Bottom Line: Packers' Front Four Ends on Top
Monday, October 15, 2007
GREEN BAY, Wis., Oct. 14 -- Cullen Jenkins watched in delight as the Washington Redskins' offense gradually came undone Sunday. The Packers' defensive end could hear the bickering between members of the Redskins' makeshift line. He could see quarterback Jason Campbell rise from the ground ever more slowly.
Jenkins watched it all unfold, knowing he and his teammates were achieving possibly their most important objective of the day. "We pride ourselves in our rushing," he said. "We felt we did a pretty good job of getting them frustrated. When that happens, it just adds fuel to the fire."
Led by Jenkins and fellow defensive end Aaron Kampman, the Packers' defensive front four established a consistent presence in the Redskins' backfield. Though usually rushing only four men, the Packers' defense had three sacks, recovered two fumbles and had an interception.
Green Bay capitalized on a Redskins offensive line that was decimated by injuries before the game even began. Jason Fabini started at right guard for Randy Thomas, who was inactive because of a torn triceps. Right tackle Todd Wade left the game midway through the second quarter with a groin injury. Center Casey Rabach suffered the same fate near the end of the third quarter.
Despite all the injuries to the Redskins' offensive line, Kampman said it was not until the second half that he and his cohorts got into a groove. "We felt like we were getting [to the quarterback] a half-second late in the first half," he said. "We knew eventually the tide would turn in our favor."
Kampman, who recorded two of the Packers' three sacks, said Redskins rookie Stephon Heyer received significant help from the tight end throughout the second half after Heyer entered the game at right tackle to replace Wade. "It was a good situation," Kampman said with a broad smile.
Just more than two minutes into the third quarter, Heyer was penalized for illegal formation, negating an eight-yard reception by wide receiver Brandon Lloyd that would have put the Redskins close to a first down. Washington punted two plays later.
Heyer left the game in the fourth quarter with an injury, which only added to the advantage held by the Packers' line. "We started getting a little more comfortable later on," Jenkins said. "We were a little more relaxed and just doing what we do."
What the Packers' front four did was shut down Washington's running game in the second half and force the Redskins into more third-and-long situations.
Defensive tackle Ryan Pickett said Washington controlled the line of scrimmage too easily in the first half, which allowed the Redskins to run more play-action passes. At halftime, Pickett said the defensive line was disappointed with its performance and made stopping the run a priority for the second half.
The Packers subsequently shrank the pocket around Campbell. "It's tough for anybody to handle our pressure," Pickett said. "Most teams in the NFL don't want to be in third and long against us. It's a tough position for any team to be in against us."
Campbell opened the Redskins' penultimate possession by recovering his own fumble and losing five yards in the process. On second down, a pass to running back Clinton Portis was stopped for a loss of four. Campbell operated out of the shotgun on third and 19 but was sacked for a three-yard loss.
Each time, the Packers rushed just their front four. Each time, Kampman was responsible for the takedown.
"We pride ourselves in not needing to blitz a lot and just getting in there with four," said Kampman, who recorded five of his eight tackles and both of his sacks on the Redskins' final two possessions. "We did that today."
Washington amassed 304 total yards, but only 96 were in the second half. The Redskins were held to 94 total yards on the ground, led by Portis with 64 on 20 carries.
Wade reentered the game on Washington's final drive after Heyer was injured, but by then the Redskins' offensive line was too decimated to make a definitive march down the field.
"They had some injuries, and we tried to take advantage of that," Kampman said. "It worked out pretty well."