The playoffs represented a new season of hope for the Green Bay Packers, and it looked like they put the miserable end to their previous season behind them in a an easy 35-18 victory over the Washington Redskins. Green Bay looked like a team with a different confidence and swagger that carried a huge chip on its shoulder after being doubted by media and fans alike, which likely made going on the road a galvanizing thing for the team.
One game can change everything in this new season. When was the last time you saw Aaron Rodgers crack smiles that wide or hug Mike McCarthy? After a first quarter that looked all to familiar to the previous season, the Packers made a big play down the field that seemed to change everything. The play started off like most plays had in the previous season with the receivers running poor initial routes and Rodgers having to move outside. However, James Jones turned up the field and behind a sleeping Washington secondary for a 34-yard completion for the kind of gain that had alluded Green Bay for so long. Jones went on to have a big seven-catch, 81-yard effort. The drive ended with a vintage Rodgers throw to Randall Cobb for a 12-yard touchdown after catching Washington with too many men on the field.
While things in that drive may not have all come within the structure of the offense, the confidence and belief it gave the Packers was huge. The following drive resulted in a field goal and after a 3-and-out by the defense and smart timeout usage by McCarthy the offense went on a vintage 2-minute scoring drive that really looked the Packers of old. Everything was in rhythm and Davante Adams made a huge contested catch on a 3rd-and-2 from the Washington 30-yard line. That was the exact play that had been missing in the previous season. Adams followed that up with a beautiful corner route for a wide open 10-yard touchdown that put the Packers up 17-11.
The Redskins drove in their first second half drive for a touchdown to go back ahead, but after already coming back from a 11-0 deficit that was no big deal for Green Bay. After loosening the defense up a bit in the first half the Packers absolutely mauled Washington in the ground game in the second half. It was exactly how you want to close out playoff games away from your home field. The Packers imposed their will and if it was a fight it would have been stopped long before the game was over. It all started with an Eddie Lacy run behind Josh Sitton that went for 11 yards on a 4th-and-1 play followed by a Lacy’s longest run of the season that went for 30 yards the very next play. James Starks finished the drive with a 4-yard touchdown on a toss to give the Packers the lead for good. Lacy ran for 63 yards on 12 carries and Starks 53 yards on 12 carries for the perfect balance McCarthy is looking for.
Rodgers’ box score stats of 210 yards an a 93.3 passer rating look pretty pedestrian if you did not watch the game, but make no mistake about it he raised his game to the MVP level he is used to after the first quarter. He looked much more comfortable sitting in the pocket making reads and throws than he has all year. Other than two misses on corner routes to Cobb the throws were mostly the accurate ones we’re used to Rodgers looked and felt more comfortable due to the outstanding blocking he received from his offensive line and J.C. Tretter performed more than admirably at left tackle.
Nobody will give the Packers a chance in Arizona next week and maybe they shouldn’t, but nobody picked them going into Atlanta in 2010 either. If they play with the same confidence and rhythm on offense there’s a chance with the way the defense and special teams have been playing. The Packers dominated in the pass rush with Julius Peppers, Clay Matthews, Mike Daniels, Nick Perry and Mike Neal all making huge plays. The weakness of the Cardinals is the offensive line, so a similar effort will be necessary again. Casey Hayward and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix came up huge in the back end, and the Packers could have had multiple interceptions if they caught passes.
The Green Bay Packers have a chance to take their new season to unimaginable heights if they can atone for the most embarrassing defeat of their old season. It will be the ultimate litmus test.——————