Cardinals-Packers thriller saves Wildcard Weekend

For the casual NFL fan, Wildcard Weekend was a bust. Unless you were a Jets, Cowboys or Ravens fan, the games were boring and highly un-entertaining. (Unless you like one team completing dominating another, that is.)

But the Cardinals’ 51-45 overtime thriller over the Packers saved what could have been the worst Wildcard Weekend in recent memory. In fact, it was probably the best game of the season.

Kurt Warner never ceases to amaze me. What he did against a solid Green Bay secondary was pretty extraordinary – even for him. He completed 29-of-33 passes for 379 yards, five touchdown passes and every time the Cards needed a score, he managed to get them into position to do so. If this is indeed Warner’s last dance, it looks like he’s going to leave everything out on the floor.

After throwing an interception on the first play of the game, Aaron Rodgers put on a show himself. He completed 28-of-42 passes for 422 yards and four touchdowns. There will be plenty of Packer fans that will say that Brett Favre would have won this game. But even the fiercest of Brett backers had to marvel at how Rodgers went toe-to-toe with Warner today and almost came out victorious.

I realize his fumble in overtime will haunt him and Green Bay in the offseason (he also overshot a wide open Greg Jennings on the first play of overtime that would have won the game), but don’t forget this was his first career playoff appearance. And with this being his first ever postseason appearance, he played incredibly well and once again proved that the Packers have a bright future. Keep in mind that Arizona got the benefit of a couple of calls in overtime that aided in Rodgers and Green Bay’s demise. The refs could have called a helmet-to-helmet hit on Rodgers on the second play of the drive, as well as a face mask penalty on the game-winning touchdown recovery.

While watching the back-and-forth action in the second half, the first thought that occurred to me is how underrated the Cardinals are. Many wrote them off heading into the postseason last year and they shocked a lot of people by reaching the Super Bowl. Even without Anquan Boldin, they managed to rack up 375 yards of offense and 45 points. They were aided by Green Bay’s turnovers, but give the Cards’ defense credit for forcing the miscues. They did the same thing in last year’s postseason and that’s one of the reasons they got as far as they did.

That said, their defense was atrocious in the second half and they won’t get very far by allowing 500 yards a game. Rodgers absolutely shredded their secondary and up until Karlos Dansby’s 17-yard fumble return in overtime, they couldn’t get a stop in the second half when they needed one.

Neil Rackers is going to have to get his head out of his rear end too. That was a chip shot field goal he missed right before overtime and he better send a belated Christmas present to his defense for bailing him out after Green Bay won the coin toss in OT. There’s no excuse for him to miss a 34-yard field goal indoors on a surface he kicks on eight times a year. No excuse.

We’ll see if Arizona can figure out its defensive woes heading into next weekend’s games. But for now, I think I speak for the casual fan when I say to them and the Packers: Thank You. On a weekend that held so much promise, only Green Bay and Arizona’s thriller lived up to the billing.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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