GLENDALE, ARIZ. – The Green Bay Packers were decimated by the NFC West Champion Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. With the win Arizona clinched a first-round bye in the playoffs and the Packers are now tied with the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC North.
Going into game the Cardinals have won eight straight games behind MVP candidate quarterback Carson Palmer’s number one ranked offense in the NFL and their top ranked defense, which includes Pro Bowl lineman Calais Campbell and superstar cornerback Patrick Peterson, among others. Even though hot in the past couple weeks after an underwhelming November, the Packers were entering the game with a banged up offensive line without left tackle David Bakhtiari and injuries of center Corey Linsley, guard T.J. Lang and tackle Bryan Bulaga throughout the season. This was very noticeable during the game as the Cardinals blitz-happy defense managed to sack Aaron Rodgers eight times.
The Cardinals elected to start the game with the ball and went three and out on their first position which is surprising because Arizona has the least three and outs in the league. The Packers’ offense could not capitalize as they had to punt after one first down; the back and forth punts would continue for the rest of the first quarter as neither team could not score.
Going into the second quarter the Cardinals’ offense began to roll as rookie running back David Johnson ran 25 yards in 3 attempts to get into the red zone. After a seven yard pass to tight-end Jermaine Gresham, Palmer capped off the drive with a three yard touchdown pass to veteran receiver Larry Fitzgerald to give Arizona the 7-0 lead. The Packers could not respond and were forced to punt again and Arizona went on another long drive. Palmer connected with his other receiver Michael Floyd twice for a total of 28 yards and a 29-yard screen pass to Johnson got the Cardinals to the red zone. The Packers’ defense managed to hold on forcing the Cardinals to settle on a 19-yard Chandler Catanzaro field goal to extend their lead to 10.
On the ensuing drive after a first down which included a fake punt run by punter Tim Masthay, the Packers again were forced to punt after two consecutive sacks by Calais Campbell. On the first play of the Cardinals’ drive Palmer threw an interception to lineman Mike Daniels to give Green Bay excellent field position. On the ensuing Packers’ drive Rodgers threw an interception in the end zone to cornerback Justin Bethel. With under two minutes left in the half Palmer connected with Floyd for 47-yards and Fitzgerald for 12 to get into the red zone. Palmer would cap off the drive with a seven yard touchdown pass to receiver John Brown to give the Cardinals a 17-0 lead to end the first half.
The Packers began the second half with ball and on the first play running back James Starks fumbled, with it being recovered by Arizona. The Cardinals would quickly score with Johnson running a 14-yard touchdown to give Arizona the 24-0 lead. It would not get better for Green Bay as on their next drive Rodgers got sacked, fumbled and it was returned for a touchdown by defensive end Cory Redding to give Arizona a 31-0 lead. The Packers would show some life when Lacy broke for a 25-yard run to get the Packers in field goal range. Green Bay would get their first score of the game with a 28-yard Lacy screen pass for a touchdown. A successful two-point conversion would make the score 31-8 Cardinals.
The Packers’ defense forced Arizona to punt on the ensuing drive. Once again Rodgers was sacked, this time by Dwight Freeney and fumbled with the ball being returned for a touchdown by cornerback Jerraud Powers to give Arizona the 38-8 lead. Accepting defeat, Green Bay sat Rodgers and Arizona ran the clock throughout fourth quarter to secure the victory.
Next week, the Packers will play their final game of the 2015 regular season at Lambeau Field against the Minnesota Vikings for the NFC North title. The Cardinals will stay in Glendale to face the Seattle Seahawks.