The Arizona Cardinals’ thrilling 26-20 overtime win over the Green Bay Packers this past weekend at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale was an epic victory for the Red Birds and one helluva football game — but it certainly wasn’t for the faint of heart.
The back-and-forth divisional round playoff battle on Saturday, January 15, was a major nail biter that saw the Cardinals coming perilously close to being eliminated by Green Bay during a wild contest that was wall-to-wall with unbelievable and unforgettable action.
Thankfully, Arizona triumphed, thanks in no small part to the heroics of Larry Fitzgerald, who compensated for the uneven play of Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer and almost single-handedly carried his team to victory. Fitz was fantastic as he made eight catches, racked up 176 yards (including an phenomenal 75-yard dash at the start of overtime) and scored the game-winning touchdown.
It was an extraordinary ending to a crazy game filled with everything that football fans could’ve asked for: dramatic plays, amazing catches, heart-stopping moments, a couple of Hail Mary throws, and even a bit of weirdness that defied logic at times.
The Cardinals will head east this weekend to face the Carolina Panthers on Sunday for the NFC championship and a shot at the Super Bowl. In the meantime, here’s a look back at the best moments, both on and off the field, during Arizona’s big win over Green Bay.
11. Arizona's big fourth-down conversion
Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians is famous for his aggressive play calling on offense (hence his oft-quoted philosophy, “No risk it, no biscuit”). It paid off during the first quarter when Arizona went for it on fourth and one while deep in Green Bay territory instead of settling for a field goal. As a result, rookie running back David Johnson plowed up the middle for two yards, nabbed a big first down, and paved the way for a Cardinals TD three player later. Speaking of which . . .
10. Arizona’s first touchdown
Michael Floyd touchdown catch. pic.twitter.com/mTelpS4t2B— MarcusD (@_MarcusD_) January 17, 2016
Without a doubt, Carson Palmer caused Cardinals fans plenty of worry with his uneven performance during the game. That said, he was on point with a fantastic eight-yard throw that connected with Michael Floyd in the far corner of the end zone to give the Cardinals a 7-0 lead early on. Yeah, Floyd might’ve taken a header into a cameraman following the catch, but he at least managed to keep his feet in bounds. And that's all that mattered.
9. That one Packers fan
NBC pans away from the flashing Packers fan with the quickness pic.twitter.com/KKqiJHehiD— The Cauldron (@TheCauldron) January 17, 2016
Green Bay’s notorious fan base isn’t exactly known for its class, civility, or decorum. And this particular member of Packers Nation certainly reinforced their sordid reputation by gleefully exposing his nipple on national television during the first half. Janet Jackson, eat your heart out. (He wasn’t the only out-of-towner to grab attention in the stands, however, as that one Vikings fan earned chuckles from the NBC broadcasters with his sign declaring "I BOUGT [sic] THIS TICKET B4 THE FIELD GOAL.”
8. Patrick Peterson’s overturned 100-yard pick-six
Aaron Rodgers pick 6. Returned for 100 yards by Patrick Peterson. And another play taken away due to penalties pic.twitter.com/u4KZvvVkvU— MarcusD (@_MarcusD_) January 17, 2016
Poor Patrick Peterson. The Cardinals cornerback almost had one of the biggest moments of the night — if not the entire season — after intercepting Aaron Rodgers’ goal-line pass in the second quarter and going coast to coast for what looked like a pick-six. It was an exhilarating sight that would’ve been one for the record books and put Arizona up 13-0 had teammate Frostee Rucker not been penalized for illegal hands, resulting in the play getting called back. Green Bay wound up kicking a field goal three plays later.
However, there was one bright spot to come from the debacle: Arians’ sudden head-turn in reaction to the penalty, which rivals the Dramatic Chipmunk of Internet lore. In fact, there’s already a few memes comparing the two.
Better version dramatic Bruce Arians. pic.twitter.com/R2SzRBLfNA— MarcusD (@_MarcusD_) January 17, 2016
7. Rashad Johnson’s interception
Aaron Rodgers picked off by Rashad Johnson pic.twitter.com/ZoM417UBIJ— MarcusD (@_MarcusD_) January 17, 2016
Cardinals safety Rashad Johnson fared a bit better than Peterson, however, when he nabbed a Rodgers' pass at the start of the second half. Granted, Arizona only gained a yard in the process (and Green Bay returned the favor a few minutes later when Ha Ha Clinton-Dix picked off Palmer), but it was worth it to watch Rodgers march off the field in utter frustration.