As the Packers left the field in Washington after their 28-14 win Sunday, both sides of the ball could be proud of the part they played in getting to the bye week with a .500 record.
Throughout the length of Green Bay's winning streak, which now stands at three games, coordinator Bob Slowik's defense has played well. Sunday was no different, with the Green and Gold turning in a solid defensive performance across the board.
From the play of the defensive line, which produced constant pressure on quarterback Mark Brunell, to the linebackers who helped to hold the Redskins to just 81 rushing yards, to the secondary providing solid pass coverage and two interceptions, their was no weak link in the Packers chain of defense.
Coming into the game, one key for the Packers had to be holding the dangerous Washington running back, Clinton Portis, in check. They did just that for the most part, limiting the runner to 70 yards, improving their 2004 record to 4-1 when they don't allow a 100-yard rusher.
Linebacker Na'il Diggs led the Packers with seven tackles on the afternoon. Six of those seven stops were earned bringing down Portis, including twice stopping the running back before he could make much out of screen passes.
The defense matched their season-high in sacks, dropping Brunell for a loss four times in the 48 times he dropped back to pass. Cornerback Ahmad Carroll joined defensive linemen Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, Cullen Jenkins and Aaron Kampman in sacking the quarterback.
Brunell was frequently under pressure in the pocket, leading to many less than accurate throws by the veteran signal-caller. Jenkins, Cletidus Hunt and Grady Jackson provided good pressure from the middle of the line, helping the outside pass rush and contributing to errant throws like the one picked off by Bhawoh Jue in the second quarter.
Jue, starting at free safety in place of Darren Sharper who sprained his knee last week, picked off a Brunell pass to chalk up his first interception since his rookie season in 2001. The interception was not to be his only big play of the day, however, as he alertly jumped on top of the second half kickoff as the Redskins tried to catch the Packers off guard with an onside kick trailing 17-7.
The biggest play of the day was saved for last, though, as Al Harris - whose availability had been questionable all week after spraining a knee himself last Sunday - turned in probably the Pack's biggest defensive play of the season to date.
After receiving a reprieve in the form of an illegal motion penalty called against the home team to negate a go-ahead touchdown with less than three minutes to play, Harris jumped in front of a Brunell pass intended for Rod Gardner for an interception to virtually seal the victory.
The interception was Harris' first of the season and his first since ending the Packers' playoff defeat of the Seattle Seahawks with a 52-yard interception return in overtime last January.
The Packers, especially their defense, have made a tremendous turnaround to what began at 1-4 as a season to forget. After three straight wins, Green Bay now has two weeks to heal physically and prepare for a mid-season NFC North clash with the Minnesota Vikings.
If this defense can continue their recent run of form, look for the Packers to continue their winning ways and make 2004 a season to remember.