GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) —It’s going to be one long bye week for the Arizona Cardinals.
The Cardinals cut a 17-point deficit to a touchdown late in the third quarter, only to give up a 72-yard score less than a minute later that sealed their fifth straight loss.
Arizona (4-5) would pick up just one first down the rest of the game, a 31-17 Green Bay victory, and will spend the next week wondering how it let so many chances slip away.
“That’s like a broken record. If you look at our five games that we’ve lost — which is extremely disappointing — the one thing that’s consistent is that we’ve had opportunities to make plays and we haven’t done it,” Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “Green Bay’s a good football team. But today, in my opinion, was as much about what we didn’t do as what they did do.”
John Skelton threw for 306 yards, and he was able to find enough holes in the Green Bay defense for big gains time and again.
But the Packers (6-3) did a good job bottling up Larry Fitzgerald, and Arizona’s other receivers had too many drops. Skelton went to Rob Housler nine times, and he wound up with five catches. Early Doucet was 0 for 4.
Fitzgerald caught six passes for 74 yards, including a 31-yard touchdown.
“I don’t think it’s infectious,” Fitzgerald said. “It felt like everybody was taking turns making mistakes, penalties, dropped balls, you name it everybody kind of took their turn today and for us to have the success that we want to have we have to more consistency from across the board. It’s not just one person that’s getting us beat, it’s a team, collectively. We’re just not making enough plays.”
Arizona hasn’t won in Wisconsin since 1949, and that streak looked certain to continue early as Green Bay rushed to a 21-7 lead at the half.
But the Packers have struggled to put games away this year, and this one was no different. They failed to pick up a first down on each of their first four drives, and got only a 33-yard field goal from Mason Crosby despite getting the ball at their own 48, Arizona 17 and midfield.
“We said at halftime, these are the kind of games where you can really put teams away if you play the way you want to play. We didn’t do that in the second half,” Aaron Rodgers said. “We kind of gave them a reason to hang around and hang around.”
The Cardinals caught a break when LaRod Stephens-Howling was tripped up behind the line of scrimmage only to land on a Packer instead of the ground. He got up and kept going for a 5-yard gain, and the ruling was upheld on review because officials said only his wrist had hit the ground.
On the next play, Fitzgerald shook off tackles by Tramon Williams, M.D. Jennings and Dezman House for a 31-yard touchdown catch that cut Green Bay’s lead to 24-14.
“We wanted to come out and try to attack downfield, make some plays and try to get the running game going a little in the second half,” Fitzgerald said.
With Clay Matthews in the locker room with a hamstring injury after a failed sack, Skelton and the Cardinals had perhaps their best drive of the day. Skelton threw on seven of the first 10 plays of the drive, completing eight of them to bring the Cardinals to the Green Bay 2. But Mike Daniels and A.J. Hawk stuffed Stephens-Howling on third-and-1, forcing Arizona to settle for a 20-yard field goal that cut the lead to 24-17.
Two plays later, Rodgers hit Tom Crabtree for the long score. Crabtree caught the ball at the Green Bay 45 and then chugged up field, looking over his shoulder repeatedly to make sure Paris Lenon and William Gay were still behind him.
He tumbled into the end zone just ahead of the Cardinals, setting off a celebration at Lambeau Field.
“I’m not going to give you any specifics into what we were in or anything like that, but I did speak to Aaron Rodgers after and he told me that they showed him something and he basically took a shot,” Lenon said. “They saw we were in a certain coverage. I’ve never seen that out of them, never seen that on film.”
Said Rodgers: “They wanted to keep a two-shell, but to add an extra guy in the box area they were kind of creeping their corner in there on run action. We saw it. We talked about that play at halftime and were able to call it and dial it up in a perfect situation.”
Though there was still a quarter left in the game, any momentum the Cardinals had was gone. They limp home losers once again.
“This is definitely not the way you want to go into a bye, after five consecutive losses,” Fitzgerald said. “This is a tough time, but we’ve got two weeks to prepare for Atlanta, a really good team. . The road doesn’t get any easier.” Notes: Arizona has lost nine straight in Wisconsin, with the last victory coming in Milwaukee in 1949. The Cardinals last won in Green Bay two years before that. … Green Bay rushed for 176 yards, its most since running for 202 yards against Cleveland on Oct. 25, 2009. … After a career-best seven catches in each of his past two games, Arizona WR Andre Roberts had four for 86 yards. … After coming into the game tied for the NFL lead with 26 sacks, Green Bay got two more and Arizona had one.