LANDOVER, Md. — Fans and analysts alike were making comparisons between Kirk Cousins and Aaron Rodgers all week, with some even saying that the Redskins had the advantage at quarterback despite the fact that Green Bay's passer is a five-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl Champion, while Washington's had never started a playoff game.
Those conversations look foolish now, however, after Rodgers and the Packers easily dispatched Cousins and the Redskins Sunday evening at FedEx Field. And when I asked the Packers' signal caller whether he had paid attention to the talk at all during the week, his answer was as quick and precise as his play.
"No," Rodgers said, before giving a quick smile.
He later explained himself a little further, saying that overall, he and his teammates aren't very fond of listening to outside judgments.
"We don't really care about any of the expectations, whether they're talking about picking Kirk over myself or talking about how everybody expected us to lose this game," he said." We don't care about those opinions out there."
Whether he heard the discussions or not, #12 put together an in-control performance that was methodical and slowly sucked the life out of what was, at kickoff, a very loud and energetic stadium. His final numbers aren't startling (21-of-36 for 210 yards and two touchdowns), but he was clearly the better, calmer, and more experienced QB over Cousins, who was under duress for much of the matchup and picked up a major chunk of his yards on checkdowns and late in the fourth quarter when the outcome was already decided.
"He's just one heck of a quarterback," Jay Gruden said afterward of arguably the league's top starter. "Anytime he's in the shotgun or under center, he's got the ball in his hands. He's a special player."
On his offense's first few drives, Rodgers looked a little rushed and out of sync. But after the rocky start, he locked in and, at one point, guided the unit to five consecutive scoring trips. Packers coach Mike McCarthy mentioned that he saw his leader calm down after his initial slump.
"Aaron was playing a little fast at the beginning of the game and just settled in," he said. "There was some uneasiness, particularly on the backed-up series on the second series [which ended with a safety], but once we got going I though he played very well."
As for Cousins (29-of-46 for 329 yards and a touchdown), his streak of impeccable play finally came to an end, and the Burgundy and Gold's magic felt like it simply ran out. He was his usual positive self during postgame interviews, though, and said he intends to use the loss as motivation in the coming months.
"I walked away feeling like this loss catapults our offseason to enable us to have a little bit of an edge, and say, 'Where did we fall short?'" he said. "Hopefully it will challenge us as a young team to grow...This league is so competitive to be able to get to the top or stay near the top. So we've got a lot of work to get there and stay there."
The same could be said for Cousins himself. Because, while he was phenomenal at times in 2015 and quite good for almost all of it, he has a long way to go until a comparison between him and a player like Rodgers isn't a reach. He certainly didn't start or ask for those debates, and apparently, Rodgers didn't listen to them anyways, but on Sunday, they were laid to rest for what should be a long time — and rightly so.