LANDOVER -- If you're reading this, then stating up front the Washington Redskins' season ended with a 35-18 loss to the Green Bay Packers probably won't come as a spoiler. The result certainly ruins the high hopes the burgundy and gold faithful had entering the team's first playoff game since 2012. Here's a quarter-by-quarter look at what happened.
Big play: Leading 2-0 after Preston Smith sacked Aaron Rodgers for a safety, the Redskins appeared to tack on a touchdown as a 15-yard catch-and-run by DeSean Jackson capped a methodical drive. One problem. Jackson held the ball in his right as he crossed the front right corner of the end zone. Replay overturned the touchdown, a touchdown the Redskins never generated. Washington failed to score on three straight plays, losing six yards in the process on two Alfred Morris run and a delay of game penalty. They settled for a Dustin Hopkins field goal.
Turning point: Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed his first pass -- and the missed his next seven in the quarter. One major story line entering the game involved whether the Packers' offensive line would hold up. Early on, not so much. Smith beat backup left tackle JC Tretter for the safety and Rodgers missed open receivers while on the move.
The takeaway: Any fear of the Redskins and Cousins shrinking on the big stage went away. Any concern of the Packers being able to stop tight end Reed, which was silly in the first place, faded. Rodgers didn't come out despite hearing story after story about his regular season woes. The Jackson non-TD could be a killer, but a good start overall.
Score: Redskins 5 Packers 0
Big play: Of the three touchdown passes in the quarter, Cousins lofted toss down the middle to Reed for a 24-yard touchdown was the prettiest. It also gave Washington an 11-0 lead as Dustin Hopkins missed the extra point. Yet in the context of this category, the nod goes to Rodgers finding Davante Adams for a 10-yard score with 33 seconds left in the half. The touchdown meant the Packers finished off the quarter with 17 straight points and it came after the Redskins went 3-and-out
Turning point: With Green Bay trailing 11-0 and facing 3-and-4 from its own 26, Washington was called for 12-men on the field. The five-yard penalty gave the Packers a first down and some life after initial struggles. On the next play, Rodgers, under no pressure found James Jones deep over middle for 34 yards to the Redskins 35. Six plays later, Rodgers and Cobb capped the 80-yard drive with a 12-yard touchdown. Ironically, the Redskins were called for two penalties including another 12-man issue. Rodgers went 5 of 6 for 68 yards and TD on the drive. Was 1 of 8 before ...GB had 6 yards on 13 plays before 80 yards on 9 play drive...
X-Factor: Rodgers' regular season numbers would have looked much better if Adams and Cobb caught passes as consistently as they have in this half. By the way, Green Bay doing whatever it can to put the ball in Cobb's hands, including as a runner.
The takeaway: Apologies for an obvious boxing analogy, but the Redskins had chances for a knockout punch, but instead let the Packers off the ropes. Rodgers went from a frigid start (1 of 8 for 11 yards) to finding his mojo. He completed 14 of 20 passes for 148 yards and two touchdowns in the second quarter.
Score: Packers 17 Redskins 11
Big play: Regardless of the result, the opening drive for the Redskins said plenty about the team's resolve. Even though Green Bay snatched the momentum entering halftime, Washington took back the lead on a beautifully executed three-yard QB draw for Cousins. This came after coach Jay Gruden made the gutsy decision to keep the offense on the field with 4-and-1 from Green Bay's 24. On the play-action pass, Cousins initially looked to the left flat. With the receiver covered, he calmly turned focus elsewhere and found Reed for a huge seven-yard gain before the towel-waving crowd of 81,327.
Turning point: The Packers continued their surge, scoring on their fourth straight drive. Facing its own 4th-and-1from Washington's 45, Green Bay fed running back Eddie Lacy. Quiet at that point in the game, the bruising back gained 11 yards running left. He followed that with a 30-yard burst, which set up James Starks' 3-yard touchdown run.
X-Factor: The Redskins pass rush isn't getting to Rodgers, which is allowing the Green Bay star to attack them. Still only the one early sack for Washington.
The takeaway: The quarter ended with the Packers headed for another long scoring drive after went nowhere on three plays. This tweet sums up the vibe heading toward the final 15 minutes.
Score: Packers 24 Redskins 18
Big play: The drive for five straight scoring drives ended with Lacy's two-yard touchdown run plus a two-point conversion pass from Rodgers. Washington's offense put up points down the stretch of the regular season. Time to dial up the production. Now.
Turning point: Another Cousins-to-Reed pass, this one for 22 yards, had Washington 37 yards from a touchdown. That is until Green Bay dropped Cousins with its third sack. The nine-yard loss derailed the drive and any positive vibes. Washington punted three plays later.
X-factor: The Redskins couldn't get to Rodgers, but the Packers went hard after Cousins and had success. Green Bay sacked the QB on fourth down deep in Washington territory with less than six minutes left, setting up Mason Crosby's second field goal. The Packers finished with six sacks after the Redskins allowed only 1.7 per game during the season.
The takeaway: Everything said about Green Bay's offensive struggles all week, true. The first quarter revealed the pass protection and mistiming woes. As for everything said about the fall of Aaron Rodgers, not so much. Given time in the pocket plus creative plays from the coaches let the two-time MVP find his way. In the process, the Redskins found their way to thinking about what could be. The surprising NFC East title will eventually have the masses feeling good about the season. Few outside of Ashburn saw this coming from Cousins, coach Jay Gruden, the team. On this January night, the thoughts will be about Washington's inability to win its first playoff game since 2000.
Score: Packers 35 Redskins 18
Redskins key stats: Cousins finished 29 of 46 for 329 yards and one touchdown pass. ...Jordan Reed had nine receptions for 120 yards and a touchdown. ...Led by Alfred Morris, Washington averaged 4.7 yards on 18 carries ...Chris Thompson had eight grabs for 89 yards.
Packers key stats: Rodgers went 21 of 36 for 210 yards and touchdown passes. ...With Lacy, Starks and Cobb all making plays on the ground, the Packers finished with 141 yards on 32 carries (4.4 ypc). ...James Jones led the Packers with seven receptions for 81 yards.
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