Alex Smith opportunities to take shots downfield had been rare this season.
The Washington Redskins’ first two opponents limited the deep passing game, so Smith was forced into checkdowns and other short passes. But against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, Smith meticulously executed an aggressive game plan in the Redskins’ 31-17 victory. The quarterback completed 12 of 20 passes for 220 yards and two touchdowns .
“I thought there were good looks,” Smith said. “You never know when the opportunities will present themselves. I think that’s what you work all week for, to identify them and pull the trigger and hit them when they are there.”
Sunday was the first time the Redskins showcased their ability to make big plays, one game after Smith and the offense displayed little aggressiveness in a 21-9 loss to Indianapolis. Smith himself wondered whether he could have held on to some passes longer against the Colts, waiting just a moment for things to open up downfield.
“We’ve been trying to get some of those going,” Redskins Coach Jay Gruden said. “Jamison [Crowder] had some big plays, Jordan [Reed] had a couple big plays, Vernon [Davis] had a big play, and that’s what we try to do. Distribute the ball to the open guy, and Alex did an excellent job.”
The aggressive mind-set was clear from the start against the Packers, who came into the contest ranked 26th in the NFL in pass defense. On the game’s fourth play, Smith connected with Paul Richardson Jr. on a deep route that produced a 46-yard touchdown. Two Packers defensive backs running with Richardson got tangled up and fell behind the wide receiver.
Richardson, whom the Redskins acquired in free agency to be a speedy target who could take the top off defenses, had not put his abilities on display until Sunday. He previously had eight receptions for 85 yards.
“I think we had a real good strong [first] half,” Richardson said. “I think we came out and executed. Jay [Gruden] wanted to be aggressive early, and it worked for it. It was good for us to jump out on the team like that early. We’ve got to carry it over, though. We’ve got to be able to finish those games.”
The Redskins amassed 323 yards of total offense in the first half but produced only 63 in the second half as they looked to protect the lead against star quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay. Smith said he didn’t think there was any change of mind-set in the second half, instead saying that the Packers “countered well.”
“We had a great mix going,” Smith said. “I thought we had them on their heels in the first half.”
In addition to Richardson, tight ends Davis and Reed were on the receiving end of some of the team’s bigger passing plays. Davis had two catches for 70 yards, including a 50-yarder from Smith with less than two minutes to go in the first half that set up a two-yard touchdown run from Adrian Peterson. Reed had four catches for 65 yards.
“That’s just how it goes,” Davis said. “You want to be able to respond according to how they are responding to you.”
To go along with the dynamic plays down the field, Smith also cut loose on the ground. Facing third and eight at the Green Bay 17-yard line in the second quarter, Smith escaped the pocket and rolled to his left, beating a defender to the sideline as he tiptoed to a Redskins first down. On the next play, Smith tossed a nine-yard touchdown throw to wide receiver Jamison Crowder, who split two defenders in the end zone and gave Washington a 21-3 lead with 4:26 left in the half.
“It’s kind of hidden yardage as far as we talk about with the quarterback running,” Smith said. “You love to be able to make them pay when they are locked in and playing man [coverage]. . . . Just make a play with your feet.”