning percentage.

MR. DECEMBER: Rodgers loves December, and not just because it’s hit birth month. In December home games, Rodgers boasts a record of 17-3. His passer rating of 114.4 is No. 1 in NFL history by a wide margin, with Seattle’s Russell Wilson second at 103.4. Rodgers has thrown 46 touchdowns vs. five interceptions.

“The cold is a factor,” Rodgers said. “It’s not like we’re a bunch of Wisconsin folks who were born and raised here, but I think you just learn to deal with the elements a little bit better when you’re spending eight months a year here. When I go back to California, I laugh at all the Californians wearing long sleeves and coats in 60-degree weather. I’m thinking, ‘Man, this is short weather, short sleeves. Get the speedo out or something.’”

HEY, ROOKIE: For the second consecutive week, the Packers will face a rookie quarterback. Last week, Daniel Jones was limited to a 54.1 percent completion rate and tossed three interceptions for a 49.4 passer rating. This week, it’s Dwayne Hawkins. Haskins, the 15th pick of the draft, has been awful. Among all quarterbacks with at least 120 attempts, he’s last in passer rating (58.5), completion percentage (54.4), touchdown percentage (1.5), interception percentage (4.5) and yards per attempt (6.02). In all, 35 quarterbacks have thrown 120 passes. Haskins’ passer rating is 21.4 points worse than the 34th-ranked quarterback, Baker Mayfield.

This will be the fifth time a rookie quarterback has faced Pettine’s defense. The Packers are 3-1 in those games, with the lone loss being the 26-11 outcome against the Josh Rosen-led Cardinals that led to Mike McCarthy’s firing. Combined, Rosen (61.2), the Jets’ Sam Darnold (128.4), Buffalo’s Josh Allen (36.3) and Jones (49.4) had a 69.6 passer rating.

“He’s made tremendous strides,” Callahan said. “I don’t think that it just jumps at you as a fan, but if you watch the film and study his progress, you can see the small techniques improving.”

The World’s Best Preview

Smith Brothers are double trouble

Inside the Redskins: Peterson’s a “freak”

Lewis and Rodgers: “Real recognizes real”

Tyler Ervin: Returner and barber

Pick-six preview

Packers-Redskins matchups

The two-minute drill