Packers running back James Starks (44) carries the ball into the
end zone for a touchdown as Washington Redskins cornerback Will
Blackmon (41) watches during the second half.
LANDOVER, Md. —
For Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the
Green Bay Packers' offense, the first quarter of their playoff game
Sunday looked quite similar to the stagnant way their regular season
Not a lot of progress. Not a lot of points. Not a lot of fun.
Rodgers opened the NFC wild-card game against the Washington
Redskins by going 1 for 8, and the Packers' first four drives went:
punt, safety, punt, punt. They gained all of 11 yards heading into
the second period, and they trailed by double digits.
And then, spurred by using the hurry-up approach he loves,
Rodgers played like a two-time NFL MVP. Drawing defensive penalties
with quick snaps, making adjustments at the line of scrimmage, and
running the show the way few QBs can, Rodgers threw for a pair of
TDs while Eddie Lacy and James Starks each ran for a score, and
Green Bay came back to overwhelm the NFC East champion Redskins
"We got the tempo up, and they couldn't keep up," said Rodgers,
who finished 21 for 36 for 210 yards and no turnovers. "We became a
snowball, kind of going downhill, and it was tough for us to stop."
Packers tight end Richard Rodgers (82) celebrates with
quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) after wide receiver Davante Adams
caught a touchdown pass during the first half.
That was missing while the Packers were
losing their final two games and six of their last 10 after a 6-0
start, letting the NFC North title slip away. And it was missing
early Sunday, when Washington grabbed an 11-0 lead.
"I talked a lot the last couple weeks about being able to turn it
on, and a lot of you probably thought that was lip service," Rodgers
told reporters. "But we just needed a game like this to get our mojo
back and get our confidence going. I said this week that it just
takes one. It just takes one performance to get us going back in the
right direction and believing that we can make a run."
Green Bay (11-6) will play at the No. 2 seed Arizona Cardinals on
Saturday night. It's a rematch of a Week 16 game that Arizona
"The main thing is everybody just needs to realize the taste they
had in their mouth last time," Packers receiver James Jones said.
Packers wide receiver Davante Adams (17) pulls in a touchdown
pass as Washington Redskins free safety Dashon Goldson (38)
closes in during the first half.
In the other NFC game next weekend, the
No. 1 seed Carolina Panthers will host the wild-card Seattle
Seahawks on Sunday.
With the Packers and Seahawks joining the AFC's Pittsburgh Steelers
and Kansas City Chiefs, it's the first time road teams went 4-0 in
the wild-card round under the current NFL playoff format, which
started in 1990.
Washington (9-8) had won four games in a row, but its season ends
without a single victory over a team that finished with a winning
"I mean, it's a little sick feeling any time you lose a game at the
end of the year, not matter when it is," Washington's Jay Gruden
said after his first playoff game as an NFL head coach. "The
opportunities we had out there today — it makes you ill."
His quarterback, Kirk Cousins, made his first playoff start after a
breakthrough season and was 29 for 46 for 329 yards. He threw for
one touchdown, ran for another, lost one fumble and was sacked six
Rodgers smirked when asked about chatter in the Washington area
about which QB folks would want for the next five years.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) signals after running
back James Starks (44) scores a touchdown during the second
"We don't really care about any of the
expectations, whether talking about picking Kirk over myself or
talking about how everybody expected us to lose this game," Rodgers
said. "We don't care about those opinions out there."
He spoke about his team staying confident despite being down 11-0.
Asked where that self-belief came from, Rodgers replied: "'Cause
we've been there, done that."
Sure have — unlike the Redskins, last-place finishers six of the
past eight seasons.
"They made adjustments and we didn't," Washington nose tackle
Terrance Knighton said. "That's why they've won championships — and
that's who their quarterback is."
Indeed, Rodgers, the 2011 Super Bowl MVP, turned things around in
the second quarter, twice catching Washington with too many men on
the field. He went 5 for 6 for 68 yards on a drive that ended with a
12-yard TD pass to Randall Cobb. When he hit Davante Adams for a
10-yard touchdown that gave the Packers a 17-11 halftime lead,
Rodgers danced a little jig and threw some fist pumps.
In the second half, the running game took over. After 17 yards at
halftime, the Packers finished with 141 yards on 32 carries.
"That's the way you want to play offense. When you get into
playoffs, you don't have to talk about the regular season no more,"
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.
Notes: Preston Smith's sack of Rodgers produced the first
safety for the Redskins in a playoff game since December 1984,
against Chicago. ... Redskins DE Jason Hatcher is considering
retiring after 10 NFL seasons. He said he will discuss it with his
family, adding: "I still love the game, but I've got to do what is
best for me." ... Adams left in the third quarter after hurting his