A game of one and three quarters

It certainly was a game of one and three quarters, the first quarter seemed to belong to one game and the last three to another. So what happened in a game where the favourite depended on the day of the week?

With both sides’ fans on the edge of their seats from the start,the first quarter could not have started worse for the Packers, and whilst I sat in dismay my husband was filled with glee. So, this week I am mixing it up with a Q and A for the two fan bases of the Ford household.

How did you feel after that great start?

Well it was clear from the minute the TV footage started that the crowd and the team were fired up for this game. The noise was evident from the TV broadcast. Our first home playoff game since the 2012 season, and it was something that we as a fan base had not expected at all. 

The Redskins came out to play and boy did they show it in that first quarter. Stopping the Packers opening drive was good, was a little disappointed with the fact we couldn’t do anything with our first possession but hey ho. Then came Green Bay’s next possession and we were all over it. Our defence looked superb at that point containing the Packers receivers long enough to get pressure on Rodgers which eventually led to our only sack of the game, and the safety that got the ball rolling.

After the safety we have the added bonus of the ball back. The Redskins fan base is thinking about a 9-0 lead!  But what happens is that the Skins drive the ball well and it ends with a long pass to DJax for a Touchdown!!!!!  But wait… replays are being shown… It’s clear that while DJax got his feet inside the post and through the end zone, the ball was in his right arm and was outside the post.

Touchdown overruled, 1st and Goal at the ½ yard line. 

It’s ok, we thought, ‘Punch it in from there, 9-0 lead.’ So we run and we run and finally we try a pass.  Access denied. So we settle for a Field Goal, but this has taken the wind out of our sails a little. The crowd is cooling down, and even I’m sitting at home feeling like we’re missing opportunities. What should be 9-0 is just 5-0.

We’re on another drive that is looking good at the end of the quarter which results in a 24 yard TD strike to Jordan Reed at the start of the 2nd, but Hopkins, who has been money all year, misses the PAT.

It’s a bad omen. We have an 11-0 lead, and as fans we’re happy, but it should be a 16-0 lead. There is a feeling that old mistakes are creeping in and despite leading there is some fear creeping in. The crowd in FedEx is noticeably quieter. 

How was it for the Green Bay Packers fans after that we jumped out to an 11-0 lead??

I would say depressing but that is a little too extreme, resigned is a better description, I had seen this time and time again before, for the last few months it has become commonplace for not much action in the first three quarters and very little Offensive prowess. 

Like I mentioned at the start of this post, the first quarter could not have been worse for the Packers. The first drive started well with a first down straight out of the gate but it was not to last, we went 3 and out on the next attempt ending in a Punt. The next drive ended worse, a Safety, without their Offense even really getting on the field the Redskins were in the lead 2-0. To make things worse (if possible) our next few possessions all ended in Punts. Not the most auspicious of starts, it felt like the Packers of old and nothing had changed from regular season to the playoffs. With a lot of facepalming and sighing even I started to wonder whether to stay up and wait for the 4th quarter madness I have become accustomed to or give up and go to bed.

How did you feel at half time?

Crushed.

It was hard to watch us surrender 17 unanswered points after that start. Especially the way it was happening. We’d already been plagued with mistakes. DJax screwing the TD, not getting it in from the ½ yard line, missing the PAT etc. now it was more of the same with stupid penalties.

So at the half we were 17-11 down and it did not feel great, however there was hope still.  

Firstly it seemed evident that the wind on the day seemed to be having an effect on the play. In the 1st Quarter we had the wind at our backs, we should have scored 16 points. In the 2nd Quarter with the wind at the Packers backs you scored 17 points. We knew we were getting the ball in the 3rd Quarter with the wind working with us again.

It also looked like the Packers were getting a little desperate, they had resorted to running their Hurry Up offense to try to keep our Defence set. To my annoyance we got caught with 12 men on the field not once but twice, despite the fact that we should have known Rodgers loves to catch teams like that. The hurry up kept our small line-up on the field and allowed your backs to run against us, it also tired our Defence out. We started to give up big plays just like we had in the early season.

Still, we could make some halftime adjustments and come out in the 3rd Quarter fighting.

Where do you think the turning point for the Packers was?  And what was it?

Honestly? I am not sure I could pinpoint the moment, but something definitely changed. Whether it was something in the last play that just snapped them to their senses or if it just took the Packers that long to warm up.

Once they got the first touchdown maybe they finally believed or even remembered ‘Yes! We CAN do this!’. It began a series of drives that for the next 5 possessions the Packers scored on each one and whilst the Redskins Defense grew tired, the Packers Offense could use this to their advantage finally. The Redskins Offense was not able to stay on the field or do anything with meaning. Which is a shame in some ways as it would have been nice to see a bit more of a tussle from them, but on the other hand…. GO PACK GO!

You could actually hear the momentum shift in this game, it was a visible change as well, the Redskins Defense almost seemed to shrink and resign themselves to the fact they had lost. There is nothing more important to the Packers Offensive play style than momentum, they seem to thrive off of it, but I guess…so do the fans!

Why or how do you think the Redskins lost the game?

Experience. We just weren’t ready for the playoffs yet. Our late season form flattered to deceive a little. To put it into context; before the season started there were a lot of pundits who had the Redskins pegged us to be the worst team in the NFL and certainly the worst team in the NFC East.  And to be honest, the fans weren’t having high hopes either, even the most generous of predictions had us around the 5 or 6 win mark.

But when the season started it was clear we were better than we thought, not world beaters or an elite team, but the kind of team that played well in spurts. We seemed to be building something, as fans we were happy with that.

The early season was up and down, flashes of good play, with periods of mistakes and penalties but the Tampa Bay game seemed to turn us around. Suddenly we were crossing things off our to-do list; we won back to back, we won on the road, we won in prime time, we won in pressure games. The one thing we hadn’t done is beat another team with a winning record but our division was in trouble.  The Eagles were a mess (Chip Kelly had gutted the team and the team quit on him), the Giants had fallen apart (no idea what happened to them) and the Cowboys had lost Romo pretty much all season.  We ended with a 4 game win streak and surged to a winning record, the Division title and a home play-off game.

Over that span especially, Kirk Cousins played lights out, and Jordan Reed was a beast. All in all it fooled us into thinking we were ready for a playoff game when we really weren’t. We came out in the first and we punched the Packers in the mouth, but they are a playoff tested team and they just took it and unleashed a counter punch. We had no real answer for that, we started to tire, we looked flustered at times, we made mistakes and our coaches had no answers.

We’ve done so well this year, I’m really proud of the team and what they accomplished. At no point did I think we were out of this game and that in itself is a huge achievement for this franchise. In all honesty we’re a year or two away from being able to truly compete with the upper echelon of the NFL’s best teams.

How about you?  How do you think the Packers won this game?

I think the fact that it was a playoff game made the Packers snap out of the funk they were in. They went back to basics and the hurry up Offense that had worked so well in the early part of the season, even screens and slants were used, something that had been missing for some time from their playbook.

I won’t lie a few penalties on the Redskins did not hurt our teams progression down the field, even with calls against us hurting ourselves, but we no longer had to rely solely on penalties on the opposition to move us down the field. The Receivers were getting free (or free enough) and James Jones came up with some big plays despite being one of the slowest receivers in the NFL, Even Adams caught all 4 of his passes that he was targeted with, something we, as fans, had not seen for what felt like an age.

Rodgers although sacked once, was showing glimpses of his former self; extending plays, using his feet and catching the Redskins out with silly penalties like 12 men on the field. All of this combined made the Packers a threat again and looking feisty.

Where do the Redskins go from here

In actual fact I think that many Redskins fans are really looking forward to the post season. We hired Scott McLoughan as our GM this time last year and the benefits we reaped in year 1 were beyond our expectations. We had a more than solid draft, the Free Agents he brought in worked really well and he found young talent on our practice teams and on the street that had been overlooked.

The Redskins were a dysfunctional franchise, Dan Snyder the owner couldn’t stop meddling, Bruce Allen was a poor GM, Jay Gruden was a coach trying to do too much. Players played according to how much they were paid or where they were drafted or how much Snyder loved them. That’s not the way to run a football team.

Gruden learnt his lessons and bolstered his staff and delegated. McLoughan came in and he and Gruden pushed for a meritocracy where the best players played, not the highest paid ones. This meant the benching and subsequent shutdown of RGIII, killing off that QB controversy and putting a stop to Snyder’s meddling, plus it removed Bruce Allen from personnel decisions. Skins fans are keen to see what McCloughan does with the off-season.

Pressingly we need players for the secondary at Safety and Cornerback. We need another Inside Linebacker who can make an impact but most of all I think we need to bolster the O-Line. Trent Williams is solid at the Left Tackle spot and we’re set at Right Tackle and Right Guard with Morgan and Scherff. We have holes all over and many of them were exploited by the Packers, they exposed a need at Left Guard and Centre, the guys we have there are good reserves but we need strong starters to solidify the line.

I believe that if we can get two more off seasons under our belts and we stick to the plan we can be a consistently winning playoff team in a couple of years time and challenge for Superbowls. I think this year showed we’re not there yet, but the nucleus is really promising. This year was the first year in a while that the team looked PROFESSIONAL. I’m excited for the future and hence not too broken-hearted about this game we were never expected to play.

So after watching the Packers play the Redskins, how far do you realistically think the Packers can go from here? 

I have great faith in my Packers, I always do.

Do I think that they can beat the Cardinals? Well why not? We have seen it done, they are not indestructible and our Offensive Line has been bolstered by returning players and our Defense is doing a great job right now.

Do I think it will be hard? Oh god yes, the Cardinals have had a bye week and been able to rest up their players and they are still the 14-2 Cardinals after all. I honestly believe that the Packers have a fighting chance against the Cardinals, especially if they have finally come out the other side of whatever funk they were in.

Do I think we can make it all the way to the Superbowl? My heart says; ‘Yes! Go Pack Go!’ my brain says… maybe. It will be difficult, even if we beat the Cardinals on Saturday we will then go on to face the Seahawks or Panthers. If it’s the Seahawks then I believe we will have more than a fighting chance, we know them and have played them many times before (including THAT game in the Playoffs last year) whereas if it’s the Panthers, they whooped us this year but again are no undefeatable. It may take some doing and some fancy playstyle from the Packers but I think they would be our biggest obstacle. I could see us in that final but as the saying goes: On any given Sunday…

So #TeamWife won this match up, but luckily divorce is not on the cards!

Fordith and Knightingale

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