Arizona dismantles Rodgers, Packers
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals flattened Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
That makes it nine straight wins for the Cardinals, who think they’re still gaining steam.
“You want to play your best ball at the end of the season,” Arizona defensive lineman Calais Campbell said, “and I think this is the best game we’ve played.”
The Cardinals sacked Rodgers eight times and returned two of his fumbles for touchdowns in a dominant 38-8 victory.
Carson Palmer threw for 257 yards and two touchdowns for the Cardinals (13-2). The winning streak is the franchise’s longest since the 1948 Chicago Cardinals won 10 in a row.
Green Bay was without starting left tackle David Bakhtiari with an injury and lost starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga with an ankle injury during the game.
So the Packers (10-5) were in no position to slow the rout.
“They were very aggressive to the line of scrimmage,” Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said. “They played very well and took advantage of it.”
In all, Packers quarterbacks were sacked nine times in their most one-sided loss of the season. Dwight Freeney had three and Campbell 2 1/2. Cory Redding rambled 36 yards with one of the fumbles for a score, Jerraud Powers took another 5 yards for a touchdown.
The Packers (10-5) have a half-game lead over Minnesota in the NFC North with the Vikings facing the New York Giants on Sunday night.
Green Bay is home against Minnesota in its regular-season finale next Sunday.
“This was a playoff-style game and we played terrible,” Rodgers said, “but we have won a lot of games here. When you play long enough you are going to be on the wrong side at times, but I am confident that we have guys and myself that, when it matters for all the marbles, guys will show up.”
The nine sacks were the most for the Cardinals since they had 10 against Philadelphia on Dec. 7, 1986, two years before the franchise moved to Arizona.
Arizona clinched at least the No. 2 playoff seed in the NFC. They still can take the No. 1 seed with a win over Seattle and a Carolina loss to Tampa Bay next week.
“We still really haven’t done anything other than get a bye,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “You don’t get rings for byes; you only get T-shirts and hats.”
Palmer completed 18 of 27 passes and was intercepted once. Michael Floyd caught six passes for 111 yards for the Cardinals, who entered the game with the NFL’s No. 1-ranked offense.
Rodgers was 15 for 28 for 151 yards and a touchdown with one interception.
The game was close until a big reversal of fortune in the final minute of the first half.
With Arizona leading 10-0, Palmer attempted to lob a screen pass to David Johnson near the line of scrimmage but Mike Daniels, the Packers’ 6-foot, 310-pound defensive tackle, intercepted and Green Bay had the ball on the Arizona 15.
But on third-and-goal at the 10, Justin Bethel stepped in front of intended receiver James Jones and intercepted the pass in the end zone. Rodgers’ seventh interception of the season gave the Cardinals the ball at the 20 with 57 seconds to play.
A 47-yard pass play to Floyd advanced the ball to the 33 and two more completions, plus a defensive holding call, set up Palmer’s 7-yard scoring pass to John Brown, putting Arizona ahead 17-0.
Things just got worse for the Packers from there.
On the first play from scrimmage in the second half, Green Bay’s James Starks fumbled and Powers recovered at the Packers 28. Palmer threw 14 yards to Floyd, then Johnson ran 14 yards for a score to make it 24-0.
The 6-foot-4, 318-pound Redding’s TD made it 31-0.
Notes: Freeney made an extra $300,000 in incentives with his three sacks. … Arizona was without both of its usual starting safeties. Rashad Johnson missed his second game in a row with an ankle injury after being listed as questionable. Of course, Tyrann Mathieu is out for the season with a torn ACL. … The Packers didn’t have cornerback Sam Shields (concussion). … Palmer had to wear a hula dancer outfit for a time pregame for losing a bet in a weekly accuracy competition on Friday.