GREEN BAY – It’s every Packers fan’s dream matchup: the Seahawks and Packers at Lambeau Field for the NFC title and a chance to win it all. First, the Packers must win in Arizona.
It’s a daunting challenge. The Cardinals scored a 38-8 win over the Packers just a few weeks ago, in a game whose final score was supported by the final stats. The Cardinals sacked the Packers nine times, forced four turnovers, returned two fumbles for touchdowns and outgained the Packers by 203 yards.
This is a different Packers team that’ll make the trek back to the desert this week. It’s different because it found its offense in Washington on Sunday. It made plays in the passing game, which allowed it to blend run and pass into an effective, drive-sustaining attack.
All of that, however, was against the No. 28 defense in the league. The Cardinals are No. 5. The gap between the Redskins and Cardinals is wide. Simply put, to win in Arizona this Saturday night, the Packers will have to play their best game of the season. They’ll have to play as they did in Week 2, when they beat the Seahawks, another NFC West team.
To beat the Cardinals, the Packers will have to play NFC West football: hard, fast and all out.
Here are 10 other things the Packers have to do to beat the Cardinals.
1. Protect the quarterback – You can’t win when your quarterback is on his back.
2. Win time of possession – The Cardinals are the No. 1 offense in the league. You want them on the bench as much as possible.
3. Win the one-on-ones – It has to happen for the Packers to back those linebackers away from the line of scrimmage and into the passing lanes.
4. Stop the run – If the Packers can force favorable down and distance, they can unleash their own pass rush, which is hot right now.
5. Commit to the run – That’s how you win time of possession.
6. Put the pressure on them – The Cardinals are the No. 2 seed. They’re regarded to be the best team in the league. The longer the issue is in doubt, the more the noose tightens.
7. Find the stress points – Coach McCarthy recently alluded to stress points. Every team has them, even a team as good as the Cardinals. Find them and attack them.
8. Play above the paycheck – Players are off their salaries now, and the prize money isn’t all that good. Winning in the postseason is about the heart.
9. Double Larry Fitzgerald – John Brown and Michael Floyd are the Cardinals’ home run threats, but Fitzgerald is Carson Palmer’s security blanket. Take it away.
10. Screen – It helps quiet the rush.