The Green Bay Packers found yet another heartbreaking way to lose on Saturday night in Glendale, Arizona, as the Cardinals defeated Green Bay in overtime by the score of 26-20. This was the second year in a row that the Packers were eliminated from the playoffs by an NFC West team in overtime, and the second straight time that it happened without Aaron Rodgers even touching the football in the overtime period.
After giving up a lead in the fourth quarter, the Packers fought back with a furious rally, as Jeff Janis made two incredible catches in the last minute of the game - a 60-yarder on fourth and 20 and a 41-yard Hail Mary touchdown to tie the game as the clock expired. However, after losing a controversial coin toss in overtime, the Packers surrendered a 75-yard pass to Larry Fitzgerald, who scored a touchdown two plays later to end the game and the Packers' season.
Fitzgerald caught eight passes for 176 yards and that score, while Janis nearly matched him with seven catches for 145 and two touchdowns. Aaron Rodgers completed 24 of 44 passes for 261 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception, while Carson Palmer was 25/41 for 349 yards, three scores, and two picks. The Packers won the turnover battle and held the Cardinals to just 40 rushing yards on the day, but could not take advantage of critical opportunities to put the Cardinals away in the second half.
Here's our recap of the game.
The Packers won the coin toss and deferred, and Arizona took over around their own 20. On the Cardinals' first drive, the defense forced a three and out, aided by good pressure on Carson Palmer and a Sam Shields pass breakup on third and nine. The Packers fared no better, however, on their first offensive series. On the Packers' first snap, Josh Sitton was flagged for a false start. Eddie Lacy earned back the penalty yardage on first and 15, but a drop by Jared Abbrederis on second down and big pressure on Aaron Rodgers on third resulted in a three and out for the Packers as well. Tim Masthay's punt was abysmal as well, and Arizona started at Green Bay's 42-yard line.
The Cardinals picked up the game's first first down on their next play, with David Johnson slipping out of the backfield during a blitz and picking up 12 yards. They then converted a third down and a fourth-and-inches, before setting up with first-and-goal from the 8. After a short swing pass and then a sack by Nick Perry, Carson Palmer found Michael Floyd with a perfect pass in the back right corner of the end zone, and the Cardinals had a 7-0 lead.
The Packers failed to pick up a first down on their second drive, thanks to safety Tony Jefferson reading and breaking up a third-down pass from Rodgers to Richard Rodgers. Masthay's punt set up Arizona at their own 35. The Packers' defense forced another three and out, but a great bounce on Drew Butler's punt forced the Packers deep in their own territory, taking over at the 5.
The Packers finally got a first down on their third drive, with James Starks converting on the ground for nine yards on second and seven. After a drop by a wide-open Randall Cobb, Rodgers scrambled for 19 yards on third and four. Then, two plays later, Randall Cobb made the catch of the year on a free play, but his one-handed grab was wiped out by an illegal shift on Bryan Bulaga that offset the 12-men on the field call on Arizona. Cobb left the game for a while with a chest injury after the play and went to the locker room for X-rays. Thankfully, Abbrederis came up with a clutch catch along the sideline to move the chains. He had another big third-down conversion later, picking up 11 yards down to the Arizona 18. On the next play, Aaron Rodgers threw an ill-advised pass towards James Jones, and Patrick Peterson returned it 100 yards for a touchdown - but the play was nullified by an illegal hands to the face penalty on Arizona's Frostee Rucker, which gave Green Bay a free first down. Following three unsuccessful plays, the Packers kicked a field goal to cut the Cardinals lead to 7-3.
The Cardinals picked up a first down on their next drive, but a sack by Julius Peppers helped force an Arizona punt. Green Bay was able to pick up another third down thanks to a nice catch by Richard Rodgers along the sidelines, Abbrederis picked up another pair of first downs to help get Green Bay into field-goal range. Jeff Janis came up with another third down conversion and picked up another first down on a back-shoulder throw. From the 12, Starks lost four yards on a swing pass and Rodgers threw incomplete on second down to set up a third and 14 with a minute left in the second quarter. Rodgers threw under pressure, but his throw was out the back of the end zone to conserve a field goal attempt, and Mason Crosby hit from 34 yards to pull the Packers within a point at 7-6.
The Cardinals then ran out the clock on the first half.
On the first possession of the second half, Aaron Rodgers was intercepted on a bizarre throw to Jared Abbrederis. There was coverage on both sides of Abby, but Rodgers' throw was tipped at the line of scrimmage, compounding the bad decision as Reshad Johnson picked off the pass. However, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix returned the favor just three plays later, as he picked off Carson Palmer on third and long.
Eddie Lacy's next series was a bizarre one. After losing two yards on a swing pass, he picked up 14 on the next play, on which he slipped and fell then got up and picked up the first down. He then broke a huge cutback run, and with a convoy of blockers, he jogged (yes, that's the best word for it) 61 yards down to the 8-yard line. After no gain on a Starks run and an incomplete pass, Rodgers scrambled for what felt like an eternity and found Jeff Janis in the front of the end zone for the Packers' first touchdown of the game and Janis' first non-preseason score of his career. That touchdown gave Green Bay a 13-7 lead.
The Cardinals' next drive was the Larry Fitzgerald show, as the veteran receiver was involved on just about every one of Arizona's big plays. He picked up 32 on a deep pass along the sideline, then got another 19 yards over the middle, before being flagged for an illegal blindside block on a receiver screen, which pushed Arizona back from a first and goal at the 7 to the 20 instead. On third and goal, Palmer was nearly picked off by Sam Shields, but the pass was just out of his reach and Arizona kicked a field goal to cut the Packers' lead to 13-10.
The Packers' bad offense showed up again on the next drive, as a false start penalty contributed to a three-and-out and sent the defense back on the field after a short break.
The Cardinals got back to moving the ball after getting it back on offense. Larry Fitzgerald caught a pass and turned upfield, then lost control of the ball while going to the ground, but even after a Mike McCarthy challenge, the ruling stood after review. David Johnson picked up a first down on a swing pass as well, but the defense came up with its biggest play of the game shortly thereafter - Damarious Randall picked off a Palmer pass in the end zone to end the Cardinals threat and keep the Packers in the lead.
Rodgers hit Rodgers for a great back-shoulder throw on the ensuing drive to move the chains, and then an inside zone run by Starks picked up another nine yards to set up 2nd and 1. A Kuhn dive picked up another first down, but the offense stalled after that and forced another Masthay punt, which ended at the Cardinals' 20.
Arizona moved the ball well against the Packers' defense again, with passes to John Brown and Larry Fitzgerald picking up big yardage and Michael Floyd converting a key third down. However, a run stuff by the Packers' line set up a third and five at the Packers' 26, and Brown converted that play with a nine-yard gain. After that play, Sam Shields dropped an interception on first down, then Palmer overthrew Fitzgerald in the end zone to set up another third and ten. David Johnson somehow caught a pass over the middle and picked up a first down by an inch at the most. On the very next play, Randall got his hand on a pass over the middle, but the deflection bounced about eight yards into the waiting arms of Michael Floyd, who hauled in the football for a go-ahead touchdown and a 17-13 Cardinals lead.
That gave Aaron Rodgers and his skeleton crew of receivers the football at their own 20 with a single timeout and 3:44 to go to win the game.
First up was a 4-yard dump-off pass to Kuhn, then a one-yard gain by Lacy on the ground. On third and five, Rodgers tried to throw to Abbrederis in the flat, but despite a lot of contact, the ball fell incomplete and no flags were thrown. The Packers chose to go for it on fourth and five, but Aaron Rodgers' pass to James Jones skipped to him a full yard short of the receiver, and turned the ball over on downs with 2:38 left.
On first down, Arizona ran the ball and got stuffed. The Packers took a timeout, but on second down Bruce Arians dialed up a pass, which was incomplete and stopped the clock. Another run took the clock down to the two-minute warning, but the ensuing field goal attempt gave Arizona a seven-point lead at 20-13 and gave the Packers one more shot to tie the game with 1:50 to go.
Rodgers threw incomplete along the left sideline. Then Rodgers tripped over Bakhtiari and was sacked. On third down, Rodgers threw incomplete to Janis, but what looked like a blatant pass interference penalty on Justin Bethel was not called. On fourth and 20 from the three, Rodgers found Janis for 61 yards. Then, instead of spiking the football, Rodgers tried to set up a play and Richard Rodgers was flagged for not being set. This set up a first and 15 at the Arizona 41 with 12 seconds left.
Rodgers scrambled for seven seconds and threw it out of bounds, setting up one last heave.
Somehow, some way, Jeff Janis came down with the football.
Rodgers scrambled to his left, heaved a deep pass off his back foot, and Janis pulled it in despite a desperate attempt by Reshad Johnson to punch the ball out. Mason Crosby needed a PAT to tie the game and send it to overtime, and he drilled it.
At the coin toss for overtime, the Packers called tails, but although the coin came up heads, Clete Blakeman re-tossed it (with some urging from the Packers) because the coin did not flip. It came up heads a second time, and the Cardinals got the football.
On the first play, Carson Palmer somehow evaded a pair of pass-rushers and found a wide-open Larry Fitzgerald. The receiver shook off several tacklers and ended up at the five-yard line. On first and goal, Palmer overthrew Fitzgerald, but on second down he hit Fitz with a shovel pass up the middle and he snuck into the end zone to end the game.