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Game notes: Defense more dominant than stats suggest

Posted Sep 15, 2013

Josh Sitton helps pave way for James Starks


GREEN BAY—Statistically, Sunday won’t go down as a great day for the Packers defense, but the final numbers don’t explain the tone Green Bay’s defense set early on in the 38-20 victory over Washington at Lambeau Field.

The Redskins finished with 422 yards, and quarterback Robert Griffin III threw for 320, but as the Packers built a 24-0 halftime lead, the Redskins didn’t get more than four snaps in a possession the first four times they had the ball.

One of those was a three-and-out and on the other three Washington moved the chains on its first snap of the drive, only to go three-and-out from there. By the time tight end Jermichael Finley caught a 3-yard TD pass midway through the second quarter, the Packers led 24-0 and the Redskins had just 92 yards of total offense.

“We did a good job on those,” outside linebacker Clay Matthews said of forcing four straight punts early. “We were getting after the quarterback a little bit, forcing some short passes and rallying up, but obviously the score speaks for itself. We feel good about it.”

Notable plays were being turned in by multiple defenders. Ryan Pickett and Nick Perry deflected passes at the line of scrimmage, while Matthews, B.J. Raji and A.J. Hawk combined on a hit that took Griffin’s helmet off one of the few times he tried to run. Redskins running back Alfred Morris, who finished with 13 carries for 107 yards, was held to just 12 yards on his first five attempts.

The Packers kept the Redskins shut out through the first half with the help of a sack by Davon House, who filled in temporarily for Sam Shields (calf cramp) and got to Griffin on a corner blitz. Three plays later, trying to convert on fourth-and-5, Griffin’s pass bounced off the hands of Josh Morgan, and lineman-turned-linebacker Mike Neal snagged the deflection for his first career interception.

“I played tight end and wide receiver in high school, so it was pretty cool to get my hands on the ball,” Neal said.

In addition to getting some quality snaps from House, the secondary also used rookie safety Chris Banjo more, as he shared playing time with Jerron McMillian. The secondary was without starting safety Morgan Burnett and nickel corner Casey Hayward, while veteran reserve corner Jarrett Bush also sat out. All have hamstring injuries.

Fighting through it: Packers left guard Josh Sitton shook off a bothersome back to play on Sunday, and he looked no worse for the wear, particularly when he bulldozed his man on James Starks’ 32-yard TD run in the third quarter.

“That’s fun, man. That’s our version of playmaking, you know,” Sitton said. “To execute a really good block, that’s our playmaking. It doesn’t show up on the stats, but we know we did it, and it’s fun.”

The Packers offensive line looked a little shaky early, giving up back-to-back sacks of quarterback Aaron Rodgers that forced the offense to settle for a field goal on the opening drive. Rodgers went down a third time on the first play of the Packers’ second possession.

But he was sacked just once more the rest of the day on his way to a franchise record-tying 480 yards passing.

“We had a good day. We had some adversity early, a couple sacks early, but we bounced back from it,” Sitton said. “There have been times around here where we haven’t bounced back from starts like that.

“There’s been times we’ve gotten good leads and let up, and we didn’t do that today. I’m proud of everybody for staying on it. We played a good four quarters.”

Getting loud: Sunday marked the regular-season debut of Lambeau Field’s new South End Zone, also known as “The Wall,” and players said they noticed an increase in volume right away.

“I could definitely tell,” receiver Randall Cobb said. “The opening drive for the defense, the whole first quarter they were really amped up. I think that addition to the stadium brought a lot more.”

The Packers set a new Lambeau Field attendance record on Sunday with 78,020 fans, but that likely won’t stand long. The stadium’s new capacity is listed as 80,750.

“Obviously, the Packers crowd is always good, but the extra seats truly help out, and the closed end,” cornerback Tramon Williams said. “Hopefully, the crowd will keep bringing it like they did today.”

Injury update: The only injuries the Packers reported from the game were to running backs Eddie Lacy (concussion) and John Kuhn (hamstring).

Regarding Burnett (hamstring), Mike McCarthy indicated he isn’t sure if Burnett will be able to return for the Week 3 trip to Cincinnati.

Complete game coverage

 
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