Pack­ers awaken, get “mojo” back

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Howard Fen­drich

lan­dover, md.» For 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 1for-8, and the Pack­ers’ first four drives went: punt, safety, punt, punt. They gained all of 11 yards head­ing into the se­cond pe­riod, and they trailed by dou­ble dig­its.

And then, spurred by us­ing the hurry-up ap­proach he loves, Rodgers played like a two-time NFL MVP. Draw­ing de­fen­sive penal­ties with quick snaps, mak­ing ad­just­ments at the line of scrim­mage and run­ning the show the way few QBs can, Rodgers threw for a pair of TDs while Ed­die Lacy and James Starks each ran for a score, and Green Bay came back to over­whelm the NFC East cham­pion Red­skins 35-18.

“We got the tempo up, and they couldn’t keep up,” said Rodgers, who fin­ished 21-for-36 for 210 yards and no turnovers. “We be­came a snow­ball, kind of go­ing down­hill, and it was tough for us to stop.”

That was miss­ing while the Pack­ers were los­ing their fi­nal two games and six of their last 10 af­ter a 6-0 start, let­ting the NFC North ti­tle slip away. And it was miss­ing early Sun­day, when Wash­ing­ton led 11-0.

“I talked a lot the last cou­ple weeks about be­ing able to turn it on, and a lot of you prob­a­bly thought that was lip ser­vice,” Rodgers told re­porters. “But we just needed a game like this to get our mojo back and get our con­fi­dence go­ing. 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 (11-6) will play at the No. 2 seed Ari­zona Car­di­nals on Satur­day night. It’s a re­match of a Week 16 game that Ari­zona dom­i­nated 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.

With the Pack­ers and Seat­tle Sea­hawks join­ing the AFC’s Pitts­burgh Steel­ers and Kansas City Chiefs, it’s the first time road teams went 4-0 in the wild­card round un­der the cur­rent NFL play­off for­mat, which started in 1990.

Wash­ing­ton (9-8) had won four games in a row, but its sea­son ends with­out a sin­gle vic­tory over a team that fin­ished with a win­ning record.

James Starks scores on a 4-yard run in the third quar­ter Sun­day to give the Green Bay Pack­ers a 24-18 lead. Elsa, Getty Im­ages

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