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Cards enjoyed a Bye Week. Last Sunday, the Packers rebounded from a lackluster first half going with a no-huddle offense and stepping up the offensive tempo to beat Washington going away 35 to 18.
The Packers were feeling good about themselves; confident that they could dig their way out of any hole they put themselves in. Cards used their Bye Week to get healthy and learn as much as possible about their next opponent (whether it would be the Packers, Vikings or Redskins - it turned out to b e the Packers). Actually, the he two teams were already pretty familiar with one another, having faced each other in the desert in Week #16 (The Cardinals dismembered the Packers in that game, but they faced a Green Bay squad decimated by injuries. Since then Green Bay had gotten relatively healthy - their OL was back to full health and their CB, Shields returned to action. As BA put it: the Green Bay team we'd face yesterday was a different Green Bay team from the one we took apart in Week #16).
FItz Leads Cards to OT Win Over Packers.
The Bottom Line:
It was a pretty even first half contest with the Cards hanging onto a narrow 1H lead, only falling apart (& falling behind) in the third quarter before bouncing back to regain a slim lead in the fourth quarter, but then letting Green Bay tie the score on Hail Mary pass on the final play of regulation. Cards won the OT coin toss, elected to receive and (after a couple of amazing Larry Fitzgerald heroics) scored the winning TD.
Al Michaels called this "a game for the ages." I'd rather describe it more as a less-than-perfect but exciting OT playoff win." The Cards looked like the more talented team, but the Packers led by Aaron Rodgers made more big plays (& won more individual battles than did the Cardinals. This was not Carson Palmer's finest 2.5 hours and we were lucky to excape with a razor-thin win.
Golden returned the KO to the Card 21. Cards went 3 & out. (Is this going to be a repeat of the way we started out vs. Seattle)? Punt (net penalty on GB gave them the ball on their own 17. A false-start flag on the first play helped GB go 3 & out. Peterson returned the punt to the GB 42. It took 11 plays (& 6:21) for the Cards to reach the Packer 8; where Palmer hit Floyd for a Cardinal TD. Key play: Palmer-to-D Johnson for +12. Other than that, the longest play was for +8 yards. Cards 7 - Packers 0.
KO was returned to the GB 25.The two teams exchanged 3 & outs. On the end of the next GB possession with the ball on their own 46 yard line, Rodgers hit Cobb deep left for +51 yards only to have the play nullified by an illegal shift flag.
Rodgers then hit Abbrederis for +14 yards to end the quarter.
1st Quarter Score: Cards 7 - Packers 0.
- GB moved from the Cardinal 40 to the 10 before the Cardinal defense stiffened and GB settled for a 28-yard Crosby FG. Drive took 17 plays and 7:13. Key plays: 17-yard completion to Abbrederis. A 100-yard Pick 6 by Peterson that was nullified by a retaliatory, "hands-to-the-face" flag on Rucker. Cards 7 - Packers 3
(Note - The flag that nullified the Peterson interception was a momentum-switcher: It resulted in a 10-point switch (because it took away a Cardinal TD and gave GB the ball in chip-shot range on the Cardinal 12). It could have been worse - GB could have scored a TD and made it a 14-point switcheroo).
TB on the KO. An 8-yard sack of Palmer stalled the Cards at the GB 46. Punt was fair caught at the GB 13. Rodgers moved his team to the Cardinal 16 in 17 plays (7:55) where Crosby was good from 34 yards. (When's the last time, the Cards had to endure two p17-lay drives in the same quarter)? Cards 7 - Packers 6.
0:57 till halftime. TB on the KO. After Palmer got sacked again for minus-8, the Cards ran out the clock. One-point football game.
First Half Score: Cards 7 - Packers 6.
GB received. This is where the team who comes roaring out of the lockers in the 2H can take control of a football game. On the 3rd play of the GB possession, Rodgers underthrew Abbrederis short-left. It was picked off by Rashad Johnson. Cards took over at the GB 47 but they failed to capitalize. On the third play from scrimmage, Palmer returned the favor and his throw to Floyd was picked off by Clinton-Dix (Hah! Hah!). GB took over on their own 19 and - after Lacy gashed the interior of the Cardinal run-defense for +61-yards - scored a TD on the 6th play of the drive when Rodgers hit Janis for an 8-yard score. Other key plays of drive: Lacy up the middle for +14. Packers 13 - Cardinals 7.
(The 61-yard run by Lacy looked like another dagger in the Big Red heart).
Nelson returned the KO to the Cardinal 16. Palmer was able to put together a 10-play drive that stalled at the Packer 10 and was capped by a 28-yard Catanzaro FG. Packers 13 - Cardinals 10.
Janis returned the KO to the GB 35. Cardinal defense held them to 3 & out. Punt went out of bounds at the Cardinal 31. Palmer hit Fitz for 22-yards on a diving sideline catch (that survived challenge). Cards managed to reach the GB 28 as the quarter ended. We go into the 4Q behind by a FG.
Third Quarter Score: Packers 13 - Cardinals 10
Two plays into the quarter (with the ball at the Packer 10 - an easy chip-shot away from tie-ing up the score). Palmer underthrew John Brown (who was double-covered). It was intercepted by Randall for a touchback. Cards survived a 34-yard pass to R Rodgers (which was overturned) and GB punted from their own 43. Fair catch by Peterson at the Card 20.
Palmer hit John Brown for +21 yards. Fitz for +13 yards. and - after converting a 3rd & 10 on a completion to D Johnson (who caught the ball over the middle and backflipped his way to a close1st down) made it to the GB 9, where, on the 14th play of the drive, his pass into the endzone richocheted off a defender and past two more Packer players and into the hands of Floyd for the go-ahead TD. Cards up by four. Cards 17 - Packers 13
3:44 left on the clock. (Crunch time!) TB on the KO. The defense held GB to 4 & out (they failed to convert a 4th & 5 at the GB 25). Cards ran twice and passed once before reaching the GB 18 where Catanzaro was good from 38-yards to open up a one TD lead with 1:55 left. Cards 20 - Packers 13
KO was returned to the Packer 14. Ona 4th & 20 at the Green Bay 4-yard line, Rodgers completed a pass to Janis (over Jefferson) for +60-yards (How the freak did that happen)?Two plays later - on the Cardinal 41 with 0:05 on the clock, Rodgers scrambled around, threw off his back foot going away and threw up a jump ball in the end zone. Despite what looked like air-tight coverage by Peterson and Golden, Janis came down with it. (Play survived challenge). Score tied. (Cardinal fans, do you believe in miracles? Answer: No!) Cards 20 - Packers 20
End of Regulation Score: Cards 20 - Packers 20
After a bogus first coin-flip (during which the coin apparently didn't flip), the Cardinals won the second toss (Turned out to be the biggest game-changer of the evening).
TB on the KO. On the first play of overtime, Palmer - under pressure - scrambled to his right and broke a Cardinal (pardon the pun) law of offensive football by throwing back across the field to a wide open Larry Fitzgerald who then wove his way through would-be Packer defenders 75-yards to the Green Bay 5. On the very next play, Palmer ran what looked to be a sweep-right only to give the ball to Fitzgerald on a counter off left guard and into the end zone. Game over. Cardinals win! The Cardinals win!
Final Score: Cards 26 - Green Bay 20.
Passing: Palmer was 25 for 41 (349 yards, 3 TD's and 2 picks). Rodgers was 24 for 44 for 261 yards with 2TD's and 1 pick.
Takeaways: Cards minus-3. Palmer was picked off once; Stanton twice. (Wilson none). Neither team fumbled.
Rushing: Johnson gained 35 yards on 15 carries. (Lacyl gained 89 on 12 carries).
Receiving: Fitz caught 8 for 176-yards and a TD. Smokey picked up 82 yards on 5 catches. D Johnson caught 6 for 43 yards. Floyd caught 3 for 26 and 2 touchdowns.
Cardinal Run/Pass Ratio: . (Runs: 19/Pass: 41). GB Run/Pass Ratio: 22/44).
Jefferson led the Cards with 9 tackles. Bucannon was next with 7. Bethel had 6.
Sacks - Cards had1 (Freeney'). GB sacked Palmer 3 times.
Situational Efficiency: Cards converted 5 of 13 third downs (38%). GB was 7 of 15 (46%). Cards were 3 of 6 for 50% in red zone efficiency. GB was 1 for 3 (33%)
Penalties: Cards were penalized 3 times/ GB was penalized 8.
Time of Possession: Cards 30:51- Packers 30:14
We won (With Carolina ahead of Seattle 31 - 21 in the 4Q, it looks like we'll play the Panteras next Sunday in Carolina. If not, it will be the "lucky Seahawks" in Glendale).
Fitz still has it.
We were able to find a way to help out Bethel in coverage.
Catanzaro had a good outing.
The Dark Side
Palmer wasn't his usual pinpoint accurate self. Several throws were high. (Fortunately, enough of his passes were catchable).
Coach Arians' play calling seemed to be in a rut. Lots of Run-Pass-Pass.
The running attack was stopped in its tracks. Made me wonder whether we're tipping off offensive plays
When we play more "light guys" (to contain our opponents' speed) and make some of our bigger guys inactive, other teams can wear us down by pounding the rock.
How could we allow an opponent to convert a 4th & 20 from their own 5 into a 60+ yard gain.
Bethel usually can't get the job done without help. (The good news is that we are OK when he does get help.
We won. That's important. But one reason it was "a game for the book" was because neither team executed flawlessly. We'll either play Carolina next week (in Carolina) if their 31 - 0 halftime lead holds up or Seattle (if they can overcome a 31 - 21 deficit with 1:26 still left to play.
Either way, the media pundits will drone on and on about how the "Cardinals face an uphill battle" going up against either 15 & 1 Carolina juggernaught or a Seattle super team "who came back from the biggest halftime deficit in the history of mankind."
It will be up to the Cardinal coaches to convince their players that they've proved over the course of a 16 game season that they can run with the big dawgs. If I'm BA, my message to the troops is: "We're good too and this is why we do what we do. You don't get to this point in the playoffs very often - play your asses off and enjoy the experience."