Last year, the Redskins went into New Orleans armed with an offensive game plan that the Saints didn’t know was coming. Robert Griffin III and his offensive teammates ambushed the Saints, who had won 13 games and the NFC South the year before, and walked out with an impressive 40-32 win.
On Sunday, the Redskins go to Green Bay to meet the Packers, who won 11 games in 2012 and took the NFC North. Can they do to the Packers what they did to the Saints?
Yes, it’s the second game of the season and not the opener. And it’s the second year of playing with Griffin at quarterback and despite the issues with his surgically repaired knee, there should still be many of the Pistol formation and read option elements present.
But the Redskins almost certainly retooled their offense between the playoff loss to the Seahawks in the playoffs and the season opener against the Eagles since they need to stay a step ahead of defenses that studied all season to try to stop their attack. And, as Kyle Shanahan told us, they didn’t show much of that new offense against the Eagles.
The Redskins managed to run just 24 plays before they were down 33-7. “No, we really never got to do our game plan, to tell you the truth,” the team’s offensive coordinator said. “We had some stuff in there early, but it wasn’t just that that we didn’t get to do, we didn’t get to do about 90 percent of our game plan. It turned into a two-minute drill pretty fast.”
If the Redskins can avoid a start similar to the fumble-interception-safety fiasco they had on Monday, they should be able to utilize their offensive game plan, one that was kept under wraps against the Eagles.
It won’t be the exact same plan, of course. But both the Eagles and the Packers run 3-4 defenses so there will be elements that will be the same.
And regardless, whatever tweaks and wrinkles that Kyle and Mike Shanahan and the rest of the offense came up with over the spring and summer almost certainly remained under wraps. So the Packers haven’t seen them yet.
Football games are decided by players and no nifty X’s and O’s will help if Griffin is still working his way through adjusting to his reconstructed knee. But if Griffin can operate at close to the efficiency he did a year ago, the Redskins could surprise a Packers defense that gave up over 400 yards passing to Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers last week.
This week’s other key factors:
—Rodgers was sacked 51 times last year and twice against the 49ers last week. Brian Orakpo will be going up against left tackle David Bakhtiari for much of the day. He is a rookie who the Packers drafted in the fourth round. That could provide an opportunity for Orakpo to get after Rodgers some although Bakhtiari did do a good job pass blocking last week.
—Clay Matthews will try to get after Griffin. Trent Williams will be his primary matchup and you have to like the Redskins’ chances in that battle. Matthews may beat Williams a time or two but he shouldn’t be a constant presence in Griffin’s face. Besides Matthews there isn’t another big-time pass rushing threat. Mathews had 13 last year; next hightest total belonged to Mike Neal with 4.5.
—The Packers have won 29 of their last 31 games at Lambeau Field. The have lost three in a row to the new-generation mobile quarterbacks (four if you count Andrew Luck, who can scramble and run some). We’ll have to see if the mobile QB thing outweighs the home field thing.
This is a tall task for the Redskins. Rodgers is simply one of the best in the business and he could feast on a Redskins secondary that is still finding its way. If the Redskins can score in the mid 30’s somewhere they have a good shot. But I don’t think they will.
Packers 31, Redskins 21