When the Cardinals entered Lambeau Field, they knew that a victory here would mean not only momentum heading into a bye week, but that they would also be two games above .500 at the halfway point of the season. At 5-3 and with the second half of the divisional schedule left to play, Arizona would have a serious shot at the NFC West crown, or at the very least a place in the Wildcard hunt. The Arizona faithful sensed this as well, fully expecting the team to use this Packers game as a turning point and springboard into the second half of the season with momentum and confidence behind them. The idea that the Cardinals could do this to the hapless Green Bay team wasn't that farfetched as QB Brett Favre was again looking well past his prime this season and was certainly a factor in the 1-5 start that the Packers have had to endure. Unfortunately for the Cards, this game proved to be turning point, but not the kind they were expecting.
The game began innocently enough as the Packers took over at their 20 after taking a knee for the touchback on the opening kickoff. As expected, the swarming Arizona defense had absolutely no problem solving this mediocre Green Bay offensive attack. Favre was able to escape being sacked throughout the first half but was hurried an astounding 12 times in the first two stanzas alone. This constant bombardment of pressure caused 3 INT in the game, 2 by CB Antrell Rolle and the other by LB Karlos Dansby. It also prevented the Packers from getting into any type of rhythm and disrupted the rushing game because the linebacker corps were consistently charging into interior gaps, making it impossible to find daylight for RB Ahman Green.
The defense was on their game from the opening gun, but it wasn't until the second quarter that the offense began to produce points. It seemed as though Coach Dennis Green had a ball-control gameplan in mind for this contest, allowing RB Edgerrin James to set the tempo early on, while being spelled on third-downs by RB Marcel Shipp. QB Kurt Warner only attempted 4 passes in the opening quarter, completing only 2. On 3rd and 1 from the Packers 42 with 5:12 remaining in the half with the score 3-0 Cardinals, Warner dropped back to pass. As he threw a pass to TE Leonard Pope on a crossing pattern, SS Marquand Manuel drilled him on a blitz from his blindside. Pope would take the pass, break three tackles and rumble into the endzone to put the Redbirds up 10-0. It proved to be a costly TD. Warner would be carted off the field with a concussion and an unspecified knee injury. An MRI is scheduled for Tuesday and Coach Green has said that they will wait for conclusive results before making any announcement, a luxury afforded him due to the bye week.
QB John Navarre again stepped into Warner's shoes quite seamlessly, and in many ways, outshining his mentor. Unlike the elder QB, Navarre has shown an ability to avoid the blindside blitz, seemingly sensing the defenders coming at him from behind. His game stats certainly didn't demonstrate how well he performed because of the run before pass strategy Green employed, and his resolve to pound the ball away was only strengthened by the 10 point lead they carried into the 3rd quarter. Navarre would showcase his passing abilities, though by hitting long timing patterns with accurate and tight-spiraled passes. With this hot hand, he was able to convert 7 second half 3rd-down opportunities through the air and would finish with 75 yards on 9-12 passing. Edgerrin James would finish the game with 112 yards with 2 TD and Shipp picked up a season-high 106 yards on the ground.
The Packers' woes continued throughout the second half on both sides of the ball. They were unable to sustain a drive longer than 6 plays and were only able to score two FG all game long. Favre would finish with 167 yards on 16-39 passing; Green would finish with a mere 48 yards on 15 carries. The defense had an equally disappointing afternoon, as they had no answer for the offensive line play or the performance of Edgerrin James.
Cardinals win 24-6.
It was a victory, but it may prove to be extremely costly for the Cardinals. The celebration was obviously subdued and all eyes and ears will be awaiting the results of Warner's MRI. In any case, the off-week could not have come at a better time, as now Navarre and QB Matt Leinart will have to shift their preparations for the visiting Dallas Cowboys into high gear. The Cowboys boast a 6-1 record after destroying Carolina 29-10 on the road this past weekend. The intensity will certainly be turned up for this rivalry and will only be furthered by the possible playoff implications this game has. Arizona knows that if the playoffs were to begin today, they could be the second Wildcard qualifier. The question now is, is Warner going to be around for the second half and if not, can the team make a playoff run without him? Only time will tell, but for now, the Cardinals know they're fortunate to be dealing with these issues when they have a 2-week window to figure things out.