Entering Sunday’s Week 3 contest with the Green Bay Packers, the Redskins possessed one of the top defenses in the league statistically. Though impressive, the small sample size of only two games, and some struggles against the Indianapolis Colts, meant there was still work to be done -- still statements that needed to be made.
On Sunday, in the Redskins' 31-17 victory, the defense made one.
“We’re not here to play games man,” safety D.J. Swearinger Sr. said. “This is not your old Redskins that, you know, is something to laugh at.”
The defense was definitely not a part of any punchline. Against a strong offense led by the uber-talented Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, the Redskins allowed just 17 points. Rodgers still showed signs of his lingering knee injury, but demonstrated flashes of his brilliance as well, scrambling out of the pocket to extend plays and firing a 64-yard touchdown to Geronimo Allison in the second quarter.
"Yeah, he’s not [100 percent]. But, he’s still Aaron Rodgers,” cornerback Josh Norman said. "His 60 or whatever percent he is, 65 percent, is still better than, out of the quarterbacks there’s 32 in the league, I’d say 30.”
So although the Redskins didn’t face a fully healthy Aaron Rodgers, it doesn’t take anything away from the defensive performance. To stop a quarterback like Rodgers, one good knee or two, all 11 men needed to step up. They did just that.
“I think any time you can hold a Green Bay Packer offense to 17 points, that’s a pretty good day,” linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said. “And that was with one big play, for the majority of the game we played some really damn good football.”
That “really damn good football” started up front. The defensive line of the Redskins did just what they said they needed to do all week: get pressure on the quarterback. With four sacks on the day and constant disruption at the line of scrimmage, the Packers running and passing game never reached its full potential.
“It starts up front, it always starts up front whether it’s J.A. or Big Payne, whether it’s 98, 94, 91 or 90,” Swearinger Sr. said. “Those guys come ready every week.”
That was largely demonstrated on Sunday, with Matt Ioannidis, Daron Payne (first of his career) and Jonathan Allen all picking up sacks. Allen led the team with two, but was quick to thank his teammates, including the secondary.
“It was a great team effort,” Allen said. “We rush four, not four 1-on-1's, especially on the last one I gotta give a lot of credit to Preston [Smith], the defensive backs, they're the ones who forced him up in the pocket, held the ball and I just happened to be the one who got there.”
The secondary played a big part if the success of the defense as well, limiting a talented group of Green Bay receivers to a minimal amount of damage besides a few big plays. Their ability to keep the pass catchers in check gave the linemen time to get to Rodgers.
In particular, one member of the secondary came up big when it mattered most. Late in the fourth quarter, with Rodgers trying to work his comeback magic once more, cornerback Fabian Moreau stripped wide receiver Randall Cobb and forced a fumble. Josh Norman would recover, all but sealing a victory for the Redskins.
"Just trying to make a play for my team,” said Moreau. “Trying to win the game, man. We’re just here to win.”
The play earned plenty of praise from his teammates, with Allen calling it the play of the game. It also may have earned him some good eats after the game.
“Fabian deserves all the cookies and ice cream he can eat today,” Norman said with a smile.
The whole defense deserves their favorite food after what they did on the field on Sunday, especially in the second half. After the Redskins offense exploded for 28 first half points, they only mustered three in the final 30 minutes. It ended up being no problem, as the defense would allow just seven to the Packers.
Overall, the performance was a demonstration of just how good the Redskins defense can be when they play with communication and poise. According to linebacker Mason Foster, that means being a defense that is resilient and versatile.
The team now has a bye in Week 4, but the defense will have to be ready to replicate this performance come Week 5, as the competition doesn’t get any easier.
“Now we gotta go play Drew Brees, another Hall-of-Famer,” Foster said. “So, it’s nonstop in this league, but we’ll take the good from this and work on the bad and try to keep getting better.”