Packers Don't Panic; Pass Playoff TestPosted:Jan 11th, 2016 3:18 am
Admit it. After the first quarter, you were thinking about the Packers' season in the past tense. It couldn't possibly have started any uglier. One first down in four possessions. The Pack gave up scores in every way possible: first a safety, then a field goal and finally a touchdown. It was 11-0 after one and the Pack looked lost.
The one glimmer of hope was the goal line stand by the defense that held them to that field goal and kept the game within reach. It foreshadowed the strong performance by that unit over 60 minutes. Yes, they got torched by tight end Jordan Reed. But they put constant pressure on Kirk Cousins, did not let DeSean Jackson beat them deep and contained the running game. It was the kind of performance we've come to expect from a unit that has played well all season.
But the story of this game was how Aaron Rodgers took over in the second quarter and began to look like the Aaron Rodgers we've come to love. Yes, he missed some passes that we're accustomed to seeing him hit. But he found his rhythm by speeding up the tempo and keeping the Skins off balance--twice catching them with 12 men on the field and getting Adams, Jones and Cobb involved.
In that 17-point second quarter, we also saw JC Tretter settle down at left tackle--he got his feet under him and provided solid protection from that point forward. Defensively, the Pack pitched a shutout, despite losing corner Quentin Rollins to a quad injury.
After Washington briefly regained the lead to start the third quarter, the Pack ramped up the rushing attack, alternating Lacy and Starks and controlling the line of scrimmage. The Pack scored on five straight possessions to put the game away--when is the last time this season they scored on five straight drives. Can't remember it happening.
Meanwhile, the Pack's defense dominated from that point on. Mike Neal and Clay Matthews were constantly in Cousins' face and the secondary held up its end. Even rookie Ladarius Gunter made a play or two, as he was forced into action with the Rollins injury. I'll take him on the field over Demetri Goodson any day of the week.
We went into this game knowing that Washington was not as good as its 9-7 record. They were a team that rode the arm of its hot quarterback, but had beaten up on a lot of mediocre teams and had not proven they could beat a quality team. Their defense needs a makeover and their running attack is the definition of average. The competition gets infinitely tougher next weekend.
But we'll savor this one for a few days. All we heard leading up to this one was that it was a bust of a season. That Rodgers and McCarthy were on the outs. That the Pack had no playmakers. That the running attack could be called 'the fat guy and the fumbler.' That none of the receivers could make a big catch in a big spot. That Rodgers was off and was no longer a guy who could carry the team.
For one week, they got their mojo back and now will be considered a dangerous opponent for the Cardinals, despite the fact that the Birds handed them their most embarrassing loss of the McCarthy era just a couple of weeks ago. That means nothing now, but the Pack will have to get ready on a short week and there's no guarantee Shields or Bakhtiari will be ready. We'll also await the severity of the injuries to Adams and Rollins.
But they do have a healthy Rodgers, whose offense will head to the desert brimming with confidence and primed for a little vengeance. The next playoff game Carson Palmer wins will be his first ever. They're coming off an embarrassing loss of their own and will have had two weeks to stew about it. Will they be able to put that loss behind them and take the Pack seriously?
The Packers will have to play even better to spring the upset next Saturday night, but for now, let's revel in a dominating road playoff win and dream about the fact that we're just two results away from the Pack hosting the Seahawks in an NFC title game rematch.
A long shot? Of course. But this is the NFL, where crazy penalties and missed chip shots change teams' destinies. Bring on the divisional weekend.