4 Downs: What Norman role says about Packers

Pete Dougherty
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Every week I’ll share four observations the day after the Packers' game. Here they are after the Packers’ 42-24 loss at Washington on Sunday.

Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
Packers receiver Jordy Nelson scores a touchdown against Washington cornerback Josh Norman in the second quarter. Norman knocked the ball loose after the catch.
Green Bay Packers' Jordy Nelson scores a touchdown against Washington Redskins' Josh Norman in the second quarter Sunday, November 20, 2016, at FedExField in Landover, Maryland. 
Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

First down: The Packers put up big passing numbers (351 yards), but the way Washington’s defense matched up with them in the passing game spoke volumes about the state of Green Bay's receiving corps. Since early in the season Washington has been matching cornerback Josh Norman with the opponent’s best receiver. But against the Packers, Norman stayed at right cornerback and covered whoever lined up wide on that side, be it Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams or tight end Jared Cook, among others. The Packers didn’t have a receiver who concerned Washington defensive coordinator Joe Barry enough to match up Norman.

Second down: The Packers used Randall Cobb rather than Trevor Davis on punt returns Sunday. Davis had a key fumble last week, so that probably was the biggest reason. But Cobb has two punt returns for touchdowns in his career, so it also might have been a sign that coach Mike McCarthy was looking for any kind of lift he could get after losing three straight games. The Packers didn’t get much of a chance to find out if Cobb could provide it, because he returned only one punt for 10 yards. He also had a fair catch.

Third down: Julius Peppers hasn’t been the playmaker this year he was the previous two, but he probably was the only player on the roster who could have made the play he did in the second quarter. On a third and 15, Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins tried to loft a screen pass over Peppers, but the 6-foot-7 former college basketball player leaped and tipped the ball for the incompletion. It was an impressive display of athleticism for a 36-year-old.

Fourth down: Carl Bradford’s first appearance in an NFL game included playing a big role in allowing Robert Kelley’s 66-yard run that set up Washington's final touchdown. Bradford, who has been with the Packers either on the roster or practice squad since 2014 but hadn’t been active for a game until Sunday, replaced injured Blake Martinez at inside linebacker. Kelley’s run was right at him, and left tackle Ty Nsekhe got out to Bradford and pushed him back a couple yards, which opened the alley for Kelley to break free.

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