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Can't Miss Slants

Packers Pound Redskins; I Like That

The Green Bay Packers handled the NFC East Champion Washington Redskins, winning on the road 35-18 to move on to the divisional round of the NFL Playoffs.  After a slow start in which the Redskins sacked Aaron Rodgers for a safety, and Kirk Cousins found tight end Jordan Reed for a touchdown, the Packers scored on five straight drives.  The Redskins lost their lead before halftime, re-gained it for a brief moment in the third quarter, and the game was in hand after an Eddie Lacy touchdown with about 12 minutes to go in the fourth quarter.

Offense Finds a Pulse

For most Packer fans, the best news coming out of the game was the elevated play of quarterback Aaron Rodgers.  Although his stat-line (21 for 36 for 210 yards, 2 touchdowns, and a 95.3 rating) will not raise many eyebrows, he looked confident in the pocket following the Packers’ first touchdown.  That score came after Rodgers, up to his old tricks, caught the Redskins in a defensive switch and ran a free play when a flag for 12 men on the field was thrown.  It capped off a nine play drive, the same amount of plays it would take for the Packers to score their second touchdown.

That second touchdown was also a welcome site, as it came to a wide open Davante Adams.  Adams, of course, had a rough season following proclamations of greatness this summer.  Prior to catching the touchdown, he also made a difficult grab for 20 yards, setting the Packers up at the Washington 30 with 45 seconds remaining in the first half.  For his part, James Jones added a typically productive day for a player of his skill-set, catching 7 passes for 81 yards on 11 targets.  If the Packers are to have any hope of beating Arizona, they will need every effort from this group.  Open receivers in the end zone have been a rare thing for Green Bay.

The Packers also received key contributions from Eddie Lacy and the running game.  Although again no single runner has eye-pooping statistics, the team ran 32 times for 141 yards (4.4 YPA) and two touchdowns.  Lacy led the way with 63 yards on 12 carries and a score, but saw limited action as the Packers appeared to want to limit hits to his injured ribcage.  James Starks was productive in relief, running for 53 yards on 12 carries of his own. Finally, Randall Cobb continues to see more snaps from the backfield, and had five carries for 24 yards.

Defense Does Enough

Defensively, the Packers played a solid but not great game.  Most of their issues arose in the passing game, and in particular while trying to cover tight end Jordan Reed.  Reed caught 9 balls for 120 yards, often making tough grabs and earning hard yards.  Overall, Kirk Cousins played a solid game, throwing for 329 yards and a touchdown on 29 of 46 passing.

The Redskins needed more, however, as the Packers offense for once led the way by putting up points.  When it counted in the fourth quarter, they were unable to effectively pass on Green Bay, he saw strong play from unheralded players such as LaDarius Gunter and Joe Thomas.  Thomas was uneven at middle linebacker, but played well enough in the passing game that one excepts to continue to see him on the field over Jake Ryan going forward.

Meanwhile, Nick Perry and Mike Neal, two solid players without a long list of accomplishments, each sacked Cousins twice a piece, and Clay Matthews added 1.5 sacks of his own.  He split one of those sacks with Mike Daniels, who had an excellent day that does not make much of an appearance in the box score.  Daniels only had 1 solo tackle and one additional quarterback hit, but his pressure up the middle, particularly in the fourth quarter, kept Cousins out of rhythm.

Overall, although it was against the winner of the weak NFC East, this was Green Bay’s most complete game since at the very least the Vikings in week 11, and maybe going all the way back to the team’s 27-17 win over the Seattle Seahawks.  While that doesn’t mean they can seriously challenge the Cardinals, even this playoff win is an accomplishment for a beleaguered team.  If it happens to vault them past a tougher opponent in a week, then fans will have a hard time not getting excited for the team.