Last year's playoff loss to Packers hasn't been forgotten by the Redskins as they prepare to try to slow down quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense on Sunday night.
Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins was asked if he had any sort of relationship with Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers this week. The answer was no, but Cousins admitted that he has, "admired him from a distance."
There was also one other thing Cousins remembered about Rodgers.
"He's a phenomenal player, I think it says it all: He has the highest passer rating in the history of the NFL," Cousins said.
Rodgers, who is playing in his 12th NFL season, currently holds a passer rating of 103.3 – the best in league history. The only other NFL quarterback in NFL history with a passer rating more than 100 is Seattle's Russell Wilson at 101.4. Rodgers inflated his number over a ridiculous six-season stretch from 2009-2014 in which he posted a 109 quarterback rating while appearing in four Pro Bowls and the All-Pro First Team in 2012.
However, 2015 was a disappointment by Rodgers's standards. He posted a 60.7 completion percentage and a 92.7 quarterback rating – both low marks for Rodgers since he took over Brett Favre's job as Green Bay starting quarterback in 2008. Nonetheless, Green Bay was 10-6 and in the playoffs for a seventh consecutive season.
That led to the first and only meeting between Cousins and Rodgers. Although Cousins passed for 329 yards and a touchdown, Rodgers and the Packers were victorious, 35-18, in Washington's first playoff game since 2012.
"We understand what they did to us in the playoffs, so we've got to take that into account with what [Rodgers] is capable of doing," Redskins defensive end Ricky Jean Francois said. "You remember last year, he was coming off a down year and next thing you know, he came against us and he was the Hall of Fame quarterback that he is."
The hardest pill to swallow in last season's Wild Card Round loss was how the game started. Green Bay's four drives in the first quarter went as follows: punt, safety, punt, punt. Green Bay had just one first down early in the second quarter when Cousins hit Jordan Reed for a 24-yard touchdown to put the Redskins up 11-0. The Packers finished the game on a 35-7 run to move on and face Arizona in the Divisional Round.
"I think at times we played very well last year, but when you go against a guy like No. 12 [Aaron Rodgers], you have got to be on it every snap because he demands that type of perfection because if you slip, if you're off, he's going to make you pay for it," Redskins defensive coordinator Joe Barry said. "It was just a great example to say, 'Hey, we played well at times, but we can't have lapses, not against a guy like this. You have got to bring it and be on it every snap for 60 minutes.'"
The Packers enter Sunday's game losers in four of their last five games, dropping them to 4-5 on the year. Green Bay sits 1.5 games behind Washington for the second wild card spot in the NFC, but just a game behind Minnesota and Detroit for the NFC North lead.
Over this rough stretch, Green Bay's offense hasn't been the issue. The Packers have averaged 27.8 points per game, and Rodgers has thrown 13 touchdowns over the past five games. For the season, Rodgers is third in the NFL with 22 touchdown passes.
However, Green Bay's defense has been abysmal, allowing an average of more than 30 points per game since Week 6. The Packers are 24th in the NFL in points allowed per game this season, but with Rodgers at the helm, Green Bay's defensive struggles have largely been ignored by the Redskins. Washington knows ending up in a shootout Sunday night could be playing with fire.
"I know he hasn't been putting up the W's," Jean Francois said. "But we've got to make sure that we keep him down because if this guy gets any type of heat or any type of rhythm with us, you saw what he did to us last year. He sent us home in the first round."
"Plaster" or "plastering" have been popular words among Redskins defenders this week as they prepare for Rodgers, who remains one of the NFL's best at pocket movement and extending the play. With Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams and Randall Cobb – the only trio in the league with 45 or more catches this season – there is great chemistry between Rodgers and his targets.
"We have to do a good job of plastering receivers when a play breaks longer," linebacker Will Compton said.
Multiple Redskins acknowledged that they have looked back at that playoff loss in this week's film study. That film is important for studying the Xs and Os, but it may have been more important to remind Washington how last year's elimination felt. The Redskins defense is embracing the challenge of Sunday night and Aaron Rodgers.
"He's a future Hall of Famer and he's not playing bad, maybe situationally things just haven't worked out for him," Compton said. "He's a hell of a player still, one of the best players in the league. He's got a lot of good players around him, so we're going to get his best shot come this week."