Cardinals coach Arians: Packers ‘will be a different team this time around’

Jan 11, 2016, 2:57 PM | Updated: 11:55 pm
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) is sacked by Arizona Cardinals inside linebacker D...
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) is sacked by Arizona Cardinals inside linebacker Dwight Freeney during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
LISTEN: Bruce Arians, Cardinals head coach

Last week, Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians had his team prepare for all three of the teams they could have possibly faced in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

This week, they can focus solely on the Green Bay Packers, who beat the Washington Redskins 35-18 to advance to Saturday’s game, which will kickoff at 6:15 p.m. at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.

The Cardinals and Packers squared off once already this season, with Arizona sacking Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers eight times — en route to a 38-8 win that clinched a first-round bye in the postseason. While that game was just a few weeks ago, Arians is not necessarily expecting history to repeat itself.

“It will be a different team this time around,” he told Bickley and Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Monday. “They obviously got a little confidence after the way they played yesterday, and they got some healthy offensive linemen back which will make a big difference in the game.

“They ran the ball really well, so it’s a different team, especially if they get Sam Shields back.”

The Packers had lost two games in a row prior to Sunday’s playoff victory, looking both bad and dysfunctional much of the time. In Washington, their sputtering offense generated 346 total yards, as Rodgers threw for 210 to go along with a pair of touchdowns.

It was a far cry from how he performed in Arizona last month, when the Cardinals harassed him into completing just more than half his passes for 151 yards with one touchdown, one interception and three fumbles, two of which he lost (and were returned for touchdowns).

Arians pointed out that the Packers were missing three offensive linemen when they last faced off, and understands they could have their entire starting front for the rematch.

“Which is huge for them,” he said.

Getting after Rodgers with the ferocity and frequency they did in December would go a long way toward the Cardinals having success and advancing to the NFC Championship Game. Recording another eight sacks against him would be great, but it’s difficult to imagine that happening again against one of the game’s most mobile and accurate quarterbacks.

Other than that kind of pressure, Arians said the best way to slow Rodgers down is to stop Green Bay’s running game while forcing them to abandon it entirely.

“You’ve got to shut down the running game, try to get them one-dimensional,” he said. “Offensively, you’ve got to score points and then we’re a man-to-man team, it has been a pretty good blueprint so far, but we’ve got to get him on the ground and not let him get out of the pocket.”

Besides the Packers’ possible return to health and likelihood of performing better than they did the last time they were in Arizona, another intriguing part of this game is the fact that these teams, while not division rivals, do have some familiarity with each other.

Arians said they kind of know what to expect from Green Bay having already spent time game planning for them once, though the same will go for the Packers in terms of readying for the Cardinals, too. And of course, just because the Cardinals dominated the first battle does not mean they will do so again in the second.

“The ball bounced funny in that ball game,” Arians noted. “We turned it over, they turned it over, we go down and get a touchdown, it kind of turned that whole game around right before the half.

“But I think our crowd will be super-excited, and we should be more than ready to go.”

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Cardinals coach Arians: Packers ‘will be a different team this time around’