The last time they played on Sept. 15, 2013, the Redskins had an entirely different coaching staff. Not one member of second-year coach Jay Gruden’s staff was with Washington that season.
The Packers offense looked completely different, too. On the way to 38-20 Week 2 win at Lambeau Field over a Redskins team that would finish 3-13, Aaron Rodgers threw for a career-high 480 yards, James Jones put up a career-best 178 yards receiving and James Starks rushed for a career-high 132 yards after Eddie Lacy got knocked out by safety Brandon Meriweather.
Oh, how things have changed for this offense.
Coach Mike McCarthy surely would take any one of those three performances this Sunday at FedEx Field.
Forget about a 400-yard game, McCarthy likely would take 300 from Rodgers. In 16 regular-season games, Rodgers’ high is 369 in a loss at Carolina. He had only two other 300-plus yard games this season.
The Packers haven’t had a receiver top 150 yards in a game this season or a running back reach the 125-yard mark.
No wonder the Packers finished 23rd in total yards and 25th in passing yards -- their lowest mark in either category in at least 24 years.
“Really the ability to carry all the lessons from your season into the playoffs is really the goal,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “Fresh start? I think it helps everybody, but you have to be realistic with fresh starts. I think you have to have fresh starts for the right reasons. Sometimes people look for fresh starts to avoid an issue of conflict. This is a fresh start in the fact that we’re going to go play a team we haven’t played in their own stadium.”
To McCarthy’s credit, he’s tried different things to shake up his offense. He took back play-calling duties after 12 games with Tom Clements in charge, but not much changed. The Packers were 22nd in total offense and averaged 24.1 points in the first 12 games and 24th with 21.2 points per game in the last four.
“The change in the play-calling was more about changing the process back to the way we put together a game plan,” McCarthy said. “It’s like anything; when you work together for nine years and you do things a certain way and you’re the lead guy in the room, you have certain things you stick to and believe in. When the torch gets passed and our structure is different in the way it’s broken up and so forth, obviously that changes job responsibility and so forth and so forth. That was probably a bigger part.
“It wasn’t about what Tom was calling. It was really, I wanted to get back to the old process, because I know that works. I believe in it. That’s why we changed it. At the end of the day, I’m responsible for everything that happens to this team, and I’m definitely responsible for the production of the offense.”
He’s also tried different personnel packages. He opened last Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Minnesota Vikings intent on running the ball with a two-tight end, two-back, one-receiver power package, but it didn’t work. The most production came when, as Rodgers described it, they "threw caution to the wind" and starting throwing deep in the fourth quarter.
“Obviously when you basically have the same team and you’re not putting out the output, you’re not putting out the production that you did before, everyone is going to speculate on what’s going on,” receiver Randall Cobb said. “At the end of the day, we’re in the playoffs right now. We have an opportunity, and that’s all you can ask for. You’re in the race. You have a chance and it’s what you do with it now.”