Rasul Douglas' timely interception gives Packers 'shocking feeling' in upset win

Ryan Wood
Packers News
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GLENDALE, Ariz. – The quarterback rummaged through his thoughts, wondering what he was going to do with only a few seconds left. Aaron Rodgers has pulled off game-winning drives in the final seconds already this season, and with the Green Bay Packers' defense backed up to the 5-yard line, it looked like they needed another one. 

But time expires even on MVP quarterbacks. There were 15 seconds on the clock when the Arizona Cardinals snapped Thursday night's fateful play in what became a 24-21 Packers victory. As Kyler Murray dropped back to pass, Rodgers understood his team needed a miracle. 

In that same moment, Rasul Douglas backpedaled to mirror Cardinals receiver A.J. Green. Douglas knew defensive backs coach Jerry Gray, replacing defensive coordinator Joe Barry after a positive COVID-19 test this week, had called an “all-out blitz.” Seven Packers defenders would be on a dead sprint for Murray, leaving Douglas no help against a seven-time Pro Bowl receiver.  

With the Cardinals in range for a game-tying field goal, Douglas also knew they had no interest in anything but the end zone.  

“I’ve got to make a play,” Douglas thought. 

He was one of the least likely players on the State Farm Stadium field to come up with one. Three weeks ago, Douglas was on the Cardinals' practice squad, pondering his NFL future. “You feel like you're working for nothing,” he said. It was the first time in his five seasons Douglas was not on an active roster. He couldn’t have known what awaited a few weeks later, that he would make the biggest play of his career against the team that didn’t deem him worthy of playing for them. 

Douglas kept his poise all alone in the end zone against Green. When Murray targeted Green, Douglas was ready. Green never turned his head for the football, instead appearing to block. Douglas picked off Murray’s pass, giving the Packers that miracle they needed. 

It was a startling play that had everyone associated with the Packers, even general manager Brian Gutekunst high up in the press box, on their feet in some mixture of joy and disbelief. Douglas pointed his left arm straight up at the sky, index finger extended, after tapping two feet inbounds with Murray’s pass. He marched to a smattering of Packers fans in the stands, beside a Cardinals fan hunched over the railing, head in his hands. 

“That’s the first time I’ve won a game like that,” Douglas said. “So it was a shocking feeling. Like, ‘Oh, snap.’ We just won off that play.” 

Shocking is perhaps the best way to describe the Packers’ seventh straight win, their longest streak under coach Matt LaFleur. 

The Packers were 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 against the NFL’s last undefeated team. They had less than 72 hours between walking off Lambeau Field on Sunday and wheels up from Green Bay, flying across the country. 

In those three days, preparing a game plan had to feel something like walking through an earthquake. When Barry tested positive for COVID-19 a day after the Packers beat Washington, it set off a chain of aftershocks that were impossible to predict. A positive test for Davante Adams came next. Then Allen Lazard, who is unvaccinated, was ruled ineligible because he was a close contact. 

The Packers didn’t know who might be next, but it was clear Thursday night would be a Plan B game. It was fitting Douglas, who started because Kevin King was inactive with a shoulder injury, made the game-winning play. He wasn’t the only backup pushed to the forefront. 

Packers receiver Randall Cobb catches a pass for a touchdown in front of Arizona's Byron Murphy.

Aaron Rodgers threw two touchdown passes, both to Randall Cobb. Usually the Packers' fourth receiver, Cobb elevated atop the depth chart Thursday. On the first, Cobb raced Cardinals cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. to the pylon from the 2-yard line. He reached the corner first, letting Rodgers lift the football over Murphy’s shoulder as he got “rocked” on a late hit. In all their years together, Rodgers said it was the first time Cobb had caught that play for a touchdown. 

The second touchdown came on third-and-goal from the 5 on the first snap of the fourth quarter. From the slot, Cobb “deked” Murphy on an in route to the middle of the end zone.  

Cobb caught three passes for just 15 yards. Two were touchdowns. Given the Packers’ receiving depth chart, or lack of it, Cobb’s arrival via trade with the Houston Texans at the start of training camp continued to be useful.

“I told myself coming into this game,” Cobb said, “I didn’t know what it was going to look like, I didn’t know how many opportunities I was going to get, but no excuses. I’m going to go out there and make a play when I get the chance, and I found a way to come down with it.” 

Cobb wasn’t the only backup in a key role for the Packers' offense Thursday night. Four days earlier, AJ Dillon had carried only three times against Washington. He fumbled twice. LaFleur approached his second-year running back early in the week, knowing it was the type of afternoon that could shake a young player. 

The conversation was short. 

“Flush it,” LaFleur said. “We’re coming back to you.” 

LaFleur knew the Packers needed to run the football with their top receivers out. They didn’t have a choice to put Dillon in the doghouse. Dillon responded with 78 yards on 16 carries, leading the Packers in rushing. He and Aaron Jones combined for 137 rushing yards on 31 carries, the fourth time in five games the duo has hit the 129-yard mark. 

This was not a game the Packers were supposed to win. There was simply too much adversity. One by one, the Packers had a role player step into the spotlight Thursday night, until the NFL’s last unbeaten team had its first defeat. Douglas was just the last in succession. 

From the 50-yard line, Cobb watched as a minor miracle unfolded. 

“I would say there was not a doubt in my mind that we were going to win that game,” Cobb said, “but obviously we were getting tested in that situation right there. I really thought that he was going to catch it and scramble around and try to find somebody in the end zone or run it in, and they just looked like they had some miscommunication. He threw it to a receiver that was blocking, and Rasul made a big play. 

“It’s crazy the emotion, the roller coaster, the ride that game was. We talk about it all the time, don’t flinch, don’t blink.”

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