Playing without some of their best players on a short week against the only unbeaten team left in the NFL, the Green Bay Packers put together one of the best efforts of the Matt LaFleur era in a 24-21 win at Arizona on Thursday night.
Offense: Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon
With Green Bay missing its top three wide receivers, the running backs were going to play a crucial role and they did. The duo combined for 137 yards on the ground (4.4 yards per carry) and Jones added another 51 yards on seven catches.
“That was the key. That was definitely the key,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said of the run game. “That’s what we wanted to do coming in. (We) felt like we could run the ball against them. I thought both guys ran the ball well.”
It was bully ball on the Packers first touchdown drive of the game, with Dillon running through a guy on fourth-and-1 to extend the possession. Then Jones finished it off by putting his head down against linebacker Isaiah Simmons, driving his feet and just barely getting over the goal line for the touchdown.
Jones had what appeared to be the game-clinching touchdown in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, but officials overturned it on replay. Still, the Packers got exactly what they needed from Dillon and Jones to get the win.
Defense: Rasul Douglas
Four weeks ago, Douglas was on Arizona’s practice squad. The Cardinals could have promoted him to the active roster when the Packers tried to claim him, but they didn’t. It seems possible they were regretting that decision late Thursday night when the veteran intercepted quarterback Kyler Murray in the end zone for what proved to be the dagger in Arizona’s push for a perfect season.
“That’s probably the first time I’ve won a game like that,” Douglas said. “So, it was a shocking feeling like, oh, snap, we just won off of that play.”
What Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury called a miscommunication between Murray and wide receiver AJ Green turned into the biggest defensive play of the season to this point for the Packers and it set off a raucous celebration on the field, among the Packers fans at the game and eventually the locker room.
“It was a special moment right there when we made that pick,” coach Matt LaFleur said. “Just to see the celebration not only on the sidelines, but in the stands, it’s something I won’t ever forget.”
Rodgers was asked about this play after the game and whether he should have tried to slide instead of taking that shot.
“Hell no. Every now and then you got to put your head down. Maybe I wish I would have had a juke in the old bag, but I felt like things were collapsing and I needed to tuck that thing and put my shoulder down.”
— Running back Kylin Hill left the game with a knee injury after taking a nasty hit on a kickoff in the third quarter. He did not return.
— Defensive lineman Kingsley Keke was knocked from the game in the first half with a concussion.
— Tight end Robert Tonyan had a 33-yard catch and run in the third quarter but went down clutching his left knee at the end of the play. He did not return. Coach Matt LaFleur did not have an update on the severity of the injury but got emotional talking about it in the post-game press conference.
“I am sick for him,” LaFleur said. “I’m sick for us. My heart goes out to him.”
— Green Bay played without the services of defensive coordinator Joe Barry, who was forced to miss the game due to a positive COVID-19 test. Defensive backs coach Jerry Gray handled the play calling duties with help from inside linebackers coach Mark Olivadotti. The duo helped in limiting Arizona to just 21 points, its second fewest in a game this season.
— The Packers had first-and-goal four times in the game but managed to get into the end zone just twice. LaFleur pointed the finger at himself for not capitalizing on the opportunities.
“Those two redzone trips kind of eat at me. You’ve got to come away with more points than that. When you don’t it’s disappointing and it almost cost us. I told the group in (the locker room) like, ‘Hey, man, I tried to screw it up for you guys but you wouldn’t allow it.’ That’s a credit to everybody in that locker room.”
— Arizona All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins was questionable to play due to a hamstring injury but was active. He caught a 55-yard pass in the first quarter but reaggravated the injury. He would end up playing just one more series in the game.
— On Rodgers first touchdown to Randall Cobb he took a late shot from defensive lineman Jordan Phillips. It was so vicious it nearly took Rodgers’ helmet right off. The cameras caught the quarterback’s reaction while on the ground and it soon went viral. He was well aware of it in his press conference.
1934 – That is the last time the Packers beat a team that was 7-0
33-7 – That is Matt LaFleur’s record as Green Bay’s coach. That is the most wins by any coach through his first 40 games in NFL history.
7 – That is how many starters the Packers were missing, including All-Pros in wide receiver Davante Adams, left tackle David Bakhtiari and cornerback Jaire Alexander.
10 – That is how many games Rodgers has won in a row in primetime. The 2020 NFL MVP threw for 184 yards and two scores. Since tossing zero touchdowns and two interceptions in Week 1, Rodgers has now thrown 17 touchdowns and one interception in the team’s seven-game winning streak.
2 – That is how many touchdowns Randall Cobb caught. It was his second multi-touchdown game this season.
7 – That is how many different players caught a pass in the game. That included the first career catch for wide Juwann Winfree, who was called up from the practice squad earlier in the day. He ended up with four grabs for 30 yards.
3 – That is how many turnovers the Packers forced. They turned two of them into 10 points, while the third clinched the game.
37:35 – That is the Packers time of possession in the game. It was the most they have had the ball in a road game since the 2019 season opener at Minnesota.
7 — That is Green Bay’s current winning streak. It is the Packers longest regular-season winning streak since running off eight straight in the final two games of 2014 and the first six of 2015.
Green Bay (7-1) will enjoy a few days off and then get back to work in preparing to head to Kansas City (3-4) next Sunday.