Packers find playoff success in setting the tempo

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) At their best against Washington, the Green Bay Packers snapped back to the line of scrimmage quickly after a successful play, ready for the next snap.

Up-tempo play confounded the Redskins' defense in Green Bay's 35-18 win in the wild-card round, a confidence boost for the Packers ahead of a matchup against Arizona's tough defense on Saturday night in an NFC divisional playoff game.

''We like to move the ball fast,'' receiver James Jones said after the win over Washington. ''When we get a good tempo going, we're hard to stop.''

That has typically been the case with coach Mike McCarthy calling the plays and quarterback Aaron Rodgers taking snaps under center.

But with deep threat Jordy Nelson out all season with a knee injury, and the running game chugging along in fits and starts, the once-potent Packers offense has struggled to produce points.

They've had spurts of success playing catch-up, such as rallying for two touchdowns in the final 7:54 of a 37-29 loss to Carolina.

Late rallies at home against Detroit, Chicago and Minnesota fell short of victory. The 27-23 win over the Lions on the road on Dec. 3 ended with perhaps the Packers' signature play this season - the 61-yard touchdown catch by Richard Rodgers as time expired on a desperation pass from Aaron Rodgers.

Last week against Washington, the Packers were back to scoring points in bunches after a sluggish first quarter.

They moved the ball effectively in no-huddle and shotgun formations. Rodgers caught the Redskins secondary at least a couple of times on free plays, including a 12-yard score to Randall Cobb in the second quarter.

The run game got better as the game progressed. When they're moving the ball effectively at a quick tempo, it creates energy. More energy, in turn, can sharpen offensive play.

''It's part of being part of a no-huddle offense, it's important to us,'' McCarthy said on Tuesday. ''That's the way we prefer to play, and we're all about getting as many attempts at the plate as possible.''

It's made possible starting with the offensive line, whose top priority is to protect Rodgers. When the offense is in sync, Rodgers doesn't need much time to find his receivers.

When Rodgers is rolling and feeling good, the Packers are hard to stop.

''Your best players, particularly your best player has to practice hard every day. He has outstanding energy,'' McCarthy said.

If the Packers are moving the ball, defenders could get worn down while being stuck on the field when Rodgers goes no-huddle. Or a defense runs the risk of Rodgers taking advantage of a free play if a team can't substitute in time before a penalty flag is thrown.

More immediately, the Packers have to figure out how to make the offense work against the Cardinals, three weeks after getting blown out 38-8 by Arizona in the desert in Week 16.

The Cardinals had nine sacks and outgained the Packers 381-178. Rodgers had a disastrous day with two fumbles lost on sacks that were returned for touchdowns.

In a best-case scenario, the Packers build a big lead, then force the opponent into a one-dimensional offense that allows Green Bay's pass rush to start teeing off.

''This is the way I learned it, the traditional West Coast offense built around making the quarterback successful,'' McCarthy said, ''and the best way to do that is to have a strong run game, play run and pass, and playing as fast as you can.''

NOTES: The team returns to the practice field on Wednesday, when McCarthy said he would have a better idea on the availability of WR Davante Adams, who left the Redskins game in the third quarter with a right knee injury. Adams said at the time he didn't think the injury was serious. ... CB Sam Shields remains in the concussion protocol. ... CB Quinten Rollins (quad) was doing everything he can to play, McCarthy said, adding that the rookie was ''knocking it out of the park'' as far as the treatment. ... The Packers will practice in Green Bay on Friday morning before departing for Arizona in the early afternoon.

---

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and AP NFL Twitter feed: www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide—from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Andy Staples, Grant Wahl, and more—delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.