Packers take blowout in Arizona ‘personal’

Ryan Wood
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Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) loses his helmet after getting sacked by Arizona Cardinals linebacker Alex Okafor (57) and cornerback Jerraud Powers (25) in the third quarter at University of Phoenix Stadium.

The film was hard to watch. Bryan Bulaga sat there and tried to pick out a positive – something, anything to feel good about. He couldn’t.

The Green Bay Packers didn’t just lose in Arizona three weeks ago. They were embarrassed, humbled, blown out. Their 38-8 loss at the Cardinals was every bit as ugly on film as it looked during the game.

“It’s not fun to watch it,” Bulaga said. “It’s not a good film to watch, but you’ve got to do it. You’ve got to see what happened. There’s nothing on the tape that’s really great to watch. It was a learning tape to take a look at, correct and move on.”

The Packers will move on Saturday night when they have a rematch against the Cardinals in the NFC divisional playoff game. There are bigger things at stake than any petty grudges, to be sure. The winner will advance to the NFC championship game.

Still, what happened in Arizona did not stay in Arizona. The Packers’ most lopsided loss with Aaron Rodgers as the starting quarterback left a bitter feeling for some players in the locker room. This is a prideful group, these professional football players. Nobody likes to be humiliated.

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“I think any time you get slapped in the face on national television,” right guard T.J. Lang said, “you take that personal. Yeah, that’s a team that embarrassed us. It turned a lot of people against us, caused a lot of people to lose faith and hope in us. It’s nothing we can do about that now. That game’s behind us. There’s a lot of learning lessons we can take from that game and hopefully apply this week.

“It’s the playoffs. It’s a new season. It’s a lot of fun, it’s a lot of stress. You try to put the emotion aside once the game starts because that can lead to some negative emotion that you don’t want to play with on the field. By the time Saturday night rolls around, I think everybody will have to put that game behind them.”

Redemption couldn’t run deeper this week for any position than the offensive line. The Packers allowed nine sacks against the Cardinals, their most in more than three years. Two were strip-sack fumbles returned for touchdowns.

In the postgame locker room, there was plenty of frustration. Players tipped their cap to their opponent, but also felt like their own mistakes allowed the game to get out of hand quickly.

Bulaga said the film shows the same.

“We definitely didn’t play good,” Bulaga said. “There’s no way around looking at that. It wasn’t our best game. I think when you watch the film and you watch what happened, it’s a lot of breakdown of fundamentals and a couple mental errors that kind of killed us. I think as a unit, we’re excited to get back out there and get another chance at it.”

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Injuries didn’t help. While the Packers don’t want to use it as an excuse, there were several key players missing in Arizona. Top cornerback Sam Shields was out with a concussion. Defensive tackle B.J. Raji left after the first quarter with a concussion. Left tackle David Bakhtiari was out with a sprained ankle, and Bulaga left in the third quarter with an ankle injury.

The Packers could have all four players back Saturday night. Their returns would change the complexion of the game-day roster. They hope that in turn changes the outcome.

A win could help the Packers fully move on from what Lang described as perhaps the most embarrassing loss in his career.

“It was a tough day,” Lang said. “It was tough even turning on that film and watching it. I think the best thing you can ask for is a chance at redemption, almost. Getting that group again, and going out and proving to ourselves and proving to everybody that first time was a fluke. We get a chance to go redeem ourselves and hopefully have another stellar performance like we did this last game (in Washington).” and follow him on Twitter @ByRyanWood

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