GREEN BAY, Wis. — This time there were no silver linings.
The Washington Redskins went to Lambeau Field holding fast to the image of the team they were at the end of last season, when they rallied to win the NFC East and reach the playoffs. That notion was shredded by the Green Bay Packers in a humbling 38-20 loss on Sunday afternoon.
Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers sliced and diced Washington’s overmatched defense with three touchdown passes in the first half alone. He finished with a career-best 480 passing yards, easily dispatching the Redskins to their second loss in as many games.
“We just got torched,” Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo said.
James Jones was Rodgers‘ favorite target with 11 receptions for 178 yards — both career highs. But Randall Cobb, Jermichael Finley and Jordy Nelson all caught first-half touchdown passes as the Packers used a quick-tempo, short passing attack that kept Washington off balance.
After an early sack by Orakpo and two more on consecutive plays from fellow outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, Rodgers had enough. He told Orakpo during a television timeout that there’d be no more drop-backs. The Redskins were going to have to stop the short passing game and make tackles.
“Sacks sound good, but they came early,” defensive lineman Barry Cofield said. “And then when they adjusted, we didn’t adjust. It’s a game of punches and counter-punches and they had the last laugh.”
Mason Crosby began the game with a 28-yard field goal for Green Bay. Jones was later charged with a fumble in the final seconds of the first half as he dove for the end zone and instead lost the ball, which hit the right pylon for a touchback. Yes, the score could have been worse.
“At the end of the day, it’s a defensive effort,” defensive back Josh Wilson said. “Last week there were a lot of rushing yards and [the secondary] was part of that, too. No matter where the yards come from we’ve go to figure out how to control that.”
Nelson added another touchdown reception in the third quarter to make it 31-0. James Starks, a reserve running back who took over for the concussed Eddie Lacy, had a 132-yard rushing day, including a 32-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
It was the first time in the Packers‘ long, distinguished history that they had a 400-yard passer and a 100-yard rusher in the same game. They hadn’t even had a running back hit 100 yards at all in their previous 44 games.
“[Rodgers] is one of the best, if not the best in the league,” Kerrigan said. “He showed it today. What really makes him so good is the sync, the synergy he has with his receivers. And that was on display today, unfortunately.”
It didn’t help that Washington was sloppy for the second week in a row. Quarterback Robert Griffin III threw one interception and the Redskins committed seven penalties for 78 yards. They also lost safety Brandon Meriweather to a concussion after a first-half hit on Starks following a 20-yard run.
With the game well out of reach late in the third quarter at 31-0, Griffin hit wide receiver Pierre Garcon for a six-yard touchdown pass. He found tight end Jordan Reed and wide receiver Santana Moss for two more in the fourth quarter. But there would be no second-half rally this time. The Redskins trailed the Philadelphia Eagles 33-7 in the season opener on Sept. 9 at FedEx Field before falling 33-27.
“It’s not on the coaches, it’s not on anybody else, it’s on us,” Griffin said. “I think the guys understand that. We’ll figure this out. We know this isn’t who we are as a team. Definitely these last two games what we’ve shown is not acceptable to us.”
Garcon caught eight passes for 143 yards and running back Alfred Morris finished with 107 rushing yards. But that was about all the offense Washington could muster against the Packers. In the first half it managed just 155 yards of total offense, five first downs and was 0-for-5 on third downs.
After the game, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan didn’t rip into his players in the locker room. He chose a different tack because their despair was obvious following a loss Shanahan called “embarrassing.” At least one veteran appreciated the restraint, but also knows this will be no easy week of practice preparing for the Detroit Lions on Sunday at FedEx Field.
“Being a football player you’re so somber after a loss,” Cofield said. “You work your butt off, but in reality no one wants to hear about the labor pains. Everyone wants to see the baby. When you work your butt off all week and you come in and perform like this, it’s depressing. It gives you a glimmer of hope.”