Whatever you do, don't simplify the Green Bay Packers' win on Thursday night by putting all the praise on Aaron Rodgers.
Rodgers was good, considering the circumstances with a depleted team around him. But this was the type of win in which everyone in the organization should get a game ball.
The Packers went on the road in some tough circumstances and beat the NFL's lone remaining undefeated team, topping the Arizona Cardinals. The Packers got a clutch interception by Rasul Douglas with 12 seconds left, sealing a thrilling, gutsy 24-21 win. The Packers are 7-1, as are the Cardinals.
It wasn't the prettiest win, but it's the kind of win that can help forge a champion. They needed everyone to pull their weight, all the way until the end when Douglas saved the win. Douglas epitomized the win: He was signed off the Cardinals' practice squad on Oct. 6 and playing due to injuries at cornerback.
Packers came in shorthanded
The Packers were severely shorthanded. In addition to having stars like offensive tackle David Bakhtiari, cornerback Jaire Alexander and pass rusher Za'Darius Smith on injured reserve, receivers Davante Adams and Allen Lazard were out due to COVID-19 related reasons. Defensive coordinator Joe Barry was out too. All of that on a short week, flying cross country to face the NFL's final remaining undefeated team.
The Packers' approach was predictable. Without many of their top receivers (Marquez Valdes-Scantling was out too with an injury) every yard was a struggle. They ran it a lot and kept the chains moving with some short passes. This wasn't the Rodgers who picks a defense apart with long strikes, but he wasn't necessarily a game manager either. It's just that every 6-yard completion seemed to take all the Packers' effort.
What kept the Packers in the game is that everything was tough on Arizona's offense too for the first part of the game. Green Bay's defense, which was without its coordinator, did a fantastic job against Kyler Murray and the rest of the Cardinals offense. Four of Arizona's first five drives ended in three punts and an interception and gained 24 net yards.
The Packers played hard and took advantage of some Cardinals mistakes. A muffed punt by Rondale Moore turned into a Packers field goal. The Packers turned an interception deep in Arizona territory into a Randall Cobb touchdown, which came after a fourth-down conversion.
Finally Arizona's offense started getting it together and scored touchdowns on back-to-back drives, cutting Green Bay's lead to 24-21 with 10:45 left. For how well the Packers had played, a beat-up team still needed to finish the final 10-plus minutes against a very good Cardinals team.
Packers hang on with late INT
Right after the Cardinals scored to cut their deficit to 24-21, the Packers went on a long drive. They picked up a pair of third-and-short conversions. Rodgers hit a few key passes. Aaron Jones had a nice run inside the 10-yard line. After a couple penalties, it looked like Jones got a 1-yard touchdown. But a review showed he was down just short of the goal line. Jones was stopped on second down. Then the Packers took an awful delay of game penalty. Rodgers ran back to the 1 but on fourth down he had a pass batted down at the line by linebacker Devon Kennard. That goal-line stand gave the Cardinals hope.
The Cardinals were backed up at their 1-yard line but Murray dug them out. He hit a pass to A.J. Green on third down to get the Cardinals out of their own end zone. He kept moving them, first into Matt Prater's field-goal range and then in a spot where a touchdown was possible. Then, disaster struck. Murray threw to Green in the end zone. Green didn't seem to look back, and Douglas gathered a juggling interception to seal the game.
That finished a crazy win for the Packers. On the flight back to Wisconsin, everyone could know they played a part in it.
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