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Sunday, October 31, 2004
Game Review: Packers @ Redskins
by Mark Lawrence
A Tale of Two Games...
We're told that the Washington Redskins' last home game before a Presidential election has accurately predicted the next President since 1936. A win by the Redskins assures a win by the incumbent party in the White House.
The somewhat beat-up 3-4 Packers went to Washington to play the somewhat beat-up 2-4 Redskins. The Packers have the #2 rated offense in the NFL, and the Redskins have the #1 rated defense in the NFL. Something had to give. Who could have predicted a complete by-partisan meltdown?
This was a game of two halves. In the first half, the Redskins showed a poor offense, just as they have all season. Mark Brunell, their pro-bowl quarterback, is clearly at the end of his impressive career. Unfortunately, the heir-apparent QB Patrick Ramsey is apparently not thought ready to start, so Brunell is the guy, used-up arm and all. The Redskins took the opening kickoff and marched down the field relatively decisively, until finally at the Green Bay 34 yard line the GB defense stiffened and forced a punt. Green Bay then scored on their next three possessions in a row, making the NFL's #1 defense look decidedly mediocre. The GB defense, meanwhile, forced Washington to punt on their first three possessions, and intercepted them on their fourth. The game was looking like Green Bay (and implicitly John Kerry) had the contest well in hand at this point.
Favre took over on the Washington 48, and promptly threw an interception. Washington took possession, and ran down the field in 9 plays to score a touchdown. 17-7 Packers (and Democrats) at the half, and a nervous group of Packers fans where I was sitting.
During the first half, the Packer's defense acquitted themselves rather well, I thought. The Redskins were held to 50 yards rushing on 12 carries, and held Mark Brunell to 13 completions on 22 attempts for 94 yards with 1 td, 1 int, and 3 sacks. All three sacks were pretty clearly coverage sacks. The Green Bay defensive backfield remains a work in progress, and there remain major questions to be answered. However, the Green back rookie DBs are developing very nicely and Al Harris, playing on a sprained knee, remains an unexpected high point in this defense. If the Packers are to get anywhere near or into the post season, this backfield is going to have to play well against the Vikings twice and the Eagles once. It's my opinion that this backfield is developing the talent to give the Packers a real chance in these games.
The Packer's defense faced a couple long yardage situations, and their results were mixed. On a 3rd and 24 they managed a coverage sack; however just a few minutes later on a 4th and 22 they managed to give up a 23 yard completion.
The Packers offense in the first half managed 23 yards on 11 carries against the best defense in the NFL. Clearly the running game was not going on carry the day today. However, Favre managed to go 14 of 19 for 202 yards with 1 td and 1 int.
The Redskins, in a show of great insecurity, came out from half time and kicked an on-side kick to start the 2nd half. Green Bay recovered the ball, and promptly scored a field goal. 20-7. this was the end of respectable football as we know it.
In the previous week, Favre had jammed his hand and sprained his wrist while straight-arming a pass rusher. This injury had kept him out of practice for three days, and he reported that receiving the snap was quite painful but bearable when he did return to practice. By the second half of the game, Favre's hand had clearly taken all the abuse it was good for today. He lost the ability to grasp the ball firmly, and his passes started sailing around like little butterflies, begging the Redskins defense to catch them and produce points. I heard an unsubstantiated report that Favre had hit his injured hand on a helmet, only aggravating the situation. None the less, it quickly became clear that Favre's ability to pass the ball reliably was done with for the game. This left the Packers nursing a 13 point lead, with several poor options. The Packer's running game had been substantially stalled all day, so running out the clock seemed hopeless. Although the Redskins offense was playing poorly and the Packer's defense seemed to be playing well, going three and out repeatedly and relying on the defense was apparently not considered a viable option by Sherman. That left throwing the ball and hoping for divine intervention. I've never been a big fan of relying on divine intervention in football games - after all, if God took sides in football games, Notre Dame and BYU would never lose. Personally, I quickly thought it was time to give Nall a chance. In any case, Washington has yet to score more than 18 points in a game this year, so relying on the defense didn't seem like the stupidest choice in the world. None the less, Mike Sherman determined that it continued to be Favre time.
The Packer's running game continued to fail to impress against the Redskins' #1 ranked defense. Ahman Green managed 54 yards on 19 carries, a poor showing of 2.8 yards per carry. The Packer's vaunted rushing attack was being completely negated by the Redskins defense. Favre, swollen hand and all meanwhile went 5 for 15 for 42 yards, 2 interceptions, 1 sack, and 1 two point conversion. The only saving grace for the Packers was that the Redskins put on a similarly incompetent show, running the ball 7 times for 31 yards, and Mark Brunell going 13 for 29 for 113 yards, 1 td, 1 sack, 1 interception. There was another TD thrown by Brunell which was called back due to an illegal shift penalty.
In the end, the Packers managed to hang on for a win, putting them at 4-4 going into their bye week. This is an excellent time for a bye for the Packers: Favre, Green, Ferguson, Sharper, Harris, and Davenport are all nursing injuries, and getting these guys healed up for facing Minnesota in two weeks seems like an excellent thing.
Meanwhile, back in politics, I must say that the second half of this game reminded me of the current campaigns for President: two choices, both looking pretty awful, neither seeming to be able to take one of the several chances to put their opponent away. The sloppy football game is now in the history books, soon to be blissfully forgotten. But that we could say the same thing for the singularly unimpressive Presidential candidates.