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Quick Outs, Wild Card Edition: Packers had fun again and are suddenly dangerous

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We look back at Green Bay's win on Sunday and find that something incredible has happened: football is fun again!

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers exorcised some recent demons on Sunday night, finding their groove again on offense and posting more than 30 points for the first time since week 11 and just the fourth time all season. They did so by getting their offensive line back on track and by finally being able to have some fun in the second half, which are some focus areas of this week's Quick Outs.

As usual, the peanut gallery is here to break down the game from our various perspectives.


The Green Bay Packers' win over Washington demonstrated that, above their issues at the skill position players, the offensive line swings the offensive performance more than any factor outside of the quarterback position. The safety the unit gave up in the first quarter certainly remains a glaring execution failure, but for the remainder of the game, Washington never sacked Aaron Rodgers nor did they produce any significant pressure. As a direct result, the Packers locked into a rhythm that produced the most points since their Week 3 win against the Kansas City Chiefs. Even beyond the numbers, the offense looked competent for the first time in weeks. JC Tretter did a more than admirable job, and should hold onto the starting left tackle spot until David Bakhtiari can return to the field.

Once again, Dom Capers' crew had a strong showing. Not only did the defense allow just 16 points, but it also severely limited Kirk Cousins and the red-hot Washington offense after the first quarter. Injuries from the game could haunt the Packers next week, but that shouldn't minimize what Capers has done with the group this season.


Well that was fun. The most fun thing about it though, is the realization that the Packers should have won by more. Poor special teams put them in a hole early with the safety and ensuing scoring drive and set the tone for Washington.

I also like seeing open receivers. While the Packers' early struggles weren't new, the culprit was. Aaron Rodgers started horribly, showing terrible form and missing open guys. He looked broken and shell-shocked from taking repeated hits. I don't know if he simply calmed down or if a coach said something or if he just saw it on one of those lovely Surface Pros, but once he settled down and realized that guys were actually open, he started hitting them again, and it was beautiful.

It wasn't a huge surprise to see this, as Washington is a bad team with a bad defense that went 9-7 mostly because they never played anyone good, but they still beat who they needed to beat. Perhaps most encouragingly, the Packers smoked a playoff team. By gum, it's been awhile. I still think they get destroyed next week, but I give them a puncher's chance. For now let's enjoy this one.


The most impressive thing about yesterday to me wasn't so much that the Packers won, but that they did so after being down by 11 points. This is a team that in the last couple of weeks has looked if not emotionally checked out, then at least confused - like Superman without his powers. So when Washington ripped off a hot start and Aaron Rodgers looked like Clark Kent getting his ass kicked by a trucker in some Podunk diner, I thought for sure the Packers were done for.

But then something happened.

If you'll allow me a cross-sport reference for one moment, yesterday reminded me a bit of LeBron James against the Boston Celtics in the 2012 NBA playoffs. After being tormented for a good year and a half by Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett telling him he was a choke artist, a fraud, and, knowing KG's brand of trash talking, probably something to do with his mother as well, something finally clicked with LeBron. Something broke. After that, it was game over. LeBron went on to eviscerate the Celtics in one of the most singularly dominant performances in NBA history.

Of course, that moment sparked a run of two-straight championships for LeBron and the Miami Heat. While the Packers are, in all likelihood, not that team this year, they did demonstrate that same kind of mental weightlessness that comes from having reached a certain breaking point. I'm not sure what Aaron Rodgers' thoughts were when he reached that point, but you can imagine them being something along the lines of the following: These are the Washington Redskins and a guy who looks like he should be a Christian rock band front man playing quarterback and I'm Aaron friggin' Rodgers.

From there, it was essentially over. This certainly wasn't the jaw-dropping precision and excellence of say, 2010's game in Atlanta, but given the struggles the team has experienced this year, it was refreshing to see - if only for three quarters - the team come to the realization that they were simply the better, more talented team on the field yesterday. So now we see what comes of this of this little spark of success. The Cardinals are the better, more talented team both on paper and as they showed on the field just three weeks ago. But maybe, just maybe, whatever broke yesterday stays broken and the Packers keep slinging it like they know they can. The odds aren't great, but as we've seen before, all it takes is a little spark to start a full-blown blaze.


Sports are supposed to be fun. They're supposed to be an enjoyable diversion from everyday life for the fans, and a game that the players should be able to enjoy when they're on the field. For the first time in a long time, it seemed that Packers fans were actually having fun watching their team and it seemed that the Packers themselves were having fun on it.

Nothing showed this more clearly than Aaron Rodgers' grin in the second half after the Packers had retaken the lead for good and were driving down the field once again. That face is one that has been few and far between since the Packers' six-game winning streak to open the season. Not only was he having fun, but he actually looked comfortable behind an offensive line that has struggled to put a consistent performance together since the bye week. And when Rodgers is comfortable and is not feeling rushed in the pocket, good things will happen even if the receivers struggle to get open initially.

It's a tall order to expect the same level of performance against a much better Cardinals team on Saturday. (And in the interest of full disclosure, Arizona was my Super Bowl pick following Week 17.) But with a very good performance to build on and to give the team confidence, this Packers squad looks to be infinitely more dangerous now than they did 24 hours ago.


I guess all Rodgers needed this whole time was a clean pocket, huh? That was certainly one of the biggest reasons this offense started to look like the offense of old: finding rhythm with the no-huddle, drawing pre-snap penalties, and playing games with the defense with adjustments at the line.

I want to get excited about the performance and proclaim the offense is back and all is well, but then I remember who they played. Washington's defense was one of the worst in the league throughout the season. I admit I am more optimistic about next week than I originally thought I would be, but the Arizona defense is a whole different animal.

Overall, I am just excited about finally watching a satisfying victory. It has been so long since everything seemed to click, and the fact it was on the road in the playoffs just adds to it. In my head this season no longer feels like a complete loss.