STUNNED AT LAMBEAU

Packers humiliated by lowly Cardinals
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Photo by Jim Leuenberger Packers tight end Jimmy Graham (80) runs with the football during Sunday’s game against the Cardinals at Lambeau Field.

Coming into week 13 of the NFL season, the Green Bay Packers knew the uphill climb they faced if they hoped to avoid missing the postseason for a second straight season. Along with winning their final five games, the Packers also needed some help from other teams in order to sneak into the postseason.

Many people believed Green Bay would get the help they needed from those other teams but questioned whether the inconsistent Packers could string together five straight wins.

Sunday’s clash against the 2-9 Arizona Cardinals looked like the perfect springboard for a late season run. Instead, the Packers suffered a inexcusable 20-17 loss, capped by a missed Mason Crosby field goal as time expired.

“I just think it’s the same things that we unfortunately say every week, and I hate to repeat myself, but it’s applicable,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “We’re just not on the same page consistently, we’re not executing the right way, and it’s the same stuff: poor throws, not on the same page with receivers, wrong depth, protection. We all have a part in that and we’ve all picked our time to mess up a third down.”

In a snowy and cold environment, it was feasible to expect the Packers to run the ball with Aaron Jones more. Rodgers attempted 50 passes in the contest, completing just 31 for 233 yards and a second quarter score to receiver Davante Adams on a fourth down play.

While that score looked to be the galvanizing moment that could give the Packers some momentum to build off of, the Cardinals responded with an 11-play 75 yard drive to tie the game.

Green Bay got a last-minute field goal by Crosby to end the first half and go up 10-7, but the Cardinals scored 10 points in the third quarter.

Green Bay was able to tie the game on an 8-yard rushing score from Jones and then the Packers’ defense sacked Arizona rookie quarterback Josh Rosen on first down on the ensuing drive. After an incompletion — that should have been intercepted by new Packers safety Eddie Pleasant — and a delay of game penalty set up third-and-23, Green Bay looked to have all the momentum.

Arizona receiver Larry Fitzgerald made a sensational 32-yard diving catch to continue the drive, which eventually ended in a Zane Gonzalez 44-yard field goal.

“It was a scramble drill and I was running up, that’s when he threw it … that’s a catch I need to make,” Pleasant said of his near interception. “We make that catch, we win the game. I make that catch, we win the game.”

Green Bay had 1 minute, 41 seconds to try and put together a game-winning drive, but clearly were content with trying to tie the game with a number of short passes on the drive. Rodgers threw five incompletions and missed on a number of throws that would have allowed receivers to pick up additional yardage.

It proved costly as Crosby’s 49-yard attempt sailed wide right, leaving Lambeau Field in shock.

“You know, that’s my job. I welcome the challenge every time,” Crosby said of the pressure kick. “I can’t take credit whenever I win a game — all the credit — and I can’t take all the credit whenever I don’t make a kick at the end. So for me, it’s we win and lose as a team and I’m just disappointed to not make the kick when I’m called on there. I need to make the kick to tie the game there and see what happens in overtime.”

The loss dropped the Packers to 4-7-1 overall and the team’s playoff chances down to one percent, according to FiveThirtyEight’s playoff predictions.

“I think throughout the last couple games, just losing, it’s definitely not the Green Bay Packer way. It’s definitely a winning culture here and I think it’s been tough on everybody,” linebacker Blake Martinez said. “I think it just comes down to a point where, we keep talking about it, we keep talking about it, things are going to change, things are going to get better, things are going to be this, this, this. It’s coming down to are we actually going to do it? And if we can’t do it, then it’s not going to change. And that’s, I think the point where it gets frustrating. I’m not much of a person to talk, to be vocal because I think we’re all professionals. We need to go in there and do our job and make the plays and win the game.”

Despite the team’s slim playoff chances, that didn’t stop the Packers from firing coach Mike McCarthy just hours after the game. The Packers named Joe Philbin as the interim coach, and he will lead the team against the Atlanta Falcons this upcoming Sunday.