While the pass rush has a strong showing, the secondary was the most impactful group of the team in this game, no contest.
Washington came in with a deadly array of weapons for their quarterback to target.
DeSean Jackson is a premiere deep threat in the league. Pierre Garcon is an underrated and reliable possession receiver. Jordan Reed is low-key one of the top tight ends in the league — and definitely one of the more dynamic receivers at that position.
That’s clearly a strong group, and it shows in the advanced stats.
Going by DVOA rankings, Washington came away with the 12th-best offense on the season. With the running game being mostly terrible (#32 in Run Offense DVOA), that success is almost entirely built upon their successes in the passing game (#6 in Pass Offense DVOA).
Green Bay appeared like they might be able to match up decently well against this strength coming in, however.
Their defense has been the strength of the team all season, staying pretty consistent during that time despite the struggles of their usually-potent offense counterparts; they were ranked #9 in Defensive DVOA on the season.
While they did manage to slow down a number of key runners on the season — helping to shed the perception of them being susceptible to opposing run games — it was the pass defense where they really made their impact known best.
Despite a young secondary that had lost key pieces in the offseason (namely Tramon Williams and Davon House), seen key members miss time with injury (most notably, Sam Shields being out since early in the Dallas contest), and giving inexperienced players a large number of snaps (Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins), Green Bay was still able to put together what eventually ended as the #6 Pass Defense by DVOA in the league.
So, we had a veritable matchup of strengths coming together here: Washington’s pass catchers versus Green Bay’s secondary.
For the most part, Green Bay won that matchup pretty handily.
Though Jordan Reed had quite a strong day (9 receptions, 120 yards, 1 TD), the rest of the group didn’t have nearly the expected impact for Washington.
Players like Garcon (5 catch, 70 yards) and Thompson (8 catches, 89 yards) had stats, but those mostly ended up not amounting to much due to game situation; beyond them, there was only 7 catches for 50 yards for which to account.
Those stats include what DeSean Jackson added to the game (2 catches, 17 yards; includes his overturned-TD), who was undoubtedly expected to be able to open things up either with some deep plays or at least the threat of them.
Green Bay’s secondary, on the other hand, was mostly excellent all game, even without Sam Shields.
Going by Pro Football Focus’s ratings from the contest, key players such as Casey Hayward (+3.2), Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (+3.5), and Quinten Rollins (+2.0) all received positive grades for the afternoon — three of the highest on the team for the game.
Damarious Randall stayed pretty consistent, being a big part of why Jackson had a mostly-poor showing. Even little-used undrafted rookie LaDarius Gunter (who had to step in after an injury to Rollins) got in with some positive results.
Really, the only player in the secondary who didn’t have a particularly good showing was Micah Hyde (-2.6 rating by Pro Football Focus); he also had the unenviable task of covering Jordan Reed most of the day, so most of his struggles can be attributed to that fact.
Adding to the positives by this group: there were 7 passes defensed by the group at the end of the day — which included multiple dropped interceptions that could have made the performance even more noteworthy.
The secondary was the biggest key to this game — matching up against the biggest strength of the entire Washington team — and they came through in a major way for the Packers.
Without the superb game from them, Green Bay would have had a much more difficult time managing to take this game.
If the Packers are to win next week against Arizona (owners of the #3 Pass Offense DVOA in the league), we’ll need to see a similarly excellent showing from them this weekend.