BY GEORGE THEY DID IT. 17-14 WIN 0VER WASHINGTON Jerry Gilbert
The Washington Redskins reside in a city named after the Father of America, George Washington, but I have a feeling that George might be smiling on Sunday's NFL game victor, the real "America's Team, the Green Bay Packers. They emerged victorious the way George did it, with defense. Through out the second half of the 1770's the finest army in the world chased the Colonial Army all over the Eastern Seaboard, as George and his team played defense. On Oct 19, 1781 (pretty close to 226 years ago) George and his army earned a final victory, which made America an independent country.
Sunday's game in Title Town is not quite as significant as Yorktown in 1781, but a win over one of the best teams in the NFC is pretty important. The Green Bay Packers came back from their only loss of the season to stand at 5-1, a pretty good situation in this 2007 NFL season. The team has 4 victories over NFC teams, and conference record is often the most important tiebreaker, unless they end up matched against the Eagles, Giants or Redskins, in which case, they have earned the head to head tiebreaker.
Many of the problems that have plagued the Green Bay Offense continued to be on display against Washington. The Packers have no running game. When there is a hole, the back cuts the wrong way. More frequently, there is no hole for the back to find. Second, Brett Favre continues to miss on the long pass. There were four open receivers he tried to hit on up routes. Two passes were incomplete, and two were intercepted. Stepping into the pass may help. A day that is not raining and foggy could also make a difference with the long ball.
The game ball goes to the defense. Special Teams were not a disaster, but there was little or no contribution to field position. Kicker Mason Crosby looked like the rookie he is. He missed 2 of 3 chances, all of which were within his range. John Ryan shanked a couple, but he also had a some long kicks. The crowd did boo when Ryan boomed a long kick into the end zone to give Washington one more opportunity, but in the wet conditions, he could have underestimated how far the ball would carry.
With little offense and indifferent special teams, the hope for victory rested with the Defense, and they responded. Similar to General Washington, the Packers gave up some scores to the opposition in the first half of the contest, but after half time the Redskins did not score again. Despite an ineffective offense that left them in poor field position over and over, Aaron Kampman and the group harassed quarterback Jason Campbell and prevented any further scoring. More important, a forced fumble by Corey Williams was picked up by Charles Woodson who ran 57 yards for a touchdown. A careful push of Campbell by Al Harris, avoided the penalty but redirected the would be tackler enough to permit Woodson to run untouched into the end zone.
We should not read too much into this victory. Washington's best playmakers, running back Clinton Portis and receiver Santana Moss were not at full strength. The offensive line is so banged up that a defensive lineman was their only available reserve as the game ended. Playing against second and third stringers contributed to the success of the Green Bay pass rush, but that is not the full story. The first stringers were also manhandled in the second half by the Packer defensive line. It was a superior effort that is encouraging after disappointing performances in the second half against San Diego and Chicago, but if a rematch were to occur, the Redskin offense is likely to be better.
At the same time, the defense is not good enough to win many games without more help from the other units. Making field goals in bad weather is one obvious example. A running game that is effective more of the time is also necessary. Happily, the team is finding ways to win while not playing at peak efficiency.
Back in 1781 in Yorktown, Virginia, George Washington sat back and savored a hard fought victory. I will be in Yorktown for the 226th Anniversary. I have a victory to savor as well.
Happy Bye Week, Packer Fans.