The Arizona Cardinals treated Aaron Rodgers like their own personal hand puppet on Sunday afternoon, pummeling the Green Bay Packers, 38-8, at University of Phoenix Stadium during Week 16 in the NFL. The Cards (13-2) sacked A-Rod eight times, knocked him down a baker’s dozen more times and basically abused the reigning MVP for the 51 minutes he was at the helm.
The Cardinals defensive line spent more time in the Green Bay backfield than either Eddie Lacy or James Starks. The Packers slide to 10-5 and now must beat the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field next week in the regular season finale in order to win the NFC North Division crown for a fifth straight year.
The victory guarantees the Cards the second seed and a bye in the NFC. Since the Atlanta Falcons gave Carolina its first loss earlier in the day, Arizona is still in the hunt for home field advantage throughout.
After a scoreless first stanza, the desert dwellers got things rolling through the air.AZ QB Carson Palmer spread the ball around hitting seven different targets while completing 18 of 27 for 265 yards. Michael Floyd earned extra credit in that class, grabbing six passes for 111 yards. Running back David Johnson was no slouch netting 88 yards on three snags.
The final minutes of the first half seemed to be critical in the wheels coming off the Packer bus this day. Trailing 10-0, D-lineman Mike Daniels picked off Palmer and gave Green Bay a first down on the Cardinal 15 yard line. But their red zone struggles continued. A pass to Davante Adams sailed through his hands and then Justin Bethel stepped in front James Jones in the corner the end zone to end the threat.
Palmer marched his charges down the field in short order with a long completion and closed out the half with a TD pass with six seconds ’til intermission and a 17-0 bulge.
The Packers got the ball to start the second half. A huge gain by Starks was wiped out when he coughed up the ball. Palmer had a short field and Johnson ran for a quick score at the 14:02 mark. The Pack was looking up at a 24-0 score.
The first of two Rodgers fumbles that were taken in for scores (Cory Redding) made it 31-0. A-Rod did get the Packers on the board completing a 28-yard pass to Lacy for a score. Jones made a catch for the two-point conversion, but the hole was just too deep to climb out out.
Despite beating the Vikings in Minnesota in mid-season, the Packers have to win on Sunday, Jan. 3, to get a home game in the playoffs. Kickoff is slatted for noon, but can be flexed to 3:25 p.m. or Sunday Night Football on NBC.