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Packers find mojo in Maryland, advance to Arizona in NFC playoffs

It took until the second quarter of the NFC Wild Card game, but the Packers offense finally found its long-lost momentum.

Aaron Rodgers threw two touchdown passes in that second quarter, and the Packers rushing offense took over the game in the second half as a resurgent Packers squad defeated Washington 35-18 Sunday afternoon.

A scoreless first quarter from Green Bay left the same feelings of frustration fans and players have been feeling for weeks. Rodgers was sacked in the end zone for a safety, and the Redskins came within inches of scoring a touchdown before settling for a field goal and a 5-0 lead. Jordan Reed's touchdown catch gave Washington a seemingly commanding 11-0 lead. But the switch finally flipped with two extended Packers drives before halftime - a 9 play, 80 yard drive that was capped when Rodgers found Randall Cobb in the end zone, and another 9 play touchdown drive late in the second that helped the Pack take a 17-11 lead to the locker room at the half.

The drives were even more impressive, and much more run-based, in the second half. An 11 play, 80 yard sequence finished with a James Starks rushing score to put Green Bay ahead to stay, and a 10 play, 76 yard drive ended with Eddie Lacy triumphantly entering the end zone early in the fourth quarter. Rodgers found Jared Abbrederis for a two point conversion to put Green Bay ahead by 14 points.

Rodgers threw for 210 yards and two touchdowns, not his best statistical performance in 2015, but certainly one of his happiest. Rodgers was caught smiling and dancing around on camera, looking much more like the quarterback who led these Packers to a 6-0 start to the season. The Packers had gone 4-6 in their last ten regular season games, losing the NFC North championship in Week 17 against the Vikings at Lambeau Field to set up the showdown with the NFC East champion Redskins in Landover, Maryland.

Rodgers is now 7-5 in the playoffs with the Packers, while Mike McCarthy moves his playoff mark to 8-6 with Green Bay.

The Packers will face the Arizona Cardinals Saturday evening at 7:15 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. The Seahawks and Panthers will battle in the other NFC semifinal matchup. If Green Bay and Seattle win their respective game, the Packers would play host to the Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game.

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