Wild Finishes Highlight Cardinals’ History vs. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers

Getty Packers QB Aaron Rodgers loses the ball while being pressured by Cardinals LB Markus Golden on January 16, 2016.

Aaron Rodgers hasn’t had much success in Glendale, Arizona, but crazy things seem to happen whenever the future Hall of Fame quarterback comes to town.

If history holds, fans at State Farm Stadium and a national television audience are in for a wild ride when the Arizona Cardinals (7-0) host the Green Bay Packers (6-1) Thursday, October 28.

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Rodgers is 1-3 in his previous visits to the Nest, including a pair of overtime losses in the playoffs back when it was known as University of Phoenix Stadium.

The Thursday night matchup will be Rodgers’ first visit since it became State Farm Stadium in 2018. Perhaps the State Farm pitchman will feel more at home.

“[It’s a] great name for sure,” said Rodgers, joking with reporters. “I don’t know if Jake’s going to be there.”

Rodgers’ lone win in Glendale came back in the 2009 regular-season finale, when former Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt opted to rest his starters, as the two teams were set to meet again the following week in the playoffs. Rodgers threw for 235 yards and scored two touchdowns before sitting out the fourth quarter of the Packers’ 33-7 victory.

Since then, the Packers QB is 0-3 in Arizona — including two overtime playoff games that Rodgers called “really special moments” in his 17-year career, “even though we came up on the short end of both of those.”

The playoff games between the Cardinals and Packers in the 2009 and 2015 seasons were “very different games,” he said, with a different cast of characters. In ’09 it was Rodgers vs. Kurt Warner, while ’15 featured Rodgers vs. Carson Palmer.

One similarity, Rodgers said, was the Red Sea.

“The thing you remember about those games is just how loud the crowd is, man,” he said. “It’s a great environment for football, great fanbase down there.”

As the rivalry begins a new chapter with Rodgers and Kyler Murray meeting for the first time, Heavy on Cardinals takes a look back at those classic playoff games against the Packers.

After all, the Week 8 matchup could be a prelude to the 2021 playoffs.

Rodgers called the NFC showdown one of “those playoff-type implication games, even though it is just Week 8.”

“A lot of times when you’re not playing a division opponent, it comes down to tiebreakers like this,” he said. “There’s still a lot of football and a lot that can happen throughout the season with momentum and the way teams play, but this is an important one.”

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January 10, 2010: Cardinals 51, Packers 45 (OT)

While reminiscing about his first playoff start, Rodgers recalled (mostly correctly) a few noteworthy facts:

  • “I threw a pick on the first play.” (True: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had an interception just four seconds into the game.)
  • “We fumbled on the second play.” (Close: Donald Driver fumbled after making a catch on the Packers’ third offensive play.)
  • “Kurt threw five touchdowns and four incompletions.” (True and amazing: Warner was 29-of-33 passing for 375 yards and five TDs.)

The Cardinals took advantage of the turnovers and built a 17-0 lead in the first quarter. And then:

“Back we came,” Rodgers said. “What a great comeback that was to be a part of.”

After tying the game with three minutes to play in regulation, the Packers’ comeback bid was kept alive when Neil Rackers missed a 34-yard field goal with 14 seconds to play. Green Bay also got the ball to start overtime.

And that’s when the rally came to an end. On third-and-6 from the Packers’ 24-yard line, Cardinals cornerback Michael Adams sacked Rodgers and forced a fumble, leading to a scoop-and-score TD from linebacker Karlos Dansby to seal the 51-45 victory for Arizona.

Rodgers has one other memory of that game: Late in the fourth quarter, he underthrew a pass to Greg Jennings that he says otherwise “probably would have been a walk-off 80-yarder to win it.”

Despite the overtime fumble, Rodgers had a remarkable game and finished with 423 yards and four touchdowns.

“I’m disappointed obviously about the way that thing finished,” he said.

January 16, 2016: Cardinals 26, Packers 20 (OT)

The rematch with the Packers six years later ranks as one the Cardinals’ biggest and most thrilling wins in franchise history.

Leading 20-13 with a minute to play in the fourth quarter, the Cardinals appeared to be on their way to another playoff victory over the Packers. It was fourth-and-20, and Green Bay was pinned at its own 4-yard line.

That’s when Rodgers worked his magic.

“What a wild finish that was to that one,” he said.

With his top three receivers (Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams and Randall Cobb) sidelined with injuries, Rodgers turned to little-known Jeff Janis to drive the length of the field and force overtime.

Rodgers first found Janis for a 60-yard gain on fourth-and-20 to keep the drive alive. Two plays later, they connected again on a 41-yard Hail Mary touchdown to tie the game.

Former Cardinals safety Rashad Johnson, one of the players in coverage on the play, talked about the wild finish in the “Cardinals Folktales” documentary and podcast released Wednesday, October 27.

“It was one of those moments where the air goes out of the stadium,” Johnson said. “You could feel it; it was big deflation.”

Jerraud Powers, a defensive back on that team, said from players’ reactions on the field, “you would have thought that we lost the game.”

“It might be bad to say this now, but I remember just looking at everybody and thinking, ‘Man, we better win this coin toss,’ ” Powers said.

The coin toss itself was an adventure, as the coin didn’t flip while in the air. When Packers players protested, referee Clete Blakeman quickly tossed the coin a second time. The Cardinals won both tosses, and Rodgers never touched the ball in OT.

On the first play of overtime, Palmer escaped the pass rush and found Larry Fitzgerald wide open across the field. Arizona’s star receiver then raced 75 yards to the 5-yard line to complete what’s now known as the “Hail Larry.” Two plays later, Fitzgerald took a shovel pass from Palmer into the end zone for the game-winning TD.

“We got the ball, and Larry Legend does what Larry does,” Johnson said.

Cardinals fans can relive the classic playoff victory in “The Coin That Didn’t Flip” on the team’s YouTube channel.

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