Cardinals knock off Packers as Seahawks prepare for Carolina
Aaron Rodgers rolled to the left and avoided a tackler, heaving the ball high into the desert air before he was hit.
Two Arizona Cardinals defensive backs were waiting in the end zone, but Jeff Janis squeezed between them to pull it down.
Another ‘Hail Mary’ completed.
This one didn’t come with the same magical ending.
Rodgers hit Janis on the desperation pass on the final play of regulation, but Larry Fitzgerald weaved through Green Bay’s defense for a 75-yard reception to open overtime. Fitzgerald then scored on a 5-yard shovel pass to send the Cardinals to a 26-20 win over the Packers in the NFC divisional playoffs Saturday night.
Fitzgerald’s touchdown moved the Cardinals (14-3) into the NFC championship game against Carolina or Seattle, and sent the Packers to another what-could-have-been offseason.
Rodgers gave Green Bay’s season a kick start with a desperation heave to beat Detroit on Dec. 3 to Richard Rodgers. The tight end pulled that one down, the 61-yard reception giving the Packers an improbable 27-23 victory.
Aaron Rodgers did it again on an even bigger stage, marching Green Bay 85 yards in the final 1:15 of regulation for another high-in-the-sky completion.
Janis leaped between Arizona’s Patrick Peterson and Rashad Johnson to pull down the pass, injuring himself on the play but holding onto the ball by pinning it to his hip.
After an officials review, ‘Hail Mary,’ the sequel, was confirmed.
But unlike the Detroit game, this one wasn’t the winner. The 41-yard reception and Mason Crosby’s extra point tied the game at 20.
Arizona won the coin toss for overtime and quickly put the Packers (11-7) away.
Carson Palmer, who hit Michael Floyd on two touchdown passes, rolled right on Arizona’s first play and threw back left to Fitzgerald. The Cardinals’ star receiver, who never seems to age, was alone by the left sideline, and wasn’t done, zigzagging his way through Green Bay’s defense until finally being brought down at the Packers 5.
Two plays later, Palmer flipped a shovel pass to Fitzgerald, who streaked from the left and bulled his way into the end zone.
Fitzgerald, ,32, left to chants of “Larry! Larry!” The Packers went home wondering how they could complete a “Hail Mary” and still lose.
Last year, Green Bay blew a big second-half lead at Seattle and lost the NFC title game in overtime.
“I think a lot of Packers fans want their revenge on Seattle from last year. From the whole onside kick in that last fiasco. I’ll take Seattle in Green Bay. I’m fine with that,” said Tim Mahan, a Packers fan who watched Saturday’s game with dozens of Green Bay supporters at Buckley’s Queen Anne.
The possibility of a Packers/Seahawks rematch will have to wait another year.
The Hawks must overcome a major hurdle Sunday against the Carolina Panthers to punch their ticket to a third-straight trip to the NFC Championship.
Long-time Seahawks fan Donna Lee is confident.
“I think we have to come out and score early and score a lot,” Lee said. “Defense has to score. They have to rip the ball away and score on their offense. And take the crowd out of the game.”
Ian Florek of Marysville is confident, too. He’ll be in Charlotte with his Carolina Panther-loving son on Sunday to watch the game in person.
“I come into enemy territory and everywhere I wearing my Seahawks hat and everyone’s like ‘Oh, my gosh, I can’t believe you have the nerve to wear that around here.'” Florek said. “I’m still feeling pretty good because I think our fans have way more spirit than theirs.”