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Packers knock off Cardinals 24-21 behind running game, Rasul Douglas’ pivotal INT

A month ago, Douglas was a Cardinal. On Thursday he delivered a shocking knockout blow to the NFL’s last unbeaten team and sent the Packers to 7-1.

Green Bay Packers v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Less than a month ago, cornerback Rasul Douglas was toiling away on the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad. On Thursday night, he was in uniform for the Green Bay Packers and he delivered an incredible interception in the end zone with just seconds remaining to clinch a victory for his new team over his former employer.

The Green Bay Packers had first and goal from the two-yard line with less than five minutes left in their week 8 game against the Arizona Cardinals, with a great opportunity to take a two-possession lead. Instead, a goal-line stand by the Cardinals — featuring an apparent touchdown run by Aaron Jones that was overturned — kept the game within a field goal, giving quarterback Kyler Murray an opportunity to lead a late-game comeback. But Douglas made an incredible bobbling interception to deliver the Packers a 24-21 victory and pull them into a tie for the best record in the NFC.

This victory is one of the most thrilling and impressive wins in Matt LaFleur’s tenure with the Packers, defined in large part by the players who were unavailable. With Davante Adams and Allen Lazard on the reserve/COVID-19 list and Marquez Valdes-Scantling still on injured reserve, the Packers had to make do with the likes of Randall Cobb, Equanimeous St. Brown, and Juwann Winfree as their primary wideouts. They also got a 151-yard day on the ground, with Aaron Jones hitting the 100-yard mark in total offense.

Getting a small measure of revenge was Randall Cobb. Six years ago in a Divisional Playoff game in Arizona, Cobb landed on a microphone pack early in the game and injured himself. A punctured lung after a deep ball sent Cobb to the locker room in that contest, forcing Aaron Rodgers to throw to the likes of Jeff Janis and Jared Abbrederis for the remainder of that postseason contest. On Thursday, Cobb delivered a pair of touchdown receptions to help Green Bay beat the NFL’s last remaining unbeaten team.

Here’s how it went down.

The Packers trotted out on offense to open the game, but the drive fizzled out immediately after a holding penalty on the first play of the game. However, Corey Bojorquez was able to flip the field by pinning Arizona inside its own 10-yard line.

A facemask penalty on Rashan Gary immediately got the Cardinals out of their own end zone. What could have been a demoralizing penalty was instead of a minor nuisance, as the defense held its own and didn’t allow another first down to give possession back to the offense. Amari Rodgers nearly fumbled the ball away on the ensuing punt return, and proceeded to drop a pass the very next play. Rodgers went right back to him on second down for a solid gain, but the Packers couldn’t move the sticks and had to punt it away yet again.

The first explosive play of the game came on Arizona’s next drive. With Kyler Murray under pressure, he threw up a prayer to DeAndre Hopkins. Rookie corner Eric Stokes got lost in coverage, leading to a huge play that was only slightly offset by an offensive facemask penalty that negated a touchdown.

Chase Edmonds scored a touchdown out of the wildcat a few plays later to give Arizona the 7-0 lead.

After a rough outing against Washington, AJ Dillon was able to make a couple nice plays for a pair of first downs to finally get the offense moving on their third drive of the game. Juwan Winfree made a couple of catches as well, the first receptions of his NFL career. The drive nearly stalled out, but Dillon made a great effort play on 4th and 1 to move the chains one more time. Aaron Jones capped the drive off with a powerful run of his own, carrying Isaiah Simmons into the end zone to tie the game up 7-7 early in the second quarter.

The defense continued to give Murray trouble, with De’Vondre Campbell coming up with his first sack of the season on third down to force a three-and-out:

After a couple of first downs from Robert Tonyan and Amari Rodgers, the next Green Bay drive stalled. The Packers caught a huge break however, after Rondale Moore accidentally touched the football when trying to bail on a punt return, giving the Packers the ball at the two-yard line. But despite having three plays to get two yards, the Packers threw three straight times and were unable to get into the end zone. They instead settled for a field goal, that at least gave them a 10-7 lead.

The Packers defense quickly got off the field once again, and the offense burned the rest of the clock down in the first half. The drive stalled at midfield before a Hail Mary attempt that hit the grass in the end zone to go into halftime. Although they would have liked some more points to end the half, the fact that they were leading was a big surprise.

The defense stepped up yet again to start the second half as Henry Black was able to snag an interception off a tipped screen pass to immediately give the Packers the ball in the red zone just a few plays into the third quarter. That set up Rodgers and the offense to score some points. A clutch fourth-down conversion from Equanimeous St. Brown set up a great touchdown catch from Randall Cobb with Rodgers getting crushed on an obvious roughing the passer penalty. Despite Arizona getting the ball to start the half, the Packers took a 17-7 lead early on in the third quarter.

Arizona’s offense finally showed signs of life on the ensuing drive, marching all the way down the field. The 12-play, 81-yard drive ended in a James Conner touchdown to bring it right back to a one-score game at 17-14. The ensuing kickoff served as a reminder of why the NFL is trying to rid the game of that play; Kylin Hill unwisely took the ball out of the end zone, taking a brutal hit from Jonathan Ward. Hill’s leg bent back awkwardly, while Ward left the field on a stretcher after the hit.

The Packers would extend their lead on the ensuing drive, but it would be an even more costly series. After a 33-yard reception, Robert Tonyan went down awkwardly with what appeared to be a non-contact knee injury. He would not return to the game, but the Packers would eventually extend their lead back to ten points as Rodgers found Cobb once again over the middle for a six-yard touchdown pass. Cobb’s 43rd touchdown reception from Rodgers brought the lead to 24-14 on the first play of the fourth quarter.

Arizona would respond with a touchdown drive of their own, though, pulling back within a field goal with ten minutes remaining. An 11-play drive culminated in a nine-yard touchdown run by James Conner to pull the score to 24-21.

An exceptional drive from the Packers would give them a chance to put the game away with several chances at the goal line. Two carries by Aaron Jones would fail to cross the goal line before Josiah Deguara’s alignment issue caused a delay of game penalty. An Aaron Rodgers scramble on third down put the Packers within inches of the goal line again, but Rodgers would have a fourth-down pass batted down by Devon Kennard to keep the game within three points.

Chase Edmonds’ first-down run just barely got outside the end zone to avoid a safety before Kyler Murray completed back-to-back passes for 23 and 29 yards to get the Cardinals to midfield at the two-minute warning. Murray would lead the Cardinals down near the goal line with seconds remaining, all but assured a tying field goal, when disaster struck in the form of Rasul Douglas.

The recent Packers addition — whom they signed off the Cardinals’ practice squad a few weeks back — picked off Murray in the end zone on a pass intended for A.J. Green. Green was never looking for the football on the play, but Douglas alertly caught sight of the football and hauled it in, keeping both feet in bounds to deliver the Packers a massive victory.

It wasn’t a vintage Rodgers performance, at least in terms of numbers. He completed 22 of 37 passes for just 184 yards, plus his two touchdown passes to Cobb for a passer rating of 90.4. But the Packers got a good performance from their running game, with AJ Dillon gaining 78 yards and Aaron Jones picking up 59 yards and a score.

With the win, the Packers move into first place in the NFC, with both teams carrying matching 7-1 records into the weekend. Green Bay will get a long week of rest before facing the Kansas City Chiefs next Sunday afternoon.