Cardinals defeat Packers in OT thriller
Aaron Rodgers extends game with desperation toss, Arizona responds
After being forced into overtime by another Hail Mary from Aaron Rodgers, the Arizona Cardinals wasted no time calling for the "Hail Larry" to get to the NFC title game.
On the first play of overtime, Carson Palmer spun away from a defender and throw across his body to an uncovered Larry Fitzgerald. The 32-year-old darted through tacklers for 75 yards as the screaming Cardinals fans finally drowned out the visiting Cheeseheads. He was tackled at the five.
On the next play, Palmer shoveled the ball to Fitzgerald who ran it in to give the hometown Cardinals a 26-20 victory over the Packers Saturday night.
The stadium rocked with chants of "Larry! Larry!"
"As simple a word as 'special' is, it describes him probably the best," Palmer said.
As an elder statesman on this team I just try to elevate my game and make plays for my teammates.- Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald on scoring the winning TD in overtime
Fitzgerald, who still holds single-season playoff records set during Arizona's Super Bowl run seven years ago, gave the Cardinals the signature plays that prevented what would have been a devastating loss for a team that has its sights on another trip to the NFL's biggest stage. He finished with eight receptions for 176 yards.
"As an elder statesman on this team I just try to elevate my game and make plays for my teammates," he said.
The Cardinals (14-3) play the winner of Sunday's Seattle-Carolina game for the NFC title.
Arizona won the overtime coin toss -- after the referee declared the first toss hadn't flipped -- took the ball and scored a touchdown, denying the Packers a chance to touch the ball in the extra period.
The Packers, already without wide receiver Davonte Adams, lost Randall Cobb in the first quarter to a chest injury. James Jones was neutralized most of the game with All-Pro Peterson on him, forcing Rodgers to go to Jeff Janis, who had seven catches, five more than he had all year.
A strange play had given Arizona a 20-13 lead with 3:44 to play.
Damarious Randall, who moments earlier had made a key interception in the end zone, deflected a pass intended for Fitzgerald and the ball sailed into the end zone into the hands of Michael Floyd for a nine-yard touchdown. Floyd also had an eight-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter, dragging his foot to stay in bounds and gather in Palmer's high throw.
The Packers (11-7) took the kickoff but went nowhere and turned the ball over on downs, setting up Chandler Catanzaro's 38-yard field goal that put Arizona up 20-13 with 1:55 to play.
With 55 seconds left, Green Bay was pushed back into a fourth-and-20 at its four. Rodgers scrambled and threw 60 yards to Janis at the 36. A penalty pushed it back to the 41 and Rodgers threw incomplete before getting off his last completion for the touchdown.
Rodgers completed 24 of 44 passes for 261 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. Palmer, in his first playoff victory (in three tries) was 25 of 41 yards for 349 yards and three scores with two interceptions.