Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was under siege behind an offensive line that could do little to stop the Cardinals’ dominant pass rush, while Arizona signal-caller Carson Palmer and his receiving corps ran roughshod against a Green Bay defense that was called into service early and often as the home team racked up turnovers.
Let’s take a look at all that went right — and all that went very, very wrong — for the 10-5 Packers on Sunday night.
— Statistically, Aaron Rodgers turned in one of his worst games as a starter on Sunday night, throwing for just 151 yards and a touchdown, while tossing one interception, losing two fumbles and completing just 15 passes on 28 attempts.
— Change of pace back James Starks saw just three carries against Arizona, one of which his night ended with a fumble. He picked up just 11 yards rushing before being benched early on.
— Rodgers hit seven different receivers in Arizona, as veteran James Jones led the Packers with five receptions for 46 yards. Davante Adams was the only other Green Bay receiver to top 20 yards, logging 42.
— The Packers offensive line was under siege against the Cardinals’ top-end pass rush, but despite leaving the field twice with apparent injuries guard T.J. Lang stayed in the game and held his ground.
— Green Bay picked up just 70 total yards and six first downs in the first half, their worst first-half performance since 2013.
— Since head coach Mike McCarthy took over play-calling duties prior to the Packers’ Week 14 win over the Dallas Cowboys, Aaron Rodgers has just 573 passing yards, a figure that ranks 23rd in the NFL.
— The Packers’ defensive line took a big hit against the Cardinals, as lineman B.J. Raji (concussion) and right tackle Bryan Bulaga (ankle) both exited the game due to injuries.
— Green Bay had opportunities to capitalize on Arizona’s mistakes, as the Cardinals racked up 109 penalty yards on 10 penalties.
WHAT IT MEANT
The Packers will officially play on Wild Card weekend after falling to 10-5, while even home field advantage is now up in the air. A first-round bye is now out of reach, while the NFC North will come down to a matchup with the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field.
The Vikings will head to Lambeau on a two-game winning streak, but history favors the Packers in this scenario. In their past 10 games against Minnesota Green Bay is 8-1-1, including a 5-0-1 record at home.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Packers fans first heard about long snapper Rick Lovato earlier in the week, when Green Bay signed the rookie following a season-ending injury to special teams veteran Brett Goode.
You didn’t hear about him on Sunday, as Lovato posted a quietly solid outing in his first NFL game. A week after working in his dad’s sub shop back in New Jersey, Lovato should give the Packers confidence at long snapper going forward, even if question marks abound nearly everywhere else.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT ME
Defensive end Mike Daniels is making good on that $41 million contract extension. The hulking defender scooped up a Carson Palmer screen pass in the second quarter, before rumbling down to the Cardinals’ 15-yard line.
Nothing was working for the Packers on Sunday, with Tim Mastay’s first-down run on a fake punt registering as Green Bay’s longest running play of the first half. And with the Packers down just 10-0, it appeared that Mastay’s fourth-down heroics might be enough to swing some momentum back in Green Bay’s favor.
The Packers gained exactly three more yards on the series, as the Cardinals’ defense logged another pair of sacks, forcing Mastay to punt (for real this time) yet again, and kicking off the most disappointing sequence of the game. Because while Daniels’ interception appeared to have gifted Green Bay another drive as the first half wound down, Rodgers handed the ball right back to Arizona on the ensuing drive, as Palmer marched the Cardinals down-field to make it 17-0.
9 — The Cardinals defense sacked Aaron Rodgers nine times in Arizona, two of which led to fumbles that eventually turned into points. Any hope that the rest of the NFC had that Bruce Arians’ defense might be hobbled by the loss of safeties Tyrann Mathieu and Rashad Johnson is probably gone.
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THEY SAID IT
"We are professionals. We have to hold ourselves to a higher standard and play better. Everybody has to play better." — Aaron Rodgers
"They were very aggressive to the line of scrimmage. They played very well and took advantage of it." — Packers head coach Mike McCarthy
The Packers return home to Lambeau Field for an NFC North title fight with the Minnesota Vikings, a game that has been moved into prime time with the division on the line. This one now gets underway at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday.