Where has that been?
Who knows, but we know where it’s going: to Arizona for next week’s NFC Divisional playoffs.
The Green Bay Packers, who had scored a worst-in-the-playoffs 17.0 points per game the last three weeks and just 20.9 in the 13 games after putting up a season-high 38 vs. Kansas City in Week 3, dominated the final three quarters to beat the Washington Redskins 35-18 in Sunday’s NFC Wild Card game.
The Packers fell behind the Redskins 11-0 in the first 17 minutes. Then, in unthinkable fashion given the season-long offensive struggles, Green Bay scored on six of its next seven possessions. Aaron Rodgers, who got off to a miserable start in an apparent continuation of his late-season swoon, didn’t wind up with stellar numbers (21-of-36, 210 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 93.5 passer rating) but he looked like his MVP self during the final three quarters in terms of efficiency and body language.
Saturday: Kansas City at New England, 3:35 p.m.
Green Bay at Arizona, 7:15 p.m.
Sunday: Seattle at Carolina, 12:05 p.m.
Pittsburgh at Denver, 3:40 p.m.
All times Central
"The playoffs bring it out of all of us. It’s a one-and-done mentality and the focus goes up and the intensity goes up. There’s nothing like a road playoff win. It’s exciting.," Rodgers said.
With Green Bay capping a road sweep of the Wild Card round, it punched its ticket to Arizona, which crushed the Packers 38-8 in Week 16. This group, coming off its first playoff road win since the run to the Super Bowl in 2010, will be a whole lot more confident for Saturday night's rematch.
"It’s going to be a more competitive game, I’ll bet.," Rodgers said.
The Packers made their statement after falling behind to start the third quarter.
Green Bay led 17-11 at halftime but Washington scored on the opening possession, with Kirk Cousins trotting in from the 3 on a well-designed quarterback draw. Green Bay retaliated with two key short-yardage conversions – a black mark throughout the season. On third-and-1, fullback John Kuhn gained 6 on a bootleg pass from Rodgers. Then, after Kuhn was stuffed on third-and-1, Eddie Lacy rumbled for 13 behind blocks from Pro Bowl left guard Josh Sitton and Kuhn. On the next play, Kuhn took out two defenders with one block to spring Lacy into the open field for a gain of 30 to the 4. On first-and-goal, James Starks sprinted around right end for the touchdown, putting Green Bay back in front 24-18 with about 4 minutes left in the third quarter.
After Washington went three-and-out, the Packers’ offense went from the Rodgers Show to the Starks Show. After a 15-yard completion to Randall Cobb put the ball at midfield to start the fourth quarter, Starks had runs of 11, 7, 4 and 22 on consecutive plays. On first-and-goal from the 2, Lacy plowed into the end zone behind a big block from right guard T.J. Lang. The two-point conversion, a Rodgers’ pass to Jared Abbrederis, made it 32-18. That was more than enough for Green Bay’s defense, which sacked Cousins six times.
The final score could have been much worse had the defense held onto any of the five-or-so chances at interceptions. Nonetheless, Cousins was held to a passer rating about 28 points less than his league-leading mark from the final 10 games.
"Playoff victories, they’re special, each and every one of them," coach Mike McCarthy said. "Very pleased with the performance of our football team, all three phases. That’s the way you have to play. You need contributions from all three phases and we got that done tonight. So, excellent win. To come in here and get that done was a big challenge."
While Green Bay got after Cousins, Rodgers was sacked just once -- a big deal after the Packers allowed 14 the past two games. A running game that churned out 141 yards certainly helped the cause.
After one quarter, it looked as if the Packers were on their way to a playoff one-and-done, with Washington leading 11-0. Green Bay’s first play gained 11 yards. The rest of that drive gained 1 yard. That was the high-water mark for the Packers’ offense. The second series lost 8 yards and resulted in a safety when rookie Preston Smith beat the Packers’ latest fill-in left tackle, J.C. Tretter, to sack Rodgers in the end zone. The third series gained 2 yards and ended when Rodgers missed a wide-open Cobb. The fourth drive gained 1 yard and ended when Quinton Dunbar – who was a wide receiver in training camp – broke up a pass to Jones.
After the safety, Washington did everything but score a touchdown on the ensuing possession, but receiver DeSean Jackson made no effort to extend the ball over the goal line after beating Damarious Randall on a crossing route. Settling for first-and-goal at the half-yard line, safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix stuffed running back Alfred Morris for a loss to the 1, Letroy Guion brought down Morris at the 2 and delay of game moved the ball back to the 7. On third-and-goal, Clinton-Dix struck again, breaking up Cousins’ pass in the end zone. The chip-shot field goal made it 5-0. Two minutes into the second quarter, Cousins hit tight end Jordan Reed for a 24-yard touchdown. The extra point hit the right upright, making it 11-0.
The Packers turned the tide, though. Rodgers took advantage of two free plays for a gain of 34 to Jones and an 18-yard touchdown to Cobb. A sack, strip and recovery by Mike Neal near midfield thwarted the Redskins’ next possession. Mason Crosby’s 43-yard field goal made it 11-10 with 2:54 left in the half.
Green Bay forced a three-and-out, with Mike McCarthy’s timeouts giving the Packers 2:22 to navigate the 60 yards to take a 17-11 edge into intermission. Davante Adams, who had a miserable regular-season, made a leaping grab at the sideline for a gain of 20 as Green Bay converted its first third-down opportunity of the half. One play later, Adams struck again, toasting veteran safety Dashon Goldson on a corner route and hauling in Rodgers’ pass for a 10-yard touchdown.
Rodgers, who threw seven consecutive incompletions en route to a 1-for-7 start, went 14-of-21 for 148 yards with two touchdowns the remainder of the half.
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.