Among other things, it feels like we’re waiting to see a game where the Packers’ talent is simply too much for their opponent to handle. The Packers clearly have skilled players on both sides of the ball. There are weak points, to be sure, but in most games this season — particularly the past two weeks — it’d be hard to argue that the Packers haven’t been the better of the two teams on the field. They’ve just been flat-out outplayed.
Last year’s matchup against the Washington Football Team is a good example of what it looks like when talent wins out. Despite not playing particularly well, the Packers still rolled to a 24-10 win in their Week 6 showdown with Washington.
Wearing their all-green historic alternates for the first time, the Packers took the field on a cool fall Sunday to face quarterback Taylor Heinicke, who had taken over as Washington’s starting quarterback after a Week 1 injury landed Ryan Fitzpatrick on injured reserve.
The Packers got just about everything Heinicke could throw at them, too. Though hardly a big-armed passer, Heinicke hung tough against a hungry Packers pass rush, completing 25 of 37 passes for 268 yards and a touchdown, including a 40-yard score where Terry McLaurin took advantage of Eric Stokes’ poor ball tracking. (Related: did you know Terry McLaurin was taken one pick after Jace Sternberger? Weird how this never comes up. Yes, I’m being sarcastic.)
Heinicke also gashed the Packers on the ground, running for 95 yards on 10 carries, including a 38-yard scamper right through the heart of the Packers’ defense.
Despite the occasional play from Washington, though, the Packers’ defense held fast, twice holding Washington scoreless on trips inside the five-yard line. The Packers’ playmakers on defense showed up, too. Rashan Gary had two sacks and four quarterback hits. One of his sacks resulted in a fumble deep in Washington territory, and the Packers scored a touchdown just a few plays later.
The Packers’ defensive performance also included a couple of other minor historical nuggets. After taking over for Isaac Yiadom early the previous week, Rasul Douglas made his first start for the Packers against Washington. Also starting for the Packers that day: Kingsley Keke, who recorded 1.5 sacks. They’d turn out to be his last sacks for the Packers, as he’d end up being released after some disagreements with the Packers’ coaching staff. Finally, linebacker Jaylon Smith played 10 snaps and recorded a single tackle during what would turn out to be his final performance with the Packers.
On offense, the Packers’ overall performance was somewhat disjointed. Aaron Rodgers threw for three touchdowns (one each to Davante Adams, Allen Lazard, and Robert Tonyan), but also took three sacks. In addition, the Packers couldn’t get much going on the ground — or didn’t try. Aaron Jones led the Packers with just six rushing attempts, and AJ Dillon, Kylin Hill, and Equanimeous St. Brown combined for seven more.
The lackluster rushing performance was due in part to the fact that the Packers couldn’t regularly sustain drives. Thought they had three scoring drives of more than 70 yards, they also had four drives of three plays or less, including two that went for negative yardage. For good measure, they also allowed a blocked field goal, which was hardly an unfamiliar sight for the Packers in 2021.
But in the end, the Packers did what you’d expect them to do to a worse team: they outlasted them and won. It wasn’t their best victory of 2021, it often wasn’t pretty, but it was a win. That’s more than can be said for the 2022 version of the team, which can’t seem to get out of its own way, much less let its talented players shine.