Cardinals sack Rodgers 8 times, rout Packers 38-8

Dec. 28, 2015

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) is sacked by Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Alex Okafor (57) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.

GLENDALE, Ariz.  The Arizona Cardinals flattened Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.

That makes it nine straight wins for the Cardinals, who think they're still gaining steam.

"You want to play your best ball at the end of the season," Arizona defensive lineman Calais Campbell said, "and I think this is the best game we've played."

The Cardinals sacked Rodgers eight times and returned two of his fumbles for touchdowns in a dominant 38-8 victory.

Carson Palmer threw for 257 yards and two touchdowns for the Cardinals (13-2). The winning streak is the franchise's longest since the 1948 Chicago Cardinals won 10 in a row.

Green Bay was without starting left tackle David Bakhtiari with an injury and lost starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga with an ankle injury during the game.

So the Packers (10-5) were in no position to slow the rout.

"They were very aggressive to the line of scrimmage," Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said. "They played very well and took advantage of it."

In all, Packers quarterbacks were sacked nine times in their most one-sided loss of the season. Dwight Freeney had three and Campbell 2 1/2. Cory Redding rambled 36 yards with one of the fumbles for a score, Jerraud Powers took another 5 yards for a touchdown.

The Packers (10-5) have a half-game lead over Minnesota in the NFC North with the Vikings facing the New York Giants on Sunday night.

Green Bay is home against Minnesota in its regular-season finale next Sunday.

"This was a playoff-style game and we played terrible," Rodgers said, "but we have won a lot of games here. When you play long enough you are going to be on the wrong side at times, but I am confident that we have guys and myself that, when it matters for all the marbles, guys will show up."

The nine sacks were the most for the Cardinals since they had 10 against Philadelphia on Dec. 7, 1986, two years before the franchise moved to Arizona.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) is sacked by Arizona Cardinals cornerback Jerraud Powers (25) during the second half.

Arizona clinched at least the No. 2 playoff seed in the NFC. They still can take the No. 1 seed with a win over Seattle and a Carolina loss to Tampa Bay next week.

"We still really haven't done anything other than get a bye," Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. "You don't get rings for byes; you only get T-shirts and hats."

Palmer completed 18 of 27 passes and was intercepted once. Michael Floyd caught six passes for 111 yards for the Cardinals, who entered the game with the NFL's No. 1-ranked offense.

Rodgers was 15 for 28 for 151 yards and a touchdown with one interception.

The game was close until a big reversal of fortune in the final minute of the first half.

With Arizona leading 10-0, Palmer attempted to lob a screen pass to David Johnson near the line of scrimmage but Mike Daniels, the Packers' 6-foot, 310-pound defensive tackle, intercepted and Green Bay had the ball on the Arizona 15.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) fumbles as he is sacked by Arizona Cardinals strong safety Deone Bucannon (20) during the second half.

But on third-and-goal at the 10, Justin Bethel stepped in front of intended receiver James Jones and intercepted the pass in the end zone. Rodgers' seventh interception of the season gave the Cardinals the ball at the 20 with 57 seconds to play.

A 47-yard pass play to Floyd advanced the ball to the 33 and two more completions, plus a defensive holding call, set up Palmer's 7-yard scoring pass to John Brown, putting Arizona ahead 17-0.

Things just got worse for the Packers from there.

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) greets Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) after the game.

On the first play from scrimmage in the second half, Green Bay's James Starks fumbled and Powers recovered at the Packers 28. Palmer threw 14 yards to Floyd, then Johnson ran 14 yards for a score to make it 24-0.

The 6-foot-4, 318-pound Redding's TD made it 31-0.

Notes: Freeney made an extra $300,000 in incentives with his three sacks. ... Arizona was without both of its usual starting safeties. Rashad Johnson missed his second game in a row with an ankle injury after being listed as questionable. Of course, Tyrann Mathieu is out for the season with a torn ACL. ... The Packers didn't have cornerback Sam Shields (concussion). ... Palmer had to wear a hula dancer outfit for a time pregame for losing a bet in a weekly accuracy competition on Friday.

Packers fall flat in NFC showdown, lose 38-8 to Cardinals

GLENDALE, Ariz. Aaron Rodgers dropped back and cocked his arm, ready to throw the ball downfield.

Instead of flinging to his intended target, the Green Bay quarterback was flung to the ground, causing the ball to break loose from his grip.

Arizona defensive lineman Cory Redding scooped it up, tossed Packers running back Eddie Lacy to the ground and rumbled 36 yards for a touchdown.

Another big game, another big letdown for the Packers.

Rodgers was sacked eight teams, had two fumbles returned for touchdowns and threw an interception in the end zone, sending the Packers to a disheartening 38-8 loss to the Cardinals on Sunday.

"We are professionals. We have to hold ourselves to a higher standard and play better. Everybody has to play better," said Rodgers, who threw for 151 yards and a touchdown on 15-of-28 passing.

The Packers (10-5) had seemed to gather themselves over the past month, winning three straight after a stretch of four losses in five games that started with a blowout by Denver on Nov. 1.

Green Bay came into Sunday's game with a slight hope of earning a first-round bye in the playoffs, but it would have to start with a win over the Cardinals.

The Packers never really had a chance, unable to protect their quarterbacks behind an injury-riddled offensive line.

Taking advantage of Green Bay's shoddy O-line, Arizona (13-2) had nine sacks, its most since 1986 and third-most in team history. Three of those were by resurgent veteran Dwight Freeney and Calais Campbell had 2 1/2.

Instead of the Packers surging toward the playoffs, it's the Cardinals with the momentum after their ninth straight win clinched a first-round playoff bye.

"Our guys were just causing havoc," said cornerback Jerraud Powers, who had Arizona's second defensive touchdown.

The Packers had a hard time stopping it, right from the start.

Without starting left tackle David Bakhtiari (ankle) to protect him, Rodgers was sacked three times in the first half and threw for 58 yards while under constant pressure.

Green Bay's ground game did little to take the pressure off, its longest gain a 7-yard run by punter Tim Masthay on a fake.

Despite everything that went wrong, the Packers appeared to gain a spark just before halftime, when defensive tackle Mike Daniels intercepted Carson Palmer's screen pass and rumbled to the Arizona 15-yard line.

Instead of capitalizing on the Cardinals' first turnover in five games, Green Bay gave it right back when Rodgers threw a ball into the end zone that Justin Bethel intercepted.

The Packers compounded Rodgers' seventh interception of the season by allowing Michael Floyd to break free for a 47-yard reception on the next play. Palmer followed with a 7-yard touchdown pass to John Brown that put the Cardinals up 17-0 at halftime.

"That was a huge swing," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.

It got worse quickly for the Packers in the second half.

James Starks fumbled on Green Bay's first play, Arizona recovered at the Packers 28-yard line and David Johnson ran in for a 14-yard touchdown two plays later.

The Packers continued to have trouble protecting Rodgers and he started losing the ball.

The first fumble came on Kareem Martin's arm-flinging sack that led to Redding's touchdown.

After a 28-yard touchdown pass to Lacy, Rodgers found himself on the ground again, this time in the hands of Freeney. He lost the ball again, Powers grabbed it out of midair and scored on a 7-yard touchdown to put the Cardinals up 38-8.

Green Bay pulled Rodgers with about 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter, its disaster in the desert complete.

"We have a standard we have set around here for a long time and we just haven't lived up to it consistently," Rodgers said.


Associated Press