Shorthanded Packers use ground game to upset Cardinals 24-21, improve to 7-1
GLENDALE, Ariz. - Without their top three receivers, their top two cornerbacks, their All-Pro left tackle, their All-Pro pass rusher, their starting center and their defensive coordinator, the Green Bay Packers traveled across the country to play the NFL’s last undefeated team Thursday night.
With less than 72 hours between walking off Lambeau Field on Sunday and wheels up from Green Bay.
These were fighting-with-one-hand-behind-your-back odds against the Arizona Cardinals. The Packers left the Arizona desert with what might be the most impressive win of Matt LaFleur’s three-year tenure as head coach.
More:Twitter reacts to a shocking finish in the Green Bay Packers' game vs. Arizona Cardinals
More:What to know about Green Bay Packers cornerback Rasul Douglas
More:Robert Tonyan, Kylin Hill and Kingsley Keke injured in Packers-Cardinals game
The Packers beat the Arizona Cardinals 24-21 on Thursday night, their seventh straight win. The victory pulled them into a tie atop the NFC with the Cardinals, who are also 7-1 this season. It also gives the Packers the head-to-head tiebreaker, ensuring home-field advantage in the playoffs if these two teams end the 2021 season with identical records.
BOX SCORE:Packers 24, Cardinals 21
The Packers were backed up against the end zone with 15 seconds left, but cornerback Rasul Douglas intercepted Kyler Murray to seal the victory.
Douglas was signed off the Cardinals' practice squad earlier this month.
"I'm just thankful," Douglas said.
Of the game-winning interception, Douglas said, "Threw it to my guy. I made a play."
It wasn’t pretty. Much of Thursday night looked like a patchwork game plan, because it was. After Davante Adams’ positive COVID-19 test earlier this week, it was clear the Packers' offense would need to operate a little differently. When Allen Lazard was ruled out because he was unvaccinated and determined to be a close contact, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling’s hamstring couldn’t respond in time to be activated from injured reserve, it all but obliterated the Packers’ passing game.
Aaron Rodgers finished just 22-for-37 for 184 yards. But a Cardinals defense that lost J.J. Watt for the season this week because of a shoulder injury could not stop the run. The Packers rushed 34 times for 134 yards.
When they needed a receiving weapon, Rodgers was able to find one in his longtime teammate and good friend Randall Cobb. The pair connected on two touchdowns, the first a 2-yard catch on a fade in the right corner of the end zone, giving the Packers a 17-7 lead early in the third quarter.
After the Cardinals responded with a 12-play, 81-yard touchdown drive to pull within three again, the Packers took over at their own 9-yard line. They were backed up after rookie Kylin Hill returned a kickoff from their end zone. Cardinals cornerback Jonathan Ward lunged into Hill at full speed on the return, colliding with Hill’s knee. Both players were down on the field for several minutes. Hill was carted to the locker room first, while Ward was put on a stretcher and evaluated for a concussion and neck injuries.
Ward raised his left arm and flashed a thumbs up while being carted off the field.
After the medical delay, the Packers responded with a 12-play, 91-yard touchdown drive. Rodgers ended the drive finding Cobb on a slant route to the middle of the end zone for a 5-yard score on third-and-goal.
The Cardinals were also playing shorthanded. DeAndre Hopkins, who joins Adams as one of the league’s All-Pro-caliber receiver, did not return to the game after toasting Packers rookie Eric Stokes for 58 yards in the first quarter. It could have been a long night for the Packers defense, which did not have Jaire Alexander (injured reserve) or Kevin King (shoulder injury), putting a rookie on one of the league’s top receivers. Stokes misplayed Murray’s ball in the air, and Hopkins took advantage.
But he did not play the final three quarters.
The Packers defense held Murray in check all night. One of the league’s ascending quarterbacks finished 22-for-33 for 274 yards and two interceptions.