4 downs with Dougherty: Cardinals up next

Pete Dougherty
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Packers coach Mike McCarthy talks with quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) on the sidelines during the game against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field.

Here's a brief look back at the Packers' 38-18 win at Washington on Sunday and an early glimpse at their divisional-round playoff game at Arizona on Saturday:

First down: Mike McCarthy has been a proponent of calling defensive timeouts near the end of the first half in hopes of getting the ball back for a late score. The Packers’ analytics must show it’s a good move, and it fits with McCarthy’s generally aggressive mentality.

But I don’t remember it working much, and in fact a couple times over the years it has backfired and cost the Packers because the opposing offense took advantage of the stopped clock and scored points of its own. But Sunday, it worked.

McCarthy had two timeouts when Washington got the ball with 2:54 left in the second quarter. He used them after each of the first two plays. The Packers’ defense got the third-down stop, and Aaron Rodgers still had 2:22 left after Washington punted. He took the Packers 60 yards to a touchdown with 33 seconds left in the half that put the Packers up 17-11.

McCarthy: 'We�re going out there to win'

Second down: The Arizona Cardinals were rightly devastated when defensive back Tyrann Mathieu’s season ended a month ago because of a knee injury. He’s a difference maker and one of their best two or three defensive players because of his abilities as a blitzer and ball hawk playing primarily as their nickel cornerback.

He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ best cornerback in the league and had five interceptions, one sack, two quarterback hits and eight quarterback hurries. He already was out when the Cardinals blew out the Packers two weeks ago, so the Cardinals can win big without him.

But you can bet they’ll miss him now that all the money’s on the line in the playoffs.

Packers show life in playoff win

Third down: The Packers should be in better shape on the offensive line this week than they were in their embarrassing 38-8 loss at Arizona two weeks ago. Cardinals outside rusher Dwight Freeney abused backup left tackle Don Barclay in that last meeting for three sacks and five hurries. Barclay also was penalized for holding three times.

But the Packers’ left tackle this week will be either David Bakhtiari, who has missed the last three games because of an ankle injury, or JC Tretter, who put up a credible performance Sunday against Washington.

Right tackle Bryan Bulaga, right guard T.J. Lang and center Corey Linsley all missed time because of injuries in the second half of that last game against Arizona, and it turned into a jail break with the Cardinals sacking Rodgers eight times before McCarthy mercifully pulled his quarterback from the game.

Offense gives Packers reason to believe

Fourth down: The Packers this week will be facing probably the most explosive offense in the NFL — Arizona ranks No. 1 in the league in yards and No. 2 in points. If they’re going to slow Carson Palmer and his dynamic receiving corps, they’ll have to rush like they did in their win over Washington.

The Packers sacked Kirk Cousins six times, with outside linebackers Mike Neal and Nick Perry getting two each. If the Packers can hit and hurry Palmer and move him off his spot, they’ll have a chance.

If not, the Cardinals probably will put up another 381-yard day and win going away.

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