The last time the Packers walked off FedEx Field, the defense had given up 42 points, the team had what felt like no chance to make the postseason, and Aaron Rodgers make an unlikely proclamation that would come to define the season.
Saturday night, the Green Bay defense couldn’t have looked more different. Jay Gruden had to send Kirk Cousins and Co. out for yet another series late in the second quarter to get some kind — any kind — of offensive continuity.
After three straight disappointing drives to open the game, Washington finally got some offensive momentum, only to be thwarted on fourth down. It wasn’t until the first half was nearly over, and the Washington starters faced the Packers subs (and in many cases the subs to the subs thanks to injury) the Washington offense found its footing.
A week after the tackling appeared non-existent, Green Bay’s defense attacked, particularly in the secondary and mitigated gains all over the field.
Players like Kenny Clark and Dean Lowry once again dominated up front as Washington rushed 11 times for just 10 yards in the first half.
Aaron Rodgers made it look easy en route to a touchdown drive ending in a Martellus Bennett fade route (good luck opposing defenses).
The Washington offense had the ball five times in the first half. The first four looked like this:
Three plays, three yards — Punt
Four plays, zero yards — Field Goal (Set up by a muffed punt)
Three plays, five yards — Punt
Nine players, 25 yards — Turnover on downs
Washington finally scored a touchdown on fourth-and-goal with just 13 seconds left in the half.
Let’s not overreact to one half of preseason football, but this was a response game for the Packers.
Dom Capers challenged the defense to tackle better and it did.
Not every response was as articulate. The backup offensive line once against struggled to protect Brett Hundley or consistently open up running lanes, though the ground game was marginally better (as usual, the best runs came on quarterback scrambles). Jason Spriggs appears to be going backward, rather than taking the proverbial leap in Year 2.
Mike McCarthy wanted better ball security and the first thing the Packers did was muff a punt thanks to Trevor Davis, the Week 1 star for Green Bay against the Eagles.
Joe Callahan still looks like a fan was dropped into an NFL game for Make-A-Wish.
Running backs and tight ends crushed the Packers linebackers down the field, an adjustment that could end up being mitigated the more Morgan Burnett and Josh Jones play sub-package linebacker, but a troubling factor Capers and Co. will have to evaluate.
Week 2 was a reminder progress isn’t always linear.
That said, the injury report wound up much cleaner than the first preseason game. Jordan Tripp was evaluated for a concussion, a potential blow to linebacker depth and special teams, but nothing like the bloodbath we saw against the Eagles.
Kyler Fackrell actually did a footballs, which is new.
Brett Hundley once again shined in a prolonged preseason spot, finishing 9/10 for 107 yards and a score, including a dime to Jeff Janis for 38 yards despite terrific coverage.
And speaking of quarterbacks, Taysom Hill once again looked solid against backup players, punctuated with a 23-yard highlight reel touchdown run.
Josh Hawkins bounced back in a big spot, coming up with three passes defended and wrapping up as a tackler. With Lenzy Pipkins coming on strong, Hawkins came through against Washington’s solid core of receivers, a night that goes a long way in helping him solidify his spot on the team.
As far as preseason games go, this went about as well as can be expected for Week 2. Nothing is going to be perfect, but Packers coaches can take plenty of positives from this performance.
But like most preseason games, the flaws were obvious. McCarthy and his staff should have plenty of teaching to do in the coming weeks before the season opens Sept. 10.