Redskins ride first-half offensive outburst to upset win over Packers

LANDOVER, Maryland -- They did what they wanted, whether running or throwing. A week ago, the Washington Redskins did the opposite. And that's why on Sunday, they feel the opposite of how they did a week ago.

The Redskins' offensive outburst lasted only one half; the defense had to carry them in the second half. Still, a 28-point first half was all they needed in a 31-17 win over Green Bay. They even received runs from Adrian Peterson reminiscent of his old days, enabling him to finish with 120 yards on 19 carries. It’s his ninth career 100-yard game vs. Green Bay, and it followed a 20-yard outing by Peterson in a nine-point showing by the offense.

“We had them on their heels in the first half,” said Redskins quarterback Alex Smith, who threw for 214 of his 220 yards in the first half. “They didn’t have a very good beat on what we were doing, run and pass. It was fun, when you’re playing that like that and rolling offensively.”

More importantly for the Redskins, the win gave them a huge confidence boost heading into the bye week with a 2-1 record.

The Redskins felt confident throughout the week for a couple of reasons. They liked that Green Bay plays a 3-4 defense and uses some looks similar to the Redskins’ defense, so the offense was well-versed in blocking against that scheme. The Packers also didn’t provide the movement and slanting of the Colts’ defensive line that bothered the Redskins' offensive line a week earlier. That enabled a line that was starting a new center in Tony Bergstrom, had Chase Roullier shifting from center to guard and had starting right tackle Morgan Moses leaving with a concussion to do well enough.

One caveat: For a third straight week, the Redskins were facing a team with a new defensive coordinator. Mike Pettine has a history that they studied, but he also showed a lot of looks in the Packers' first two games. But the Redskins knew it would allow them more opportunities -- whether in the run game, versus favorable looks, or in the pass game with more one-on-one situations. They did not get as many of those in the first two weeks. That’s a key reason the Redskins had three pass plays of at least 34 yards.

“That’s what you want,” said Redskins tight end Vernon Davis. “When we played the Colts and Arizona, they didn’t come up on us. Whenever you get guys up, that’s when we can get vertical. We want them to come up and press you. So they did it and we took advantage.”

That’s why they were more aggressive going down the field. It wasn’t because they didn’t do it last week; it was because they received better matchups on the outside to be aggressive with more man coverages. The result was a 28-point first half, including a 98-yard drive.

That drive, and the ensuing one, summed up the first-half success. On the 98-yard drive, Smith connected with tight end Jordan Reed, finding a soft spot in the zone behind the linebackers. He turned and ran for a 34-yard gain. On the next play, out of a three-tight-end set, Peterson flashed back to 2012: He used vision and quick cuts to run 41 yards. It’s what they didn’t get a week ago. What they also didn't get then: any positive vibes. On Sunday, they exited with a lot of them.

Because of their ability to run, they also took shots down the field. In the first two games, Smith attempted only three passes that traveled more than 20 yards in the air. But he added to that total on the first series of the game with a 46-yard touchdown pass to receiver Paul Richardson. He was signed in the offseason for his speed and even though Green Bay doubled him on the play, Smith led him to an open area for a score.

“It was a point of emphasis, we need to go down the field,” Richardson said.