LANDOVER, Md. – It wasn’t just that the Packers’ defense racked up six sacks on Sunday.
The timing of some of them couldn’t have been better in a 35-18 NFC wild-card playoff win over the Redskins at FedExField.
The first big sack came midway through the second quarter. The Packers had just gotten on the board to pull within 11-7, and Redskins running back Chris Thompson had just ripped off a 25-yard run to get Washington across midfield.
That’s when Mike Neal pummeled Redskins QB Kirk Cousins, knocked the ball loose and recovered it himself, giving the Packers the ball back with another chance to cut into the deficit.
“It was a momentum-changer,” Neal said.
Was it ever. The Packers converted the turnover into a field goal and then added another touchdown by halftime to take a 17-11 lead after falling behind 11-0 early on.
“Huge,” defensive lineman B.J. Raji said.
So were the sacks in the second half.
With the Packers ahead by two scores for the first time early in the fourth quarter, the Redskins once again crossed midfield and were threatening. Clay Matthews and Nick Perry combined for a 9-yard sack on first down that led to a punt.
On Washington’s next possession, it was Perry by himself bringing down Cousins on fourth down to give the ball back to the Packers with five minutes left.
Neal then got his second sack of the day on another fourth down, chasing down Cousins for a 16-yard loss with just under three minutes left.
For the game, Neal and Perry were credited with two sacks apiece, Matthews had 1½ and Mike Daniels had the other ½.
“Our pass rush is real good, especially when we have a lead, and we can kind of dictate what they’re doing and turn the guys loose,” Matthews said. “You saw that tonight.”
Nearing a record streak: Kicker Mason Crosby made both of his field goal attempts to extend his postseason streak to 18 consecutive made kicks. He was good from 43 and 29 yards out.
That puts Crosby just one shy of the NFL postseason record of 19, set by Philadelphia’s David Akers.
“I heard that. So, that’s pretty cool,” Crosby said. “Obviously it’s nice to have another chance next week to try to tie that one.”
Crosby’s last postseason miss was a 50-yarder at Atlanta back in the 2010 divisional round.
After an early penalty in the return game put the Packers’ offense in a bad spot, the special teams put together a solid day.
One of the most important plays was a booming 55-yard punt by Tim Masthay that Redskins return man Jamison Crowder fair-caught at his own 9-yard line. The Packers were leading by two touchdowns at the time, but with six minutes on the clock the game was not over.
Backing the Redskins up at the stage put a damper on any comeback hopes before they could get started.
“He was pumped,” Crosby said of Masthay. “It was a huge play, the timing of it was awesome. Hitting a ball like that, in the conditions out there today – the wind was tough. That was a huge moment in the game and kept the momentum going in our favor, which was big.”
Adams produces, then exits: Wide receiver Davante Adams made one of his better plays of the season late in the second quarter, hauling in a 20-yard pass down the sideline against one-on-one coverage from Redskins cornerback Quinton Dunbar. It got Green Bay down to Washington’s 10-yard line in the final minute of the first half.
“It was man coverage, and I tried to beat him with a quick double move to get outside,” Adams said. “I saw the ball and I had to go up and get it. He made a play on it, too, but I was able to trap it in my pads and keep the drive alive.”
Two plays later, QB Aaron Rodgers found Adams alone in the back corner of the end zone for a 10-yard TD with just 28 seconds left, giving the Packers their first lead of the game.
Unfortunately, after Adams began the second half with a 9-yard catch-and-run, he injured his knee and had to leave the game. He finished with four catches (on four targets) for 48 yards.
Adams said his knee was “sore” but he thought he’d be “fine.”
Other injury: The only other Packers injury reported during the game was to rookie cornerback Quinten Rollins, who left with a quad injury.
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