LANDOVER, Md. – A “new” offense has given the Packers a fresh start.
“We were able to run and pass. That’s what you have to do. It starts with the quarterback. He has to be able to manage the whole thing, and he’s a master of that. Good adjustments on the sideline, good adjustments by players and coaches,” Packers Coach Mike McCarthy said following a 35-18 win over the Redskins in a wild-card playoff game on Sunday.
The Packers played arguably their best football game since their 6-0 start. It was especially good because it came against a playoff opponent that was on a four-game winning streak.
“Playoff victories, they’re special, each and every one of them,” McCarthy said.
After falling behind 11-0 and doing next to nothing offensively in the first quarter, the Packers dominated on both sides of the ball the rest of the way. The victory included 141 yards rushing, the emergence of a much-needed big-play receiver, and a performance by quarterback Aaron Rodgers that provides real hope for a re-match with the Arizona Cardinals.
“He’s having fun. This is what playoff football is all about. It’s important for him to go out there and ignite us. I thought he definitely did that for us,” McCarthy said of his quarterback, who threw for 210 yards, two touchdowns and a 93.5 passer rating.
“I missed a couple early on and then I settled in and made better throws. When we got the tempo going, it snowballed,” Rodgers said. “It’s one or two plays and today we made them. We played with a lot of confidence and converted in the run game and in the pass game.”
Wide receiver Davante Adams enjoyed a breakout game, of sorts, before sustaining a knee injury in the third quarter that ended his night and clouded his availability for the game in Arizona on Saturday night.
“Davante is turning into Mr. January,” Rodgers said.
McCarthy said: “Davante had his best week of practice and we were looking forward to him having a good night tonight.”
Adams caught four passes for 40 yards and a touchdown. What made his performance significant is that Rodgers threw to Adams at critical times. Adams became the boundary receiver the Packers lost back in the preseason when Jordy Nelson was lost to a knee injury.
Meanwhile, the Packers defense continued its strong play. It extended its fourth-quarter scoreless streak. It’s allowed just six points in the fourth quarter of the last eight games.
“Our defense did a great job staying the course. I thought the goal line stand was huge. And then we got going on offense. That’s the way you have to play. You need contributions from all three phases,” McCarthy said.
Offense was the star of the game, mostly because offense hasn’t been the star of many games this season. It had become the subject of intense criticism. Sunday night’s performance was vindicating.
“We don’t play for them,” Rodgers said of his and his team’s critics. “We play for each other.”
“I talked about turning it on. A lot of you thought it was lip service. We got our mojo going. It only takes one (win) to believe we can make a run,” Rodgers added.
To continue the run, the Packers will have to beat a Cardinals team that scored a 38-8 win over the Packers at University of Phoenix Stadium in Week 16. The Packers will have plenty of doubters for this game, too.
“When you go on the road and galvanize together, it’s you and your loyal fans against the whole stadium,” Rodgers said.
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