Packers headed back to Ariz. for divisional-round rematch with Cardinals
The Cardinals demolished the Green Bay Packers three weeks ago and if they can do anything similar on Saturday they'll head to the NFL Championship game the following week.
The Packers are headed to Arizona for a rematch of that Week 16 game after their 35-18 wild-card victory over the Washington Redskins on Sunday.
The Cardinals handily won the first meeting 38-8 thanks for a dominant defensive performance that included nine sacks of Aaron Rodgers and a pair of touchdowns.
"We have to give Rodgers protection and give him time," Packers receiver Randall Cobb said after Sunday's win. "We know what we're capable of."
Spurred by using the hurry-up approach he loves, Rodgers against the Redskins 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.
"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."
It sets up another game at the No. 2 seed Cardinals on Saturday night.
"The main thing is everybody just needs to realize the taste they had in their mouth last time," Packers receiver James Jones said.
The Packers can at least count on this: They'll have plenty of their foam-cheese-head-wearing fans in attendance in the desert, where they appear for road games as much as anywhere. Beyond that, the odds of a return trip to the NFC championship game are stacked against them.
"We kind of felt like this was a possibility," Rodgers said. "It's going to be one more competitive game, I bet."
As the Seahawks found out against the Vikings, though, a blowout win earlier in the season can bring a well-prepared, pride-filled opponent. Thus, the Cardinals can't be expecting another 30-point margin of victory, particularly after Rodgers and the Packers found some much-needed momentum on Sunday.
As long as Rodgers is running the offense, discounting the Packers would be unwise no matter how unorganized and punchless they've looked at times this season. The onus is on the defense, though, against a prolific Cardinals team that averaged more than 30 points per game behind the finest of Carson Palmer's 13 seasons in the NFL.
Rookie David Johnson has become quite the asset as a runner and a receiver, and a Packers secondary that played on Sunday without top cornerback Sam Shields because of a concussion will have to keep up with the terrific wide receiver trio of Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and John Brown.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.