Rodgers Throws Another Hail Mary, Yet Cardinals Win in Overtime
The Arizona Cardinals outlasted the Green Bay Packers in overtime in one of the craziest playoff games in NFL history, 26-20 Saturday night in the desert.
The fifth-seeded Packers led the second-seeded Cardinals, 13-10, heading into the fourth quarter. The final quarter was an emotional roller coaster for Packers or Cardinals fans or for fans that had no rooting interest and were just watching the game.
Let's recap this wild quarter. So maybe the biggest play that no one is talking about was the tipped touchdown that Michael Floyd caught in the end zone with 3:44 in the game. The ball was tipped by Packers rookie cornerback Damarious Randall, then it looked like another Green Bay cornerback, Casey Hayward, was going to make an interception. But it was Floyd, who came down with it and scored the touchdown. The play before that touchdown, Packers cornerback Sam Shields dropped an interception that went through his hands. That might have sealed the game for Green Bay.
The Packers get the ball back and turn the ball over on downs and gave the Cardinals a chance to ice the game. However, Arizona head coach Bruce Arians opts to throw on second down and it's incomplete. The Cardinals don't get a first down and have to settle for a field goal. 20-13, Arizona.
Aaron Rodgers gets the ball back with a 1:55 in the game. That's a lot of time to give Rodgers, right? Green Bay cannot convert on its first three downs. It looked like pass interference on the Cardinals on third down. However, it wasn't called. So it's fourth and 20. Does Rodgers and the Packers have some more magic? Rodgers rolls out to the left in the end zone and finds Jeff Janis for the first down. Green Bay has to get the line of scrimmage quickly. It looks like Rodgers is going to spike the ball, but decides to line up and try and confuse Arizona. But the Packers are lined up in an illegal formation and it moves them back five yards. After an incomplete pass, there's five seconds. It would take another Hail Mary for the Packers to force overtime. Green Bay trotted out James Jones, Jared Abberderis and Janis. Their top three receivers, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams were all out. Cobb left the game after making an outstanding one-handed catch earlier the game that ended up not counting. But even without Nelson, Cobb and Adams, the Packers still had Rodgers and Janis had a touchdown already in the game and Abberderis had hauled in four catches for 55 yards in the game. Rodgers had already tossed one Hail Mary that won a game for the Packers earlier in the season. So five seconds left, Rodgers rolls out to his left, rainbows it down the field. Janis makes a play on Patrick Peterson, one of the NFL's top cornerbacks, and goes up for the ball and scores a touchdown. Rodgers did it again. Here's the call from the Packers' radio announcers that had Larry McCarren shouting, 'Yes.' For football fans that didn't know who Janis was, they were probably thinking of Chandler's ex-girlfriend, Janice, in Friends, and shouting her famous line. The Packers' Janis, had 101 yards receiving on the final drive.
Packers kicker Mason Crosby netted the extra point and off to overtime. The game got even more weird before the extra period even started, too. Rodgers called tails and the coin didn't even flip the first time. At this point, everyone watching this game is probably just laughing. So, another flip and the Cardinals win the toss. First play of overtime, it looks like the Packers are going to sack Palmer, but he gets away and finds future Hall of Famer, Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald cuts across the field and runs all the way into Green Bay's red zone. Two plays later, Fitzgerald scores the game-winning touchdown. It went from a Hail Mary to Hail Larry. The Cardinals won their second playoff game in overtime at home in seven years over the Packers. Arizona defeated Green Bay in 2009 in overtime in the Wild Card and in 2016 in the divisional playoffs. Rodgers and the Packers have now endured two straight overtime losses where he and the offense haven't touched the ball.
What a game. Packers fans will always remember that Hail Mary. But maybe not to the extent of the first one in Detroit because it didn't win the game. Green Bay showed a lot of fight in that game missing it's top three wideouts and not having Micah Hyde. While it didn't end how Packers' fans wanted, the 2015-2016 season will be remembered as the season the Packers never gave up and always fought to the last second ticked off the clock. I mean, Packers fans got to see two successful Hail Mary's by Rodgers. That doesn't happen often. Rodgers has some wicked arm strength.
Meanwhile, for the Cardinals, they will head to Carolina for the NFC Championship. Can an injured Carson Palmer win his second career playoff game and knock off the one-seeded Panthers to reach the Super Bowl? That will be the question going into the game.
To wrap it up, what game and what a finish. It was wonderful to watch and was a crazy game in the desert. I think that's the best way to sum up what happened.
Sam Tastad will have stories on the Packers all season with pre-and-post game previews. Follow him on Twitter @samtastad and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.