By Paul Tenorio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 11, 2010; 12:45 AM
Sitting back in a two-high safety formation with responsibility for half the field, Landry watched it unfold again with just more than 12 minutes remaining in overtime. Packers wideout Greg Jennings ran across his face.
When Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers turned that way, Landry did what he believes this defense allows him to do best - he reacted.
As he broke into a sprint toward Jennings, Landry said he knew one of two things would happen: "He would have either caught the ball and I'd make a hit," Landry said. "Or [I'd break] on the ball and make an interception."
It was the latter. Landry reached behind his body to make the key interception that set up the winning field goal in the Redskins' 16-13 overtime win.
It was yet another play in a season that has showcased a rejuvenated Landry, who has thrived perhaps more than any other player in the new 3-4 defense.
"Really I don't even think about last year," said Landry, who was roundly criticized after struggling at free safety last season. "Last year is non-existent to me. But as far as this year . . . this defense fits me well, enables me to fly around and play my style of play, what I like to do."
Landry made his first impact in the first quarter, on the second play from scrimmage. He hit tight end Donald Lee after a 17-yard reception, forcing a fumble that was recovered by safety Kareem Moore.
It was Moore's third consecutive game with a takeaway - the first Redskins player to do that since the late Sean Taylor in 2007.
"It was a boot and I just read him," Landry said. "I saw Aaron Rodgers looking at him the whole time. I had the deep half but I saw the crossing route and I just broke on it."
The two turnovers were an indication of Landry's newfound effectiveness as well as the defense's emphasis on coming up with them, which the team made a priority in the offseason.
Defensive players practiced stripping the ball throughout the offseason. And players said there was a strong emphasis on making the game-changing types of plays the unit had lacked - even when it was among the league's top defenses.
Landry's interception was the second time this season the defense turned in the key play of the game. In the season opener, DeAngelo Hall's 32-yard fumble return for a touchdown proved to be the winning score.
The Redskins ranked last in the NFL in takeaways last season with 17 (11 interceptions, six fumble recoveries). This season Washington already has eight (four interceptions, four fumble recoveries).
"I think it's more maturity than mentality," linebacker Chris Wilson said of the change. "Because I think everyone wants to make plays, but you got a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers, you think he's going to pass you the ball? He's not going to do it. You've got to find that little half a step. And that's what Landry did. If you go back and look at the tape he was driving at that ball as hard as he could and the ball was still almost uncatchable.
"So it's just that little bit of knowledge, that little bit of football intuition, so to speak, and just guys maturing."
Landry said that throughout the game he believed he was going to make a play that might change the tide of the contest. Sitting in one-on-one coverage in the slot for much of the afternoon, he hoped Rodgers would test his ability.
Instead, Landry said, the effectiveness of Pro Bowler Brian Orakpo and the Redskins rush prevented him from having an opportunity until overtime, when he was back in the deep zone - the same area where he received so much criticism last season.
"It feels great, but that's what I'm here to do, make turnovers," Landry said. "And as defenders that's our job, to make turnovers and make big plays and put the offense in a great position."