Walkthrough: A new ball game for Packers
Each Wednesday, Weston Hodkiewicz provides an inside look at the Green Bay Packers in his Walkthrough blog
A lot of different words have been tossed around recently to describe the Green Bay Packers’ 38-8 loss to the Arizona Cardinals a little more than two weeks ago.
Disappointing. Embarrassing. Ugly.
However, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians managed to unearth a new one during his conference call with Green Bay reporters on Tuesday that raised more than a few eyebrows.
“That was a game where the ball bounced our way a couple times,” Arians said. “For most of the game, it could have gone either way.”
On the surface, it sounds like an NFL coach not wanting to give his opponent any bulletin board material going into Saturday night’s rematch in the NFC divisional-round playoffs. However, Arians might have a point, as well.
The Cardinals are favored by a touchdown for good reason, but it’s also difficult to imagine the Packers putting together a worse performance than they did during their last appearance at University of Phoenix Stadium.
The Week 16 game unraveled quickly. The Packers already were playing without starting left tackle David Bakhtiari (ankle) and cornerback Sam Shields (concussion) before losing right tackle Bryan Bulaga (ankle) midway through the game.
The Cardinals took advantage of the Packers’ makeshift offensive line, sacking quarterback Aaron Rodgers eight times and forcing two fumbles returned for touchdowns. Despite an awful first half, the Packers remained in earshot of Arizona’s 17-0 lead before James Starks fumbled on the first play of the third quarter.
It was 31-0 before the Packers scored their first and only touchdown with 12:27 left in the fourth quarter. Rodgers was pulled from the game three minutes later with backup Scott Tolzien absorbing one more sack before all the damage was done.
The rapidly devolving state of the game resulted in Arians and coach Mike McCarthy leaving a lot of bullets in the chamber. Both coaches admitted this week that they left a lot of plays on their call sheets.
“Frankly from an offensive standpoint, because of the way the second half went, we still have a lot of offense from the first game that we never got to,” McCarthy said Monday. “So I guess there is a silver lining in that.”
The Packers hoped to travel Thursday to practice in Arizona like they have done previously for West Coast trips. However, McCarthy confirmed on Tuesday that arrangements couldn’t be made and the team will practice Friday in Green Bay before flying out.
Arians had his team practice last week after falling 36-6 in the regular-season finale to Seattle, devoting at least one day to preparing for either Green Bay, Minnesota or Washington. So while the Packers practiced for Washington last Wednesday, the Cardinals were getting ready for Green Bay again.
On his conference call, Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer said he liked the schedule Arians laid out for the team. Once Arizona reconvened after the weekend, the team popped in its practice tape for Green Bay and started to review.
The Cardinals may have trounced the Packers in all three phases en route to doubling them up in total yards, but they also aren’t taking anything for granted going into the second matchup.
“It just gave us a chance to focus on one style of defense because every team is so different of the three we were getting ready to play, and it gave us some film to watch,” Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer said. “We went back and watched it when we watched Wednesday’s practice of last week and some stuff we thought we might like in the game plan as we kind of weeded through some stuff that was good, that was bad.”
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