Packers doomed by end of first half swing
GLENDALE, Ariz. - Several Green Bay Packers talked about missed opportunities in the postgame locker room Sunday following their 38-8 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. None was bigger than the potential 14-point swing that occurred with less than 2 minutes to go in the first half.
The Packers’ offense had started sluggishly, punting on their first four possessions. But the Cardinals led only 10-0 at the 2-minute warning when, on their first play from scrimmage, quarterback Carson Palmer threw an interception to Mike Daniels.
It was a screen pass that Daniels picked off at the Arizona 22-yard line, cut left and returned to the 15, where he was brought down by offensive tackle Bobby Massie.
“I should’ve scored. I should’ve scored. I should’ve scored,” Daniels said. “That’s all I’m going to say about it, I should’ve scored.”
Palmer, who hadn’t thrown an interception in his previous 187 pass attempts, didn’t see Daniels in front of the intended receiver, running back David Johnson. It was the fourth-year defensive tackle’s first career interception.
“It was a screen, I was there, I caught it,” Daniels said. “I need to convert that into six. My vision isn’t what it used to be.”
The Packers took over at the Cardinals’ 15 with 1:52 left in the half. A touchdown likely would have had Green Bay entering halftime trailing 10-7 and receiving the second-half kickoff.
Instead, the final 1:05 of the first half proved to be the Packers’ downfall.
It started when, on third-and-5 from Arizona’s 10, Aaron Rodgers threw an interception to Justin Bethel in the corner of the end zone on a pass intended for James Jones. Jones couldn’t shake Bethel, and was well covered on the play.
“We had a chance there with Mike picking that ball off early, and then I threw the pick and things kinda went downhill from there,” Rodgers said.
On Arizona’s first play from its 20 following the interception, Palmer hit a wide-open Michael Floyd, who found a seam in the zone defense between Quinten Rollins, Micah Hyde and Joe Thomas. Floyd’s catch-and-run went for 47 yards and gave the Cardinals the ball at the Packers’ 33-yard line with 44 seconds left in the half. Floyd broke a Thomas tackle near the end of the run to get out of bounds and stop the clock.
Seven plays later, Palmer connected with John Brown for a 7-yard touchdown pass and a 17-0 lead entering halftime. What could have been a 3-point halftime deficit turned into 17.
“I clearly thought we were in the game until whatever point it was in the third quarter,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “That was a huge swing there. For Mike Daniels to make that play, obviously, that was the break that we needed.”
The start of the third quarter essentially put the game on ice. James Starks lost a fumble on the first play of the third quarter, and the Cardinals turned that into seven more points and a 24-0 lead.
The Packers totaled only seven penalties for 59 yards. It just seemed like more because most of them stalled offensive drives or contributed to Cardinals’ scores.
Facing third-and-3 on Green Bay’s opening drive, Josh Sitton was flagged for holding, leading to a punt. Late in the first quarter on punt coverage, Jeff Janis was called for a facemask penalty, giving the Cardinals the ball at midfield; they would eventually score.
Early in the second quarter, Corey Linsley was called for holding that led to another punt.
Then, in the third quarter, Datone Jones was penalized for holding on a kickoff return that gave the Packers possession at their 9. A 38-yard pass from Aaron Rodgers to Davante Adams on third-and-17 on that drive was brought back 5 yards when Adams spiked the ball and was called for delay of game. That drive ended when Rodgers was sacked and lost a fumble that was returned for an Arizona touchdown.
Defensive tackle B.J. Raji sustained a concussion on the final play of the first quarter and didn’t return. He was replaced by Letroy Guion.
On the offensive line, injuries continued to decimate the unit.
Starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga left the game for good with 12 minutes left in the third quarter after aggravating an ankle injury that had limited him in practice this week. He was replaced at first by Josh Walker, then JC Tretter after Walker struggled in pass protection.
Don Barclay started the game at left tackle for David Bakhtiari, who was inactive with an ankle injury sustained last week at Oakland. Barclay was making his fifth start this season, but his first at left tackle.
Even Linsley left the game briefly near the end of the first half.
The Packers also were without their top cornerback, Sam Shields, who has yet to pass the concussion protocol after going down two weeks ago against Dallas.
Others inactive for the Packers were Jayrone Elliott (quadriceps), Justin Perillo (hamstring), Kennard Backman, Andy Mulumba and Brett Hundley.
The Cardinals were without starting safeties Rashad Johnson (ankle), who was inactive, and Tyrann Mathieu (knee), who is out for the season.
Veteran tight end Andrew Quarless, who has missed the past 11 games since tearing his medial collateral ligament against Kansas City, returned to the field Sunday.
He finished with two catches for 17 yards.
“Felt pretty good,” Quarless said after the game. “It was good, yeah, I feel good.”
The Packers went with only two active tight ends — Quarless and starter Richard Rodgers. Quarless, the best blocker of the four Green Bay tight ends, returned to practice two weeks ago.
“It’s a tough loss, man, and we just beat ourselves, too,” he said. “It’s hard to win against good teams, but turnovers and a lot of that stuff we did. Just got to play more disciplined, better football.”
» The Cardinals, who entered the game leading the NFL in third-down conversions, went 5-for-10 on Sunday. The Packers were 5-of-17.
» The Packers’ defense has given up 18 plays of 40-plus yards this season, including passes of 47 and 44 yards Sunday, while their offense has produced only six plays.
» Packers’ long snapper Rick Lovato made his NFL debut and performed well. He was signed Monday after longtime snapper Brett Goode tore his ACL against Oakland last week.
» The Packers have outscored their opponents 34-9 on game-opening drives but have scored only 6 points in their past nine opening drives.