Rodgers, Packers shrug off slow start, overwhelm Redskins

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LANDOVER, Md. (AP) -- Aaron Rodgers did a jig after his first touchdown pass. Later, he was smiling and nodding and thrusting both arms overhead.

And why not? He has a lot more fun when his offense is balanced - and the Green Bay Packers score seemingly at will.

Spurred by a bit of hurry-up, and a bunch of running, the wild-card Packers got going after a rough start Sunday, with Rodgers throwing for a pair of TDs while Eddie Lacy and James Starks each rushed for a score, and Green Bay beat the NFC East champion Washington Redskins 35-18 to reach the divisional round.

SEE MORE: Seahawks escape with thrilling victory

Rodgers opened 1 for 8, and the Packers' first four drives ended this way: punt, safety, punt, punt. They had all of 11 yards - yes, just 11 - after one quarter.

But trailing 11-0 early in the second quarter, two-time NFL MVP Rodgers and the Packers suddenly began to show the sort of ability to gain yards in chunks and put points on the board they had been missing while losing six of their final 10 games and letting the NFC North title slip away.

Green Bay (11-6) will play at the No. 2 seed Arizona Cardinals on Saturday night. In the other NFC game next weekend, the No. 1 seed Carolina Panthers will host the wild-card Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.

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Rodgers, Packers shrug off slow start, overwhelm Redskins
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) bounces off the turf in the end zone after being sacked for a safety during the first half of an NFL wild card playoff football game against the Washington Redskins in Landover, Md., Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Green Bay Packers inside linebacker Clay Matthews (52) closes in on the sack of Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) during the first half of an NFL wild card playoff football game in Landover, Md., Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Mark Tenally)
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams (17) pulls in a touchdown pass as Washington Redskins free safety Dashon Goldson (38) closes in during the first half of an NFL wild card playoff football game in Landover, Md., Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Aaron Rodgers scrambles with the ball under pressure from Washington Redskins defensive end Chris Baker (92) during the first half of an NFL wild card playoff football game in Landover, Md., Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) throws a pass during the first half of an NFL wild card playoff football game against the Washington Redskins in Landover, Md., Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Washington Redskins running back Alfred Morris (46) is stopped by Green Bay Packers defensive end Mike Daniels (76) during the first half of an NFL wild card playoff football game in Landover, Md., Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Green Bay Packers wide receiver James Jones (89) is knocked to the turf by Washington Redskins cornerback Will Blackmon (41) during the first half of an NFL wild card playoff football game in Landover, Md., Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Mark Tenally)
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jared Abbrederis (84) reaches for an incomplete pass under pressure from Washington Redskins free safety Dashon Goldson (38) during the first half of an NFL wild card playoff football game in Landover, Md., Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) scores a touchdown on a quarterback keeper as Green Bay Packers linebacker Joe Thomas (48) closes in during the second half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game in Landover, Md., Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) signals after running back James Starks (44) scores a touchdown during the second half of an NFL wild card playoff football game against the Washington Redskins in Landover, Md., Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Mark Tenally)
Green Bay Packers running back James Starks (44) carries the ball into the end zone for a touchdown as Washington Redskins cornerback Will Blackmon (41) watches during the second half of an NFL wild card playoff football game in Landover, Md., Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy, left,and Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden shake hands after an NFL wild card playoff football game in Landover, Md., Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016. The Packers won 35-18 over the Redskins to advance in the playoffs. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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With the Packers and Seahawks joining the AFC's Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs, it's the first time road teams went 4-0 in the wild-card round under the current NFL playoff format, which started in 1990.

Washington (9-8) had won four games in a row, but its season ends without a single victory over a team that finished with a winning record.

Rodgers finished 21 for 36 for 210 yards and no interceptions. Washington QB Kirk Cousins, making his first career playoff start after a breakthrough season, was 29 for 46 for 329 yards. He threw for one touchdown, lost one fumble and was sacked six times.

Here is how effective Green Bay was against a Washington defense that had developed a bend-but-don't-break-reputation: The Packers scored on five consecutive possessions in one stretch, with four touchdowns and a field goal.

Green Bay compiled its highest point total since a season-high 38 in Week 3.

Rodgers connected with Randall Cobb and Davante Adams in the end zone en route to a 17-11 halftime lead. In the second half, Starks scored from 4 yards out, and Lacy from 2, as the Packers ran the ball on 13 of 15 snaps. After gaining 17 yards on nine carries in the first half, Green Bay finished with more than 140 yards rushing.

The Redskins looked like the better team in the early going.

The game was barely 4 1/2 minutes old when Washington led 2-0 on its first postseason safety since 1984 - rookie linebacker Preston Smith got to Rodgers for his sixth sack in the past four games.

The Redskins then went ahead 5-0 on Dustin Hopkins' 25-yard field goal, but the lead could have been larger. DeSean Jackson caught a pass from Cousins and initially was ruled to have scored, but the points came off when it was ruled that the ball never crossed the goal line.

Later, Cousins connected with tight end Jordan Reed for a 24-yard score and, after a missed extra-point attempt, it was 11-0.

That was when Rodgers, the MVP of the 2011 Super Bowl, turned things around.

Rodgers looked a lot more like himself in the second quarter, going 5 for 6 for 68 yards on a drive that ended with a 12-yard TD pass to Cobb, drawing Green Bay within 11-7. And Rodgers pulled out all his usual tricks, twice going with a quick snap that generated a too-many-men penalty on Washington's defense.

Later in that quarter, Cousins was strip-sacked by Mike Neal, who also recovered the fumble, which the Packers turned into a 43-yard field goal to trim their deficit to 11-10.

And Rodgers added his second scoring toss of the quarter with 28 seconds left, a 10-yarder to Adams that gave the Packers a 17-11 halftime lead. Rodgers danced around after that TD, and threw some fist pumps, too, feeling good about his offense for the first time in a while.

RANKING THE BEST AND WORST NFL STADIUMS:

32 PHOTOS
NFL Stadiums
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Rodgers, Packers shrug off slow start, overwhelm Redskins

31. Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego Chargers

(David Drapkin/AP images for USAA)

30. O.co Coliseum, Oakland Raiders

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

29. Sun Life Stadium, Miami Dolphins

(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

28. Ralph Wilson Stadium, Buffalo Bills

(AP Photo/Bill Wippert)

27. Bank of America Stadium, Carolina Panthers

(AP Photo/Bob Leverone)

26. FedExField, Washington Redskins

 (AP Photo/Mark Tenally)

25. LA Coliseum, St. Louis Rams

(AP Photo/Nick Ut)

24. FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland Browns

(AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

23. Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans Saints

(Kevin Terrell/AP Images for USAA)

22. Ford Field, Detroit Lions

 (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

21. Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia Eagles

(AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

20. Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

19. Nissan Stadium, Tennessee Titans

(AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

18. Georgia Dome, Atlanta Falcons

(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson )

17. Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati Bengals

 (AP Photo/Tom Uhlman)

16. EverBank Field, Jacksonville Jaguars

(AP Photo/Stephen Morton)

15. MetLife Stadium, New York Giants/New York Jets

(AP Photo/Matt York, File)

14. Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver Broncos

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

13. University of Phoenix Stadium, Arizona Cardinals

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

12. NRG Stadium, Houston Texans

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

11. Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City Chiefs

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

10. Gillette Stadium, New England Patriots

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

9. M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore Ravens

(AP Photo/Gail Burton)

8. Soldier Field, Chicago Bears

(AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)

7. Heinz Field, Pittsburgh Steelers

(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

6. Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis Colts

 (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

5. Levi's Stadium, San Francisco 49ers

(AP Photo/Tony Avelar, File)

4. U.S. Bank Stadium, Minnesota Vikings

(AP) 

3. AT&T Stadium, Dallas Cowboys

(AP Photo/Roger Steinman)

2. CenturyLink Field, Seattle Seahawks

(AP Photo/Scott Eklund)

1. Lambeau Field, Green Bay Packers

(Mike McGinnis/AP Images for Panini)

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