Defense leads Packers past Redskins, 17-14

Probably not too many football fans felt the Green Bay Packers would be 5-1 entering their bye week, but here the Packers are with a 5-1 record thanks to an impressive defensive performance over the Washington Redskins Sunday afternoon at Lambeau Field.

The Packers forced the Redskins to commit three turnovers, including Charles Woodson's 58-yard fumble return for a touchdown in the second half, as the Packers prevailed with a 17-14 victory over the Redskins before 70,761 rain-soaked but happy fans.

The Packers now get a week off to figure out how to ignite a sluggish running game and to give their defense a much-deserved rest. The Redskins (3-2) piled up 304 yards of offense compared to Green Bay's 225 and often had better field position than the Packers, but Green Bay's defense came up with a number of big plays to keep Washington out of the end zone and win their fourth straight game against the Redskins.

"There were a number of momentum swings in that game and we just kept battling back," said Packers coach Mike McCarthy. "It was a huge character win for us. We beat a very good football team. You've got to find a way to win football games – that's the National Football League – and we did that today."

Washington had committed a total of five turnovers entering game, but the Redskins lost two fumbles and quarterback Jason Campbell, who threw for 217 yards, was intercepted once by Woodson, who enjoyed his biggest game as a Packer.

"There's nothing like getting into the end zone," said Woodson. "You know, putting six points on the board, to help you get a victory, that's what you live for."

Woodson's fumble return for a touchdown, the first in his 10-year NFL career, late in the third quarter gave the Packers a 17-14 lead. Defensive tackle Corey Williams punched the ball loose from wide receiver Santana Moss on an end-around, and Woodson quickly picked it up and out-ran Campbell to the end zone.

"We'd seen it on film a couple of times and we knew that they run that play," said Williams. "We knew it was coming. I saw the whole play develop, so the key for me was to get outside and turn it back inside. A play like that, if you're not aware of it could possibly go for a touchdown or go for a good gain. I just got outside and tried to turn it back in and split the double-team. I got between the two guards and got my hand on the ball."

The Packers had a golden opportunity to put the Redskins away when linebacker A.J. Hawk recovered Clinton Portis' fumble on the Redskins' 9 early in the fourth quarter, but Green Bay was unable to score. Favre was sacked for a 12-yard loss to the 20 and Mason Crosby's 38-yard field goal attempt bounced off the left upright and was no good.

The series summed up Green Bay's lethargic offense, which finished with 59 yards on the ground, third best total of the season, and 169 through the air.

Quarterback Brett Favre, behind a patchwork offensive line, finished with his worst passer rating of the season (43.5) after completing 19 of 37 passes for 188 yards. Two of his passes were intercepted by safety Sean Taylor, who also dropped two other Favre passes.

"We just keep finding a way to win and no doubt that's the most important thing, or aspect of this team, is finding a way to win regardless of injuries, mistakes we're making, lack of balance," said Favre, who surpassed George Blanda to become the league's all-time leader with interceptions on Taylor's first pickoff of the day.

Washington, which dominated the Packers with field position in the first half, took a 14-7 lead on Campbell's 14-yard touchdown pass to tight end Chris Cooley with 1:11 left in the second quarter. Cooley caught seven passes in the first half for 97 yards, and was often wide open in Green Bay's secondary.

The Packers were more physical with Cooley at the line of scrimmage in the second half, according to Woodson, and limited him to two catches for eight yards.

"He was a focus of ours in game-planning all week," said McCarthy of Cooley. "He had a productive first half. He had a big play before the touchdown. We just cleaned some things up and did a better job of covering him. He's a good football player. He was clearly the No. 1 target in their passing game as far as our game-planning was concerned. He's a real good player."

The Packers closed to 14-10 with 3:03 left in the third quarter on Crosby's 37-yard field goal, but a holding penalty cost Green Bay a touchdown. Right tackle Mark Tauscher was penalized for holding on defensive end Phillip Davis, and the Packers were pushed back to the Redskins' 33. Green Bay was forced to settle for a field goal attempt when Favre threw incomplete on third down. Two plays earlier Favre connected with wide receiver James Jones for an apparent touchdown, but Tauscher's holding penalty nullified the score.

The Packers played without two starters on the line due to injuries. Jason Spitz started at center for Scott Wells (eye orbit fracture) and Tony Moll played right guard for Junius Coston (ankle sprain). Starting running back DeShawn Wynn finished with 37 yards on 13 carries and backup Vernand Morency rushed four times for 11 yards.

Offense, I didn't think we weren't very sharp," McCarthy said. "We weren't in rhythm at all today. We started strong on the first two drives. On the one drive we didn't convert on third down. We had the big play to Donald on the second drive. I felt that we were sticking to the passing game and the running game is a work in progress."

Favre's 60-yard pass to tight end Donald Lee, Green Bay's longest completion of the season and Lee's longest reception of his career, keyed Wynn's 3-yard touchdown run as the Packers took a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter.

Washington responded with a 68-yard drive, spurred by Campbell's 28-yard pass to Cooley to Green Bay's 3. After Portis was stopped for a three-yard loss to the 6, Campbell scrambled into the end zone to tie the game at 7-7 with 3:43 left in the first quarter.

"We lost a major opportunity," said Campbell, who finished 21 of 37 for 217 yards. "We had all the opportunities to win the game and we didn't make the plays. Green Bay made the plays. Our defensive did an outstanding job of giving us an opportunity to score points. We need to take this game, learn from it and move on."


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