Packers top Redskins, advance to Divisional Round

LANDOVER, Md. --* The Redskins had home field advantage and a packed house full of fans screaming You Like That! all evening, but they did not have Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay stormed form behind and took Sunday night's playoff game from the NFC East champions by a score of 35-18. They'll face the Arizona Cardinals in the Divisional Round next week.*

Here's what we learned:

  1. When the Packers' offense is working, Aaron Rodgers is in command figuratively and literally. He seemed eager to jump into the no-huddle multiple times against the Redskins on Sunday night, perhaps because he felt it was the best way to keep Washington's bigger defensive lineman from resetting or substituting -- the Packers nailed Washington on two 12-man on the field penalties in one drive, including a touchdown pass to Randall Cobb -- but it also seemed to give Rodgers a little bit more freedom. The Packers have been marred in a play-calling haze all season long, and this is probably the best way for Rodgers to call his own numbers.
  1. Washington players called Jordan Reed their Rob Gronkowski, and from a matchup standpoint, they were not far off early on Sunday. Reed punished Green Bay while in single coverage with defensive back Micah Hyde, forcing the Packers into a scenario where they might have needed to leave either DeSean Jackson or Pierre Garcon alone in single coverage. Reed was double teamed out of the box when Kirk Cousins walked into the end zone for a go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter. If DeSean Jackson was the initial lynchpin for Cousins' success this year, the way Jay Gruden and offensive coordinator Sean McVay toy with Reed is unfair at times and helped Cousins keep the hot streak alive.
  1. Outside of an early safety, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy was not punished as badly as we thought for leaving his tackles alone on an island -- and he didn't do it for long. Green Bay was immensely conservative early, especially on the opening drives, favoring an under center two-back look. Perhaps they had good reason -- the game flipped on its side after Preston Smith bull rushed Green Bay's tackle right into the end zone. Kudos for McCarthy though for insisting on some balance. Eddie Lacy's long fourth-and-1 ramble was a beautiful designed cutback and featured Lacy and fullback John Kuhn by design. Operating out of those bigger sets kept Rodgers upright all evening.
  1. Washington will inevitably be kicked around again come Monday, but did anyone think FedEx Field would be hosting a raucous playoff game in January? If nothing else, the organization has neatly tucked most of their glaring dysfunction under the rug. They may or may not have a franchise quarterback, but at least know that Kirk Cousins will be the guy in 2016. If nothing else, it's a testament to new general manager Scot McCloughan, who nailed his first four draft picks -- Brandon Scherff, Preston Smith, Matt Jones and Jamison Crowder -- and provided this team with enough juice to win a bad division. It's not perfection, but it's not the scorched-earth team we've come to know that spends December and January lining up head coaching interviews.
  1. With Green Bay struggling early on, there was a sense that they would never be completely out of the game because of Clay Matthews. Dom Capers was trying to set him free all night and he managed to hit on a few stunts. Matthews might have moved inside begrudgingly, but it has taken his game to a new level in terms of what Capers can do in blitz packages. He came off the edge in the fourth quarter to stop one of Washington's comeback drives dead in its tracks.
  1. Before exiting the game with a knee injury, it was nice to see a bit of a Davante Adams emergence on Sunday. Adams was the poster child for Green Bay's Super Bowl run -- a dynamic second-year player who would have another year in McCarthy's offense. That didn't quite happen, but Adams did manage to catch a 20-yard jump ball and later a touchdown to give Green Bay a 17-11 lead just before halftime. Rodgers' lack of functional weapons is obvious. McCarthy was forcing the ball to Randall Cobb out of the backfield as a running back after he struggled in coverage. James Jones seems to be the only receiver with inherent trust on timing routes. Anything else is up to Rodgers, who did a fine job making it work.
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