Packers look to light up Washington’s NFL-worst defense
After scoring the clinching touchdown in a Week 6 win over the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers wasted little time telling the arch-rivals’ fans that he owns their team.
What went overshadowed by that epic trolling was that Green Bay won its fifth straight game despite dealing with a steady string of injuries, maintaining a two-game lead in the NFC North over Chicago and Minnesota.
The Packers aim to make it six straight on Sunday when they welcome another injury-riddled outfit, the struggling Washington Football Team, to Lambeau Field.
Green Bay’s defense, which was poor the first three weeks, has made some real improvements in the last three games. It has allowed less than 18 points per game in that stretch, including a season low last week.
Granted, the Bears’ offense isn’t reminding anyone of Air Coryell, but that’s still a good sign for a Packers’ team that with Rodgers still near his peak, doesn’t need the defense to imitate the Steel Curtain.
“Holding a team to 14 points in the NFL, that’s hard to do, especially away,” said running back Aaron Jones. “They have the next-man-up mentality and they’re flying around. They have leaders over there.”
And Green Bay’s defense is getting reinforcements. The club added veteran pass-rusher Whitney Mercilus on Wednesday after he was released by the rebuilding Houston Texans. The 10-year pro has notched 57 career sacks, including three this season, and should help the Packers mount more consistent pressure on quarterbacks.
There’s not much Green Bay fans should worry about offensively. Since a 38-3 loss to New Orleans in Week 1, the Packers have averaged 28.2 ppg as the familiar trio of Rodgers, Jones and Davante Adams has played to form.
Meanwhile, Washington (2-4) finds itself at a crossroads. Its 31-13 loss last week to Kansas City dropped it three games behind Dallas in the NFC East. What’s more, its highly touted defense has been terrible and its offense has been hampered by injuries and inconsistency.
No defense is allowing more points than Washington’s 31.0 points per game or faring worse on third down — opponents are converting 57.8 percent — or allowing more passing touchdowns (16). In addition, Washington is the only team in the league that’s permitted opponents to score on more than half of their possessions.
Coach Ron Rivera hinted at changes and also said the team needs to be more disciplined. For now, the only move was cutting veteran kicker Dustin Hopkins on Wednesday and signing Chris Blewitt, who hasn’t kicked in a meaningful game since his senior year at Pittsburgh in 2016.
“What I’ll do is continue to evaluate and see how things go,” Rivera said. “We have good players and we have guys that have the ability.”
Offensively, Washington has shown flashes of explosiveness with Taylor Heinecke at quarterback in place of the injured Ryan Fitzpatrick. But Heinecke and the offense laid an egg against the Chiefs with a season-low point total and just 276 total yards.
“I feel like I’ve just been trying to be perfect and trying to make the perfect read every play,” Heinecke said. “It doesn’t really allow me to be who I am or allowed me to be my best.”
Worse yet, Washington didn’t have running back Antonio Gibson (shin) or top receiver Terry McLaurin (hamstring) at Wednesday’s practice. The absence of either one might limit its offense even further.
–Field Level Media