Washington couldn't keep pace with Green Bay, but the schedule for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers is about to get a lot tougher
GREEN BAY - The Washington Football Team most assuredly has one of the qualities it’s taken to beat the Green Bay Packers during the Aaron Rodgers era.
It has as talented a front four as there is in the NFL and can get home with four pass rushers, which means it can devote a lot of players to coverage.
But it didn’t have the other: a quarterback and offense good enough to put up the points to keep pace.
So in a workmanlike affair Sunday at Lambeau Field, Rodgers added another win to the ledger in his 14 years as Packers starter, 24-10 over Taylor Heinicke and Washington.
For the record, that makes the Packers 132-64-1 (.670 winning percentage) in Rodgers’ starting career. They haven’t been as dominant this season as they were at this stage last year, and while stats aren’t always for losers, the one that stands out is that Washington outgained the Packers, 430 yards to 304, but lost handily.
“The efficiency is just not quite where it needs to be,” Rodgers said of the Packers’ offense. “But we’re 6-1, and like I said on the field to Pam (Oliver), coaches’ dream situation is winning and still being able to correct a lot of things, so they’re happy.”
The Packers at 6-1 are tied for the second-best record in the NFC and about to hit a stretch of their schedule where their opponents will have quarterbacks good enough to more than keep pace. That starts this week with a Thursday night game against Kyler Murray and unbeaten Arizona, followed by Kansas City (Patrick Mahomes), Seattle (which might have Russell Wilson back from a finger injury), Minnesota (Kirk Cousins) and the Los Angeles Rams (Matthew Stafford).
“It’s exciting,” Rodgers said. “Real good football team on a short week on the road, it’s going to be a great test for us. Feel good about where we're at at 6-1. Not many people would have expected this maybe looking at our schedule starting the season, definitely not after Week 1. So I'm proud of our guys, the way we’re playing, getting contributions from a lot of different guys who weren't necessarily on the roster, maybe to start the season or were add-ons this year.”
Maybe the most noteworthy thing about this game was Rodgers revealing afterward that he felt some soreness in his back on Saturday, then woke up Sunday morning at the team hotel with his back “all locked up.” He thanked Nate Weir, the team’s coordinator of rehabilitation, and Dr. Mike Zoelle, the team’s chiropractor, for getting to Lambeau Field early and getting him ready to play.
Rodgers also used the shoutout to air his feelings about players having to stay at a team hotel the night before home games.
“There’s an antiquated procedural thing in our league where the most important night of sleep we stay at a hotel,” he said. “I don’t want to blame it on the hotel, it’s a nice hotel. But my bed at the house that I’m sleeping in every other night of my time here in Green Bay would probably be a little better option, I think. That’s just my opinion.”
Now, the chiropractic adjustment and treatment must have been magnificent, because Rodgers didn’t even bother telling coach Matt LaFleur about his back before the game. LaFleur said the first he heard of it was when he took over at the podium in the media auditorium after Rodgers’ session with reporters.
As for whether LaFleur might change that “antiquated procedure,” well, Rodgers can pretty much bank on it not. There is no way an NFL team is going to allow its players to be anywhere but under lock and key the night before a game, home or away. Maybe LaFleur can arrange for the hotel to stock one of its rooms with the same make and model bed Rodgers has at home.
“Coach Rodgers and I will have a discussion after this I’m sure,” LaFleur quipped.
Regardless of where and how Rodgers sleeps, the Packers are hitting the meat of their schedule with a good record but still plenty to prove. The Arizona game on a short week could have important head-to-head tiebreaker implications between these two teams in January and will pit last year’s MVP (Rodgers) against the early front-runner this year (Murray).
Defending Murray, Wilson (if he plays) and Mahomes will be a lot different than playing Heinicke in this game or Chicago's Justin Fields the week before. Heinicke is a game competitor and kept his team in the game Sunday with his running (10 carries for 95 yards), but Murray, for instance, runs even better and also is a big-league passer. Same for Wilson and Mahomes. That simply isn't the case for Heinicke, whose 86.3 rating included a back-breaking interception in the corner of the end zone to Chandon Sullivan in the fourth quarter that had zero chance of being completed.
Still, the Packers’ defense at least ended its shocking streak of 15 touchdowns allowed in 15 attempts to start the season. It got stops on all four red-zone attempts Sunday, though it got help with two shaky replay decisions on back-to-back goal line runs by Heinicke that probably should have been touchdowns, plus a potential touchdown pass that hit receiver Terry McLaurin in the facemask and caromed away uncaught.
Now comes the hard part, though. Can the Packers get a red-zone stop or two against the likes of Murray?