LANDOVER, MD. – The Green Bay Packers are victorious in the first round of the playoffs as they overwhelmed Washington 35-18 Sunday afternoon. They will advance to the Divisional Round.
Going into the game, Green Bay finished the regular season 4-6 including a home loss to the Vikings for the NFC North championship. Even though their defense has been very capable all season it has been their offense that has been more than lacking, being unable to convert third downs, score and to protect quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins, on the other hand, has been one of the top passers in the NFL the last seven weeks, was at home, where Washington held a 6-2 record, and won a surprising NFC East title.
At the beginning of the game, the Packers appeared to be that stagnant team that ended the regular season, going three-and-out on their first drive. After Washington went three-and-out they punted deep near Green Bay’s own goal line and Rodgers was sacked by defensive end Preston Smith in his own end zone for the safety and a 2-0 Washington lead. After the safety punt, Cousins and his offense went to work, completing passes to tight ends Alex Smith for 16 yards and Jordan Reed for 11 to get into the red zone. A 15-yard pass to receiver DeSean Jackson appeared to be a touchdown, but the ball never crossed the plane and the Packers’ goal line defense forced a stop and Washington had to settle for a 25-yard Dustin Hopkins field goal to take a 5-0 lead.
For the remainder of the first quarter the Packers could not get a single first down and to begin the second quarter Washington once again went to work. Cousins targeted Reed mostly, first completing a 20-yard pass and, to cap off the drive, a 24-yarder to give Washington an 11-0 lead after the extra point attempt hit the right upright.
On the ensuing drive, Rodgers and the Packers’ offense finally got going. After a defensive 12 men on the field penalty on third down, Rodgers nailed a 34-yard pass to receiver James Jones and capped off the drive with a 12-yard pass to receiver to Randall Cobb to cut the deficit to four. On Washington’s next drive, the Packers’ defense would force a turnover when defensive tackle Mike Neal sacked Cousins and recovered the loose ball to give Green Bay decent field position. The Packers would get in field goal range after Rodgers completed an 11-yard pass to Cobb and a 9-yard pass to Jones, but Washington forced a fourth down and Mason Crosby had to kick a 43-yard field goal to cut Green Bay’s deficit to one.
Washington would respond with another three-and-out, giving the Packers another possession before the end of the first half. Rodgers would complete two passes for 11 yards to tight end Richard Rodgers and a 20-yard pass to receiver Davante Adams (who later left with a right knee injury) to get Green Bay in the red zone. The Packers would take the lead when Rodgers found Adams wide open in the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown. The first half ended with the Packers holding a 17-11 advantage.
Washington opened the second half with the ball and answered to their deficit, first through the running game when Alfred Morris broke for 19 yards. Cousins would also go back to Reed for a 17-yard pass to get Washington near the goal line. On third and goal, Cousins took it himself on the quarterback draw for three yards to once again give Washington the lead by one. On the ensuing drive, Green Bay would respond, this time using their ground game behind Eddie Lacy who had two big rushes for 31 yards to get the Packers inside the 20. Running back James Starks would cap off the drive with a four-yard touchdown burst right to give Green Bay the 24-18 lead. The third quarter would end with Washington punting back to the Packers.
To open the fourth quarter, Rodgers found Cobb for 15 yards and the running attack continued to dominate, this time behind Starks, whose 4 carries totaled 43 yards. Lacy would finish the drive with a two-yard touchdown and former Wisconsin Badgers’ receiver Jared Abbrederis caught a pass over the middle to convert the two-point attempt to give the Packers a 32-18 lead. For the remainder of the game Washington could not respond, turning the ball over on downs four times to secure the Packers’ victory.
Even though Cousins had 329 yards passing and a touchdown, Green Bay’s defense held Washington’s offense to only 18 points. The story of the game was, of course, the apparent resurrection of the Packers’ offense, which seemed to be firing on all cylinders for the final three quarters of the game. Rodgers finished the game with 210 yards passing and two touchdowns and seemed to find his deadly rhythm of old. The Packers also managed to control the ground and clock, as Starks and Lacy combined for 116 yards and two touchdowns.
The Packers will continue their playoff journey as they travel once again to Glendale, Ariz. to take on the Cardinals, Saturday night.