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Old Packers offense shows up just in time

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For the first quarter of Sunday's game in Washington, the Packers offense looked depressingly familiar. They gained a total of 11 yards in their first four drives while falling behind 11-0 to the Redskins.

And then, without warning, the Packers offense we've watched for the last six years showed up. Green Bay scored 32 points on their next five drives with a mix of tough running, clutch catches, great protection and the old Aaron Rodgers showing up on the way to a 35-18 Packers victory.

The running game was the key. Coach Mike McCarthy has been trying to re-engineer the Packers back into a smashmouth team since he took over play-calling in November, and it only briefly worked in a win against Minnesota. On Sunday afternoon, the Packers offensive line blew open holes while James Starks, Randall Cobb, Eddie Lacy ran hard through Redskins defenders for 142 yards. During one stretch of the scoring spree, the Packers only called three pass plays in a 23-play stretch.

Rodgers' role in the turnaround can't be overstated. For so much of the season, Rodgers' improvisational skills and seven-yard throws to well-covered James Jones were the best plays in the Packers offense. Both of those plays were in the mix Sunday -- Jones finished with 81 yards -- but there were more third down conversions in the flow of the offense than normal. He got rid of the ball quickly.

Playing against Washington certainly helped. The Redskins' pass rush was not effective and Rodgers limited their substitutions with his quick snaps. The Packers' coaching staff also deserves kudos for helping out backup left tackle J.C. Tretter with help after an early safety. Green Bay almost always kept an extra lineman in and it paid off with Rodgers having time to survey a flawed Washington secondary.

By the middle of the fourth quarter, Rodgers and McCarthy were palling around on the sideline like it was 2010. This is a team with a championship pedigree that should have confidence. The Packers head to Arizona next week, where they experienced their low point this season only a few weeks ago in a 38-8 loss. Green Bay will not be expected to win; the last 12 weeks matter more than the last three quarters of this game.

Jones and the Packers could care less. Jones told NFL Media's Albert Breer after the game, "All the announcers and everybody want to throw us in the trash. but we've got a very good football team."

We aren't willing to discount the impact of this game and Packers-Cardinals is a fascinating matchup. Any team with a confident Aaron Rodgers and a quality defense has a fighting chance.

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