|Redskins' defense poses tough test for pass-happy Packers|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 11 October 2007 12:00|
Going into Sunday's game against the Washington Redskins at Lambeau Field, the Packers (4-1) lead the league with an average of 294.6 yards passing per game. They're also the league's second-worst rushing team, and Favre's downfield accuracy isn't quite what it used to be.
It doesn't take a week in the video vault to figure out that the Packers plan to dissect defenses with quick, short passes that lead to long runs after the catch - ``dinking and dunking,'' as Favre calls it.
So why, with the exception of the Chicago Bears' performance in their second-half comeback Sunday night, has nobody been able to stop it in recent weeks?
Tight end Bubba Franks said the Packers don't need the element of surprise to move the ball.
``They know what's coming,'' Franks said. ``But can you run your offense better than they can run their defense? Even though they do know it's coming, we just have to go out and execute. It's hard to stop when everybody's clicking.''
But despite a hot start against an early schedule that featured four playoff teams from last season, Packers coach Mike McCarthy said the Redskins (3-1) will be ``the best team that we've played to date.''
``I think their defense in general is playing by far the best football we've seen up to this point,'' Favre said. ``It's not a knock against the teams we've played. But they really haven't had injuries, they have a lot of veterans, they have high picks and everything that they did from an organization standpoint, defensively speaking, is kind of coming into place.''
The Redskins faced another pass-happy NFC North team last week and stopped it cold.
Washington held the Detroit Lions and mad-scientist offensive coordinator Mike Martz to a measly field goal in a 34-3 romp last Sunday. The Lions gained only 144 yards, the fewest allowed by the Redskins since 1992.
And the Redskins stopped the Lions without using a bunch of blitzes, a curveball from aggressive assistant coach Gregg Williams.
``Now that's not to say he won't roll the dice against us,'' Favre said. ``But against a very high-powered offense in Detroit, they played as vanilla as you can play and never gave up anything. And when you can do that and get pressure with the front four, it sure makes it a whole lot easier to call a game. He's presented problems to us in the past with his exotic blitzes and things of that nature; that would pose a threat to us again. But why do it if you don't have to?''
Favre, who will break a tie with George Blanda and become the league's all-time interception king with his next pick, has earned rave reviews for being more careful this year.
He has thrown only four interceptions, and only one true head-scratcher: a lob to Brian Urlacher that helped the Bears mount a second-half comeback on Sunday. But Redskins safety Carlos Rogers has seen more balls that were there for the taking.
``He's still throwing them out there,'' Rogers said. ``He's still letting his guys try to make a play, and the ball's been loose. The guys haven't put their hands on them. We've got to show him different looks, but when the opportunity comes, take advantage of it.''
The Redskins could be without a pair of key players on Sunday, linebacker Marcus Washington (hamstring) and defensive end Phillip Daniels (shoulder).
Although the Packers' dormant running game did show some signs of improvement last Sunday, there's no reason to expect a quantum leap this week, particularly with center Scott Wells sidelined because of a broken bone near his eye.
But the Packers always can add wrinkles to their passing game.
``We have a lot more offense we haven't showed yet,'' Franks said. ``I don't think we've had to show it up to this point. We still have a lot more offense out there, and it's exciting, because you kind of run the same plays over and over and they're working right now. When they stop working, we can open up the rest of our offense.''
The Packers have a pretty stout defense of their own, a challenge to third-year Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell.
``Our defensive coaches were the first ones that told us, 'Hey, when you get to the Packers, you're going to have a problem,''' Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said.
Campbell, a Mississippi kid who grew up admiring Favre, is coming into his own as a starter and is coming off perhaps the best game yet of his career. After starting seven times last season, Campbell said the game is slowing down ``tremendously'' as he gains experience.
``I'm excited about the progress,'' Campbell said. ``At the same time, every time, you can't get too high on yourself, you can't get too low on yourself or you make mistakes.''
Campbell should get wide receiver Santana Moss back after he missed the Detroit game with a groin injury, but Antwaan Randle El (hamstring) could miss a game for the first time in his NFL career.
Gibbs praised Campbell's decision-making, saying the kid knows when to try to make a big play and when to throw it away.
``I felt like that was the best thing he did, and I felt like that was probably his best game since he's started for us,'' Gibbs said. ``He's young at quarterback, we know that, but I felt like he made some real good decisions. And many times your quarterback, the best decision he makes is when it's not there, when he chooses to do the smart thing.''
AP Sports Writer Joseph White contributed to this report from Ashburn, Va.