Incredible Plot Twist Dropped Cardinals to 7-1 in Loss to the Packers
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Thursday night’s matchup between the 6-1 Green Bay Packers and the 7-0 Arizona Cardinals was arguably the best TNF matchup to date.
Both teams entered the game with a litany of injuries to key players. The Packers were missing WRs Davante Adams, Allen Lazard, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. The Cardinals were without J.J. Watt who will miss the remainder of the regular season with just his skin keeping his arm attached to his body.
Missing Watt seemed paltry in comparison to Green Bay’s issues. It was an uphill battle for the Packers on the road in Arizona from the get-go.
A Tale of Two Halves
The game started as a defensive battle on both sides of the ball. The Cardinals held the Packers running backs to 82 yards rushing and Kyler Murray only completed four passes on eight attempts for 73 yards.
The Cardinals struck first with a touchdown by RB Chase Edmonds after the Packers punted twice and the Cardinals once. The Packers answered with a touchdown from RB Aaron Jones on the next drive in the second quarter.
The only other score in the first half was a Mason Crosby field goal after the Packers unsuccessfully attempted three passing plays on Arizona’s three-yard line. Why they would try to pass with both AJ Dillon and Jones is curious, but the score was 10-7 in favor of Green Bay heading into the second half.
Then, everyone woke up and the second half was electric.
The Packers extended their lead after Murray threw an interception on a tipped pass on Arizona’s own 14-yard line. Aaron Rodgers converted for a first down on fourth and three to Equanimeous St. Brown but it was Randall Cobb who got the touchdown pass.
The Cardinals didn’t skip a beat and came right back into form, finally clicking on all cylinders in the passing game. In 12 plays and 81 yards, Murray found Chase Edmonds, DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk, A.J. Green, and Zach Ertz. James Conner finished the drive with a rushing touchdown.
The Packers didn’t let off the gas and Rodgers found Cobb again for a touchdown over a drive that lasted 12 plays and 91 yards heading and bled into the fourth quarter with a 24-14 lead.
Murray and the Arizona offense kept doing what worked, and the pass-catchers feasted while Conner scored his second touchdown of the game with just over four minutes.
The Incredible Plot Twist
There was simply too much time on the clock for an elite quarterback like Rodgers. Sure enough, the Packers drove back down the field and into scoring position. They were forced to call a timeout, their last of the game with 3:39 left on the clock. Rodgers had to scramble but powered his way to the one-yard line with four defenders on his back. Facing fourth and goal, Green Bay went for it. Instead of using either of their two power backs (again), Rodgers attempted a floating pass, but Devon Kennard for the Cardinals was there to knock the pass incomplete and the Packers turned it over on downs.
It wasn’t roses for the Cardinals after that, but again, they turned toward their bread and butter. On third down and ten to go on their one-yard line, Murray aired it out to Green to start a roaring series down to the red zone.
With just seconds left on the clock, a win was within reach for the Cardinals who could have put the game away with a touchdown or at least tied with a field goal. Murray targeted Green in the end zone, but the veteran receiver was not on the same page whatsoever and was completely unaware that he was supposed to turn around to score.
Green Bay picked off Murray and the game was over.
The loss for the Cardinals was palpably painful and it’s difficult to imagine just what could be going through the minds of Murray and Green.
However, not all hope is lost. Facing Rodgers and the Packers requires near-flawless execution and just one mistake was enough to lose. It is hard to believe that kind of miscommunication will happen again.
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Zach Ertz Revival
Another positive note to come out of this game for the Cardinals is that their newly acquired tight end was an investment worth making. He was pivotal in third-down situations and he looked like the Ertz that we all know and love.
For Ertz, this should feel like a renewal in his career. All but forgotten and neglected in Philadelphia, he has found a new home in Arizona that values his skills at the position. He finished with four receptions on six targets for 42 yards, but with the trust he is building with Murray, he may soon become an integral part of the red zone offense to put points on the board for the Cardinals as they continue their playoff run in 2021.
Injuries Updates/Quick Hits/COVID-19
Chargers RB Austin Ekeler did not practice Thursday with a hip injury. … Cowboys QB Dak Prescott was limited again at practice. … Buccaneers TE Rob Gronkowski returned to practice. … Giants RB Saquon Barkley, and WRs Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney were all sidelined again at practice. … 49ers WR Deebo Samuel did not practice with a calf injury, but he is expected to play. … Saints HC Sean Payton says RB Mark Ingram, who was recently reunited with the Saints, will “absolutely” play against the Buccaneers.