After all of the consternation that has gone on among Green Bay Packers fans during the 2015 season, the Packers' offense and defense worked together for the first time in a long time as they advanced to the Divisional Round of the NFC Playoffs by virtue of a 35-18 win in Washington on Sunday afternoon.
By virtue of Seattle's win over Minnesota earlier in the day, Green Bay earns the right to take a return trip to Arizona next Saturday as they will play the Cardinals on Saturday evening.
The Packers picked up 130 yards on the ground while Aaron Rodgers - who started the game 1-for-8 for 11 yards - finished 21/36 for 210 yards and two touchdowns.
Here's how it all went down on Sunday at FedEx Field.
The Packers won the coin toss and elected to receive (a bit of a surprise since they typically defer), but the offense was its usual ugly self on the first drive. The opening play was a pass to James Jones for 11 yards. However, on the next set of downs Aaron Rodgers had to throw a pass away, Eddie Lacy ran for one yard, and then Rodgers' pass to an open Jared Abbrederis was tipped and fell incomplete. Tim Masthay was brought on to punt, and he lofted another ugly kick for just 35 yards.
The Packers' defense forced a Washington three-and-out on their first series, helped by a Jordan Reed drop on third down. However, on the ensuing punt, Micah Hyde received the ball at the five-yard line and during his return, Demetri Goodson was flagged for an illegal block in the back, setting up Green Bay at their own 8.
The Packers' playcalling went back to a familiar formula on their second drive. After an incomplete deep pass on first down, the Packers ran the ball with Lacy on second down and picked up a yard. On third down, after being called for a false start, replacement left tackle JC Tretter gave up a safety as Preston Smith sacked Rodgers in the end zone and gave Washington a 2-0 lead.
Following the free kick, Washington took over across their own 40. Their tight ends started doing work over the middle of the field, with Alex Smith picking up 16 yards by running over Jake Ryan and Jordan Reed adding 11 by beating Micah Hyde. A crossing route by DeSean Jackson was originally ruled a touchdown, but reversed upon review, as the ball never crossed the goal line and Jackson never got a foot down in the end zone. Following two run stuffs by the Packers' defense, Washington took a delay of game and set up a third and goal from the seven. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was able to knock away a pass intended for Pierre Garcon, and instead Washington had to settle for a field goal and a 5-0 lead.
The Packers promptly went three-and-out after the next kickoff, with Rodgers missing a pair of open receivers on second and third downs. The defense forced a three-and-out of their own, thanks to a sack by Clay Matthews and another near-sack by Julius Peppers forcing an incomplete pass on third down. Another three-and-out forced another Packers punt and left Aaron Rodgers with a 1-for-8 start.
Kirk Cousins nearly threw a pick-six to Casey Hayward on the next series, but instead his third-and-three pass was hauled in by Jordan Reed with a one-handed catch in front of Hayward, and he rumbled for 20 yards and a first down instead. A few plays later, Cousins found Reed deep over the middle, wide open after beating Micah Hyde, and dropped the football in perfectly for a 20-yard touchdown. Dustin Hopkins hit the upright on the PAT, and Washington held an 11-0 lead.
Finally, the Packers' offense found a little bit of success on their ensuing drive. After picking up a first down with the help of a 12 men call against the defense, Rodgers hit James Jones on a deep in-and-up for 34 yards, then Davante Adams picked up nine yards with a nifty move along the sideline. Following a jet sweep by Randall Cobb that picked up 7 yards, Rodgers was able to get another 12 men penalty (and offsides, to boot), and he scrambled a bit before finding Cobb in the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown. That score cut the Washington lead to 11-7, and capped a 9-pay, 80-yard drive.
On Washington's next drive, both their offense and the Packers' defense traded big plays. Casey Hayward had a couple of big pass breakups, but Washington got a big gain on a crossing route from Pierre Garcon and then a 25-yard run by Chris Thompson, but Mike Neal made the biggest play of the drive. He beat right tackle Morgan Moses and sacked Kirk Cousins, forcing a fumble and falling on it for the Packers' first turnover of the game.
The Packers quickly moved into field goal range, thanks to a swing pass to Randall Cobb and another first down picked up on the ground. An incomplete deep pass to Cobb and a run by Starks set up a third and two. Rodgers stared down James Jones all the way, and the pass was knocked away, forcing fourth down. Mason Crosby hit a 43-yard field goal, cutting the Washington lead to one point at 11-10.
With just under three minutes left and two timeouts, Mike McCarthy elected to use his timeouts to stop the clock as his defense got stops on first and second downs. On third down, Quinten Rollins broke up a would-be first down pass to Jamison Crowder, and the Packers got their three-and-out and took over on offense before the two-minute warning.
Rodgers hit James Starks on a screen for a first down at midfield, then found Richard Rodgers over the middle for six yards. He found Rodgers again for a first down before throwing incomplete. He found Jones for eight yards, then found Davante Adams (who made a remarkable catch) for a first down on third-and-two, the Packers' first third down conversion of the game. That pass picked up 20 yards and set up a first and goal. On first down, Rodgers overthrew Cobb in the end zone, but on second down Adams broke open in the corner of the end zone and Rodgers found him for a touchdown and the Packers' first lead of the game, making the score 17-11 at the half.
After a decent kickoff return by Jeremy Ross, Kirk Cousins hit Pierre Garcon for a big gain over the middle on the first play from scrimmage of the third quarter. On the next play, Alfred Morris picked up 19 yards through the middle of the Packers defense. The Packers were able to hold on a third down in their own territory, but Washington went for it on fourth and one from the 24. Cousins rolled out and found an open Jordan Reed once again, who got down to the 7-yard line. On first and goal, Cousins overthrew Garcon, then he hit Crowder on second down but only at the three. On third and goal, Washington spread the field with four receivers to the left and Jordan Reed to the right, but Cousins ran a quarterback draw up the middle and easily found the end zone to give Washington the lead once again at 18-17.
On the Packers' first play of their next series, Rodgers hit Davante Adams on a screen pass, but after picking up nine yards Richard Rodgers fell on him, bending back his right knee awkwardly. Adams left the game limping, and was replaced by Jared Abbrederis. He picked up nine on second down, setting up a third and one that was picked up on a swing pass to John Kuhn. A nine-yard gain by Cobb on the ground set up another third and one, and this time a John Kuhn dive was stopped just short. On fourth and inches from the 45, the Packers chose to go for it. Eddie Lacy found running room behind Josh Sitton and picked up the first down easily to sustain the drive. On the next play, Lacy broke loose for 30 yards after a perfect cutback to the left, setting up first and goal from the 4. James Starks took a toss to the right and slipped one tackle for the Packers' third touchdown of the game, giving Green Bay the lead again at 24-18.
The Packers were able to force a three-and-out and maintain their momentum, thanks to a couple of incomplete passes. Randall Cobb was the primary running back on the next drive, running the ball twice before a Rodgers-to-Jones pass picked up a first down. Rodgers then found Cobb for 15 yards to midfield on second and long on the final play of the third quarter to reset the chains again. To start the fourth, Starks picked up gains of 11, 7, and 4 yards to move the chains twice. He then picked up another 22 yards after an offsides penalty, before Lacy punched it in from two yards out. An Abbrederis 2-point conversion made the lead 32-18 in favor of the Packers.
Washington fought back, however, down two possessions, as Jordan Reed picked up a big 22-yard gain after Alfred Morris' 12-yard pickup on the ground. The Packers were able to get out of the tough spot, though, thanks to a big sack by Clay Matthews and a bad pass under pressure by Cousins on third and 19.
After a punt, the Packers got out of the shadow of their own end zone thanks to a pass interference penalty on cornerback Quinton Dunbar against James Jones, giving them the ball at the 27. After two short runs by Lacy, Rodgers threw to Abbrederis on a slant, but he was tackled just short of the line to gain and the Packers had to punt.
The Packers' defense did not allow Washington to get back in the game, giving up just one first down before holding. A sack by Nick Perry on fourth and ten was effectively the dagger in this game, as the Packers took over with five minutes left at Washington's 17. Three runs led to another Crosby field goal that put the game out of reach at 35-18.
Washington did move the ball quickly, however, reaching the red zone in just over a minute. Once there, however, the defense held once again, eventually getting a sack by Mike Neal on fourth down. Eddie Lacy fumbled just after the two-minute warning, but another sack on fourth down (by Nick Perry) finished things off.