It’s hard to take too much away from the Green Bay Packers’ 33-7 drumming of the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
It was a dominating performance, but Arizona rested most of its starters and coach Ken Whisenhunt played it safe, not showing much of what he will do when the two teams meet again next week in the first round of the NFC playoffs.
The Cardinals sat quarterback Kurt Warner after one quarter, and backup Matt Leinart was picked off twice in a horrendous 96-yard performance before he was also benched for third stringer Brian St. Pierre.
Aaron Rodgers, meanwhile, played brilliantly in three quarters, completing 21 of 26 passes for 235 yards and a touchdown and running for another. He came within 24 yards of Lynn Dickey’s team record for passing yards in a season, and is only the second quarterback in team history (Bart Starr was the first) to finish a season with a 100-plus passer rating.
Charles Woodson also had an outstanding game, solidifying his status as Defensive Player of the Year. He set a franchise record when he returned his third interception for a touchdown before leaving with a shoulder jam late in the first half, and broke the Packers’ record with his eighth career defensive touchdown since joining the team in 2006. Woodson also set a career mark with his ninth pick of the season. He has 45 in his career.
Arizona cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (bruised left knee) and wide receiver Anquan Boldin (right ankle) also were injured in the game. Lineman Brad Jones left the game for the Packers, but the team said he only tweaked an ankle and coaches were just being smart with him.
The Packers’ defense was nothing less than dominant, picking off Arizona’s quarterbacks three times and finishing the season with a league-best turnover ratio of plus-24. The Cardinals were held to just 187 net yards and 13 first downs, and gave up a safety in the second quarter. A.J. Hawk led the way with six solo tackles, while Tramon Williams and Atari Bigby also netted interceptions.
The offense avoided another slow start, scoring on its first two possessions off a 1-yard run by Ryan Grant and another 1-yard rush by Rodgers.
Arizona’s lone score came from its third string quarterback, believe it or not, when St. Pierre tossed a 3-yard touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald late in the game.
Unfortunately, none of this will matter when the two teams meet for real next week. Green Bay’s seventh win in eight games does give the team momentum heading into the postseason, and it was good to see the offense gel from the start for a change, but it will be interesting to see how the Packers fare against a Cardinals team that’s actually trying.
Remember, the second time’s not always the charm.