Redskins train sights on Favre, Packers

League's No. 1 defense prepares for No. 2 offense

ProFootball

October 31, 2004|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Greg Blache has seen this before.

As the defensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears for five seasons, Blache had the unenviable task of coming up with a plan to stop Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers' offense twice a year.

Over that span, the Bears won just two of 10 meetings.

Today, Blache, the defensive coordinator for the Washington Redskins (2-4), gets another crack when Green Bay (3-4) visits FedEx Field at 1 p.m.

And while the Packers' offense still boasts a likely Hall of Fame quarterback in Favre and the league's second-ranked attack, Blache and assistant head coach for defense Gregg Williams have built the NFL's No. 1 defense.

"This is going to be like a heavyweight championship fight," Blache said. "There's going to be two big contenders going after each other. Who's the last man standing?"

Blache will get his answer later this afternoon, but the showdown between the Redskins' defense and the Green Bay offense could prove to be an interesting one.

The Packers are averaging 399.1 yards of offense. Only the Minnesota Vikings (449.3) are moving the ball more.

Green Bay leads the league in first downs with 157 and third-down conversions with a 51.6 rate of success.

But Washington is surrendering just 234.2 yards a game. The defense - even without linebacker LaVar Arrington, who likely will miss today's game with an aggravated right knee strain - is ranked first against the run (86.7 yards) and third against the pass (147.5).

The Redskins also lead the league in fewest first downs allowed (77). So as much as the coaches are drawing up ways to stymie the Packers' offense, Blache said he hopes the Green Bay staff is spending as much time worrying about how to penetrate Washington's defense.

"We know our hands are full, but hopefully they have some concerns, too," Blache said. "Hopefully, there's been some word about some of the things we can pose."

The Packers' Ahman Green leads the NFC in rushing with 649 yards and has five touchdowns (four rushing and one receiving).

Favre (153 of 237 for 1,718 yards and 13 touchdowns) has the fourth-best passer rating (93.8) in the conference, and his favorite targets are the wide receiving duo of Javon Walker (NFL-best 726 yards, six touchdowns, 41 catches) and Donald Driver (495 yards, four touchdowns, 40 receptions).

And the offensive line has allowed four sacks, which ties the Indianapolis Colts for the best mark in the league.

The key for the Redskins will be forcing turnovers and locking down Green Bay's running game. The Packers have given up the ball 14 times - tied for the second-worst mark in the NFC.

In Green Bay's three victories this season, the team has rushed for 176.3 yards and passed for 221.3 yards a game. In the four losses, the scale leaned heavily toward the passing attack. The offense averaged 314.8 yards through the air, but only 85.5 yards on the ground.

"Ahman Green is probably one of the best running backs in the country," said Washington linebacker Marcus Washington. "He can break you off, so you've definitely got to be ready. ... We're definitely going to have to wrap up and tackle well."

While Favre has averaged 242.4 yards and almost two touchdowns a game against Blache-led defenses, even the Packers' quarterback said the Redskins' defense bears little resemblance to the Bears' defenses of the past.

"Talent-wise, I think they're a little better than what Greg had to work with in Chicago," Favre said. "I will say this: They're damn good, and on top of that, their schemes make them even better."

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

RUNNING GAME: Redskins RB Clinton Portis, who carried 36 times for 171 yards against the Chicago Bears two weeks ago, meets the league's 21st-ranked run defense, which has allowed three running backs to eclipse the 100-yard mark.

TURNOVERS: The Redskins have lost the turnover battle in two of their four losses. Washington must protect the ball to keep the Packers' offense off the field.

THIRD QUARTER: The Redskins have scored just seven points in the third quarter, while Green Bay has scored touchdowns on its first possession of the second half in five of seven games. Win the third quarter, and Washington could be staring at a victory.

-- Edward Lee

The game

Matchup: Green Bay Packers (3-4) vs. Washington Redskins (2-4)

Site: FedEx Field, Landover

When: Today, 1 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 5/WNAV (1430 AM), WJFK (1300 AM), WJFK (106.7 FM), WQSR (102.7 FM)

Line: Packers by 1 1/2

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