Nail-Biting game leads to Cardinals victory in overtime

The Arizona Cardinals squeeze out a win against the Green Bay Packers, winning 26-20 in overtime.

Charles Landis, Sports Editor

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The Arizona Cardinals advance to the NFC Championship Game to face the Carolina Panthers, after Arizona defeated the Green Bay Packers in overtime Saturday night at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., winning 26-20.
The Cardinals were up by a touchdown with two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, and had Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers backed up on his own end-zone with a fourth and twenty looming.
Rodgers then completed a 60-yard pass to wide receiver Jeff Janis, and with five seconds left in the game, Rodgers completed a pass once more to his wide receiver, Janis, but this time for a game-tying, 41-yard touchdown to send the game into overtime.
Overtime began with the Cardinals receiving the ball on offense, and the first play resulted in a 75-yard pass completion from quarterback Carson Palmer to wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
When the Cardinals make big time plays on the offensive side of the ball, head coach Bruce Arians likes to reward the player who made the play by trying to give him a chance at scoring a touchdown, and he did so with Fitzgerald after the 75-yard catch.
After an incomplete pass attempt to Fitz in the end zone, Arians dialed up another play call for the 12-year veteran, lining him up in the backfield next to Palmer and rookie running back David Johnson and gave him a shovel pass, which ended up being an easy run to the end zone to finish the game with a Cardinal’s victory.  

Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald shined on the big stage Saturday night, catching eight passes for 176 yards and one touchdown. ”

— Charles Landis

Analysis

Both offenses struggled to find their rhythm throughout the first half, with the Packers going three and out on their first two offensive possessions.
Coach Arians for the Cardinals was very aggressive with his play calling throughout the game, most notably with a successful run on fourth and one that set up the first touchdown and score of the game for Arizona.
Packers’ leading receiver for the season Randall Cobb left the game after the first quarter with a reported bruised lung and did not return for the rest of the game.
With other receivers, Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams, out for the game as well, the Packers were without their three top wide receivers and still gave the Arizona defense fits in the passing game.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers finished the game with 24 completions on 44 attempts for 261 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Patrick Peterson had a 100-yard interception for a touchdown called back because of an “Illegal use of hands to the face” penalty against defensive end, Frostee Rucker, which would’ve made the game 14-0 early in the first half. Instead, it gave Green Bay a first down and led to their first score of the game, a field goal by kicker Mason Crosby.
After the called-back interception for a touchdown, quarterback Aaron Rodgers seemed to shy away from throwing the ball Petersons’ way and picked on opposing cornerback Justin Bethel throughout the game.
Known for his tremendous special teams’ play, Bethel was forced into the starting lineup on defense when cornerback Tyrann Mathieu was sidelined for the rest of the season with an ACL tear.
Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer had two interceptions on the night, one to safety Ha-Ha Clinton Dix and the other in the end zone to Arizona State alum and rookie, Damarious Randall. Palmer finished the night with 25 completions on 41 pass attempts, for 349 yards and three touchdowns.
Both teams had a hard time with their running game as well, as the Cardinals only had 40 rushing yards the entire game.
The Packers had 112 rushing yards for the game, with the help of one long rushing play by Eddie Lacy for 61 yards.

The Good

The receiving corps did their job making essential plays throughout the duration of this game, and were ultimately the deciding factor in this close game.
Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald shined on the big stage Saturday night, catching eight passes for 176 yards and one touchdown.

Michael Floyd had two touchdowns on the night, and John Brown had five catches for 82 yards on the night as well.
The playmaker on the Packers side of the ball was Jeff Janis with the two huge catches late in the fourth quarter to tie the game for Green Bay. He finished with seven receptions for 145 yards and two touchdowns.

The Bad

The Cardinals pass-rush had a hard time getting pressure on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, sacking him just once on the night. The last time these teams played in week 16, the Cardinals were able to sack Rodgers eight times in the game. Green Bay had their entire offensive line back to full health and their ability to keep Rodgers from getting hit was spectacular. Next week they will be facing just as good of an offensive line with the Carolina Panthers and a quarterback who is even harder to sack in Cam Newton. One of the keys to the NFC Championship Game next Sunday will be that Arizona gets pressure on the quarterback and forces him to make mistakes.

The Ugly

Cardinals rookie running back, David Johnson, struggled to get going all game long against the Packers. He and Andre Ellington are going to have to step up big against an even better Panthers defense in the championship game if they want to make it to the Super Bowl. Since taking the lead role at running back, Johnson has been demolishing opposing defenses with nearly 100 yards per game and 12 touchdowns in the regular season.

 

Arizona travels to Charlotte to face the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Championship game next Sunday night at 6:40 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Fox.

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Nail-Biting game leads to Cardinals victory in overtime