The Green Bay Packers, very short-handed and on a short week, went toe to toe with the undefeated Arizona Cardinals and left with a huge win to put them atop the NFC and hand Arizona their first loss of the 2021 season.
The Packers came in very shorthanded on offense without receivers Davante Adams, Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdez-Scantling and it was known that the offense would look different. Green Bay was hopeful that their defense could step up and keep a stellar Arizona Cardinals offense at bay.
As expected, the Cardinals showed why they’re the lone unbeaten team in the NFL, trading blows with the Packers and with a chance to win in the end. But it was the Packers who would make the final big play and come away with a huge win in what turned out to be one of the best games on the NFL schedule so far.
Slow Bad Start
Based on how things started out for the Packers, it looked to have the makings of a long night. They committed penalties on both sides of the ball on the first series for each team. Punt returner Amari Rodgers added a fumble on a punt return but was able to fall on it.
Offensively, both teams struggled at the outset until Arizona connected on a 55-yard bomb from quarterback Kyler Murray to receiver DeAndre Hopkins to put the Cardinals into the red zone. From there, Arizona scored on a wildcat direct snap and run by running back Chase Edmonds.
Offense As the Defense
The Packers put together an eight-minute scoring drive of their own that culminated on an Aaron Jones run to knot things up at 7-7. Keeping Arizona’s offense on the sideline was a big win on the drive as the Packers defense struggled on the previous drive.
The defense held on the next Cardinals drive, however, forcing a three-and-out. The Packers punted on their next drive as well and got the ball back on a muffed punt that was recovered on the three-yard line. Green Bay added a field goal after three-straight passes fell incomplete including a nice one-handed grab by tight end Marcedes Lewis who wasn’t able to get both feet in.
Green Bay’s opting not to run on that series did not appear to be the best decision. Not the first time we’ve seen that near the goal line.
Packers defense got another stop but the offense wasn’t able to get into the end zone before the half. Green Bay went in with a 10-7 lead and Arizona getting the ball to start half number two.
Second Half Heat
The Packers forced the Cardinals into long down and distance and then forced a Murray interception by safety Henry Black after pressure by linebacker Rashan Gary, giving the Packers the ball on the 10-yard line. The Packers converted a fourth down into a first and goal from the two-yard line and punched it in on a nice out throw from Rodgers to Randall Cobb. 17-10 Packers.
Arizona was able to convert on a fourth down near midfield, keeping their drive alive and they churned their way into the end zone from there to close the gap to 17-14.
The Packers answered with a long scoring drive that started with a scary moment big hit on kick returner Kylin Hill by Cardinals running back Jonathan Ward. Ward was carted off the field.
The Packers drove down and found the end zone on another Rodgers-Cobb connection. The addition of Cobb seemed like an afterthought during the summer to appease Rodgers but games and moments like this are why the Packers needed Cobb all along.
Arizona drove down with the help of a pass interference on a deep ball and scored on a James Connor run to cut the Packers’ lead to 24-21.
The Packers thought they answered on a Jones run that was initially ruled a touchdown but was overturned short of the goal line. From there, the Packers couldn’t manage to get into the end zone and turned it over on downs.
Exorcising the Bird Box
The Cardinals started on their own one-yard line and, needing just three points to tie, drove down and found numerous holes in the defense. Arizona got down to their own five-yard line with 14 seconds left and no timeouts. A Murray pass intended for receiver A.J. Green was intercepted by cornerback Rasul Douglas to seal the 24-21 win. Green was clearly not expecting the ball as he never looked for it and Douglas came away with the pick.
Just 22 days ago, Douglas was on the Cardinals’ practice squad when Green Bay came calling after injuries to Jaire Alexander and Kevin King left the cornerback room very shorthanded. Douglas filled in well in last week’s win over the Chicago Bears as well.
Not to be left out, former Cardinal DeVondre Campbell added a sack on the night to pour a little salt in Arizona’s wounds.
The Packers are clearly finding the right pieces to put together what could be a very special season. Health plays a huge role and there’s a lot of season left but for now, the Packers are the NFC’s top seed.
The Packers now need to try and get healthy on what turns out to be a mini bye week before they head to Kansas City to face the Chiefs. Green Bay will be monitoring the status of tight end Robert Tonyan and running back Kylin Hill who both left with injuries and did not return.
After seeing the depth on this Packers team step up in a game like this, it’s encouraging when the team is facing the potential loss of more key players. A huge night for Randall Cobb, Rasul Douglas and some big contributions from receiver Juwann Winfree and tight end Josiah Deguara.
Now, it’s a matter of staying on top and working back to a shot at home-field advantage in the postseason. But first, this team deserves to celebrate a win that not many gave the Packers a chance to earn.