Redskins.com's Brian Tinsman takes a closer look at Sunday afternoon's regular season game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field:
After a disappointing Week 1 for both teams, the Washington Redskins and Green Bay Packers each entered today's game needing to avoid the dreaded 0-2 start. Both teams are coming off division championships in 2012 and have high expectations for 2013.
Only two Super Bowl winners have ever come back from an 0-2 start for the season.
But it would be no easy road for the Redskins, who have not beaten the Packers in Green Bay since 1988. Only 38 members of the Redskins' 53-man roster were alive the last time that happened.
The Packers have also lost only two of their last 28 home games, making it one of the best home-field advantages in the NFL.
But as Robert Griffin III noted this week, pointing out such things is making excuses, and this is a team that has created the expectation of victory. No excuses.
The turning point of the game appeared to come with the loss of safety Brandon Meriweather in the second quarter. With him out of the lineup, the Redskins defense gave up a ghastly 619 total yards, six scoring drives and a whopping 480 yards and four touchdowns through the air. It is hard to pin all of the problems on the loss of No. 31, but he clearly serves as a tone-setter on this defense, which looked lost without him.
PLAY OF THE GAME
The Redskins play of the game goes to Pierre Garçon, who caught a pass inside the 5-yard line in the third, running toward the pylon and needing to make a play. Gaining possession, he switch hands and held the ball out toward the pylon, sweeping it over for the team's first touchdown of the game. This team has developed into one of the best late-game teams in the NFL and the Redskins used this score to kick-start another offensive barrage.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
It wasn't nearly enough to put the Redskins back in the game, but top receiver Pierre Garçon had his biggest game yet in Washington, catching seven passes for 138 yard and the team's first touchdown of the day. This has been a long time coming for No. 88, who exploded out of the gate last year, but was hobbled by a debilitating toe injury that plagued his season. Looking and feeling healthy this year, Garçon is threat from anywhere on the field and kept the passing offense alive.
Redskins outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan continued his amazing start today, collecting two sacks in the early going to put the Packers offense out of sync. It wouldn't last, but that doesn't diminish his performance. So far this season, Kerrigan has 11 tackles, three sacks and a forced fumble. It doesn't get much better than that.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
--Tragically lost in the blowout loss was the fact that Redskins running back Alfred Morris got back on track this week in a big way, twice rushing for 32 yards, which ties as the second-longest rushes of his career. Morris had a dismal season opener last week, but turned it around for his eighth career 100-yard game. He was the Redskins rare consistent offensive weapon today, rumbling 13 times for 107 yards and catching two passes for 13 yards. His 8.2 yards per carry was easily a career high. This is the Alfred Morris that the Redskins will need to turn around a disappointing start to the season.
--The first-quarter pass rush. Whether by sending the front four or loading up with safety blitz, the Redskins kept Rodgers on his toes in the early going, forcing three errant passes and collecting three sacks right out of the gate. Outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan continued his outstanding start to the season with consecutive sacks on the first drive of the game, and fellow 'backer Brian Orakpo joined in the fun on the next drive. The Redskins collected three sacks in the first quarter of a game for the first time since October 18, 2009.
--Displaying a reckless dominance characteristic of his play so far in Washington, safety Brandon Meriweather returned to the field this afternoon and made an immediate impact on the game. On Packers rookie running back Eddie Lacy's first carry of the game, he bulldozed his way for 10 yards before making the ill-fated choice to hurdle a defender. Meriweather met him in the air and hit him hard and legally, in a play that resulted in Lacy's removal from the game. Several plays later, Meriweather came on the blitz and forced a key incompletion by Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. It would not all be good, however. More below.
--He was joined by a receiver corps that once again woke up in the fourth quarter, with Leonard Hankerson, Santana Moss, tight end Jordan Reed and Aldrick Robinson starting to pick it up. This team has been one of the best offensive teams in football in the fourth quarter this season, but the team digs holes too deep to escape in the first three quarters.
WHAT WENT WRONG
--In a déjà vu scenario, Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather made his much-anticipated debut today after an ACL injury limited him to just 37 plays in 2013. He made an immediate impact, collecting four tackles and a quarterback pressure, imposing a breath-taking hit on running back Eddie Lacy that removed him from the game. In an ugly play later in the first half, Meriweather met Starks down the sideline on a 20-yard gain, and Starks drilled him, legally, in the helmet, knocking him to the ground. As Meriweather lay there motionless, Starks and tight end Jermichael Finley celebrated the play, before realizing the severity of the injury. Meriweather was attended to by the training staff and removed from the game with a concussion. Not a good sequence for the Redskins, and not a classy move by the Packers.
--With Meriweather out of the lineup, the Redskins defense struggled to do anything effectively. The Packers scored 24 points in the first 23 minutes, letting the Packers move the ball at will converting 50 percent of their third downs and one fourth down conversion in the early goings. Midway through the second quarter, the Packers had a 100-yard receiver in James Jones. The Packers offense was averaging 10 yards per play and had nearly 400 total yards by halftime. Celebrating homecoming weekend today, the Packers threw for 400 yards and had a 100-yard rusher for the first time in franchise history. All-in-all, it was a nightmare scenario for the Redskins, who could not get the defense off the field.
--The Redskins struggled to move the ball through the air in the first half as well, with Robert Griffin III completing only six-of-13 passes for 107 yards. He showed good awareness at times, getting pressured from behind and rolling out and showing comfort throwing on the run. The problem was frequently on the receiving end, where some combination of good defense, slick conditions, errant passing and poor receiving led to a number of passes that bounced off hands incomplete. Or worse yet, the passes bounced up in the air and were intercepted, as in the case of the team's attempt to convert on 4th-and-5 deep in Packers territory.
--Redskins special teams struggled with the rest of the team today, as punter Sav Rocca has shown a distinct power outage so far this season. Still managing to down two short punts at the 10-yard line, Rocca booted two punts short and out-of-bounds, setting the Packers up with short fields. The unit also reflected the frustration from the Redskins sidelines, as tight end Niles Paul drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for scrapping after a play. Long snapper Nick Sundberg was flagged for holding and unsportsmanlike conduct on another play. Each of these lapses in judgment cost the Redskins field position, spoiling the two kicks fair caught at the 10-yard line.
--This game may not have boiled down to field goals, but the Redskins clearly suffered without Kai Forbath (groin), as the coaching staff lacked faith in kicker John Potter's accuracy on field goals. In two situations where the team was in long field goal range in the first half, the team instead elected to punt and then go for it on 4th-and-5, both times with frustrating results. With nothing to lose in the second half, the Redskins finally called in Potter for a 50-yard attempt, which he pushed wide right. This team needs a healthy Kai Forbath back as soon as possible.
It wasn't pretty out there.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers became the first quarterback since Y.A. Tittle in 1962 to throw for 480 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. This was a historic offensive day for the Packers and a historically disappointing day for the Washington Redskins.
Redskins receiver Pierre Garcon on starting games slowly:
"We've got to start the game off as if we're down 14 - zip or something."
Coming into the season with high expectations, the Washington Redskins are reeling after back-to-back losses have the team with their backs to the wall early. They return to the friendly confines of FedExField this week, but the path gets no easier as the Detroit Lions come to town looking to keep pace with the Packers. If the Redskins want to regain momentum and defend their 2012 NFC East Championship, this game figures to be a must-win.
The Redskins proved this week that momentum is fictitious in the NFL, as a strong fourth quarter in one game does not mean smooth sailing ahead.
For the second-consecutive week, the team came out flat, playing hard on defense but fading while the offense is forced to come alive late.
There is no question that this team possesses passion and determination, twice now battling back from sizable deficits to make the game interesting. But the Redskins 2013 schedule is not conducive to a team that can't keep pace with the other team.
Moving forward, the Redskins need to address major issues in the passing game on both sides of the ball. Aaron Rodgers is one of the best in the business, but the team is trending in the wrong direction, and looks lost at times.
With only two games in the books, there is still plenty of time for a very talented team to turn things around. However, having been outscored 71-47, this is clearly a start that no one expected.