For quarterback 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 wound down.
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 one for eight, and the Packers’ first four drives went punt, safety, punt, punt. They gained 11 yards heading into the second quarter and trailed by double digits.
And then, spurred by the hurry-up approach he loves, Rodgers threw for two touchdowns, and Eddie Lacy and James Starks each ran for a touchdown, and Green Bay rallied for a 35-18 victory over the East champions.
The Packers lost their last two regular-season games and six of their last 10 after a 6-0 start, letting the North title slip away.
“I talked a lot the last couple weeks about being able to turn it on. ... But we just needed a game like this to get our mojo back and get our confidence going,” Rodgers said. “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 will play at No. 2-seeded Arizona on Saturday night. It’s a rematch of a Week 16 game won by the Cardinals, 38-8.
“The main thing is everybody just needs to realize the taste they had in their mouth last time,” Packers receiver James Jones said.
Washington had won four games in a row, but its season ends without a victory over a team that finished with a winning record.
“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,” Coach Jay Gruden said. “The opportunities we had out there today, it makes you ill.”
Kirk Cousins made his first playoff start and was 29 for 46 for 329 yards. He threw for one touchdown, ran for one and, lost one fumble and was sacked six times.
Rodgers spoke about the Packers staying confident despite trailing the Redskins, 11-0. Asked where that self-belief came from, Rodgers said it was because “we’ve been there, done that.”
“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.”
Rodgers, the 2011 Super Bowl most valuable player, turned things around in the second quarter, twice catching Washington with too many men on the field. He was five for six for 68 yards on a drive that ended with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb.
When he connected with 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 in the first half, the Packers finished with 141 yards in 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,” Coach Mike McCarthy said.