A post-mortem examination on Green Bay’s heartbreaking loss today in Arizona confirms what medical experts and viewers alike suspect: massive external bleeding on the defensive front led to the team's premature death. And after a tremendous second-half run, where the Packers surgically attacked opposing teams to finish 7-1, and today battled back from a three-touchdown deficit, the team’s Super Bowl hopes died quickly in the Arizona desert.
By the numbers, the bleeding looked like this: Arizona put up 45 points on offense, amassing 521 yards against the league’s second-ranked defense. Cardinal quarterback Kurt Warner was virtually unstoppable, going 29 for 33, an astounding five touchdown passes and 379 yards.
On the ground, the Cardinals' running game showed strong palpitations against the top-ranked run defense in the NFL, registering 156 rushing yards. Cardinals running back Beanie Wells ran for 91 yards on 14 carries and did the most bruising for the Cards.
Continuous blows by the Cardinals' Warner left the Packers hemorrhaging, especially down the middle, where receiver Steve Breaston seemed to run untouched, hauling in seven receptions for 125 yards.
While the Packers were nearly on life-support after Arizona built an early 17-0 lead, Aaron Rodgers and the receiving corps provided a much needed transfusion as the team battled back from a 31-10 deficit in the third quarter to tie the game at 38-38, and a second transfusion when the team needed a late touchdown to tie the game at 45.
On both sides of the ball, the offenses had their way, their teams down field in the highest scoring postseason game in NFL history.
For Rodgers, his day finished with 422 passing yards in his first ever playoff game, and Jermichael Finley caught six passes for 159 yards. The Packers' offense made a valiant attempt to keep Green Bay in the game several times after it appeared the team’s arteries were too badly severed.
In overtime, the Packers won the coin toss but failed to move the ball, and on a third down play, Michael Adams stripped Rodgers of the ball. Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby plucked the ball out of mid-air and dashed into the end zone for the winning score.
Replays and photos show that Adams had Rodgers' facemask, but no call was made by the officiating crew.
In the end, the Packers' loss today occurred after the defense failed to stop the bleeding inflicted by Kurt Warner and Cardinals' offense. For most of the game, Cardinal receivers severed the Packers' secondary. Green Bay’s defense gave up nearly twice the rushing yards and total yards of their season average.
While they managed to exert some pressure on Warner, the Packers managed just one sack in the loss.
Now Green Bay has the offseason to determine where the team needs to make improvements for next year. Packer fans who are wondering what happened to the second-ranked defense might hope the team begins looking there.