'All or Nothing' recap: Cards reach season high point


The Cardinals reach the high point of their season in the penultimate episode of All or Nothing: A Season with the Arizona Cardinals.

This is sooner than the team would have preferred, of course, but we'll get to that in the finale. Episode Seven focuses on Arizona's NFC Divisional Playoffs matchup against the Green Bay Packers, an instant classic that doesn't seem to get enough pub as one of the best games in NFL history. You want to know why football is the most popular sport in America? Re-watch this game. And if you can't do that, watch this episode.

In our last recap, we wrote about how the preparation-meets-execution model helped the Cardinals smother Aaron Rodgers in the regular-season matchup between these teams. That same model of success can be applied to NFL Films, which had more mics and cameras set up for this playoff game than any game ... ever.

When I attended the downtown L.A. premiere of All or Nothing, this was the episode Amazon and NFL Films chose to screen in a packed theater that included Bruce Arians, Michael Bidwill, Steve Keim and a collection of the team's biggest stars. I was sitting a few rows in front of the players, and you could feel the tension in the room as the drama played out around Arizona's 26-20 overtime win.

I particularly felt for Carson Palmer, who was in the audience as his struggles against the Packers were exhaustively documented. How could you not squirm in your seat when a 50-foot screen shows you seated dejectedly on the sideline while Cris Collinsworth booms out of speakers in every direction statements like, "You can see the agony on Carson Palmer's face. That. Was. Bad." and "Carson Palmer has to get his act back together right now!"

Of course, Carson's no dummy. He wouldn't have attended if there wasn't a happy ending. After Aaron Rodgers' miracle Hail Mary touchdown to Jeff Janis ties the game as time expires (this entire sequence is brilliantly dissected), Palmer gets his redemption moment. In the first possession of overtime, the veteran skips and shuffles away from pressure and throws against his body to connect with Larry Fitzgerald, who is somehow all alone in the flat. Fitz does the rest, a 75-yard catch-and-run that rivals his fourth-quarter touchdown in Super Bowl XLIII as the most electrifying moment of his career.

"Larry's a bad man! That's a bad man!" says a jubilant Calias Cambpell on the sideline. "That's 2008 vintage Larry with the stiff arm!"

Palmer and Fitzgerald would connect again on first-and-goal, a perfectly executed shovel pass (a killer call from Bruce Arians) that ends the game and sends University of Phoenix Stadium into hysterics.

"That gang," intones Al Michaels, "was one for the ages."

The Cardinals are one win from the Super Bowl.

Elsewhere ...

» Did I mention it was a tad awkward in the theater when Palmer was stinking out the joint for most of the game? Shots of the owner's box capture the frustration as the star quarterback -- playing with a bum finger -- struggles. Says Bidwill after a third-down red-zone misfire: "Come on Carson, settle down." Keim: "Wide open!"

» Loved watching defensive line coach Brentson Buckner play his old game tape for the guys. "If I was a 6-foot-5, I'd have a gold jacket" is the new, "If coach would have put me in the fourth quarter we would've been state champions."

» Speaking of memory lane, I never get tired of flashbacks to Larry Fitzgerald's legendary playoff run in 2008. Four games, 500-plus yards, seven touchdowns. The wide receiver position has never been played better, before or since.

» Arians' wife, Christine, has been a pleasant aspect of multiple episodes by now, but she steals the show here. "Chris" goes on a roller-coaster of emotions in a luxury suite, giving us outsiders a bird's-eye view on the mental toll the game takes on families of the players and coaches. This is their life and their livelihood, not just a rooting interest. Bruce said during a Q&A after the premiere that he got choked up watching his wife on screen. It was probably the first time in 40 years he saw what it was really like for her.

The best Christine moment came when she got after some others in the box for not observing proper rooting etiquette. "What the hell's the matter with you? You don't cheer when our offense is on the field." This is a great lady.

» Shoot, I forgot about the coin flip controversy! What a freakin' game. Here's the panicked official, wired for sound: "It didn't flip, it didn't flip, it didn't flip!" He may have soiled himself.

» Given the stakes and particulars of the sequence, the Rodgers-to-Janis Hail Mary is one of the top 10 plays in NFL history. I will not argue this. It's really a testament to the mental makeup of the Cardinals that they even recovered from what was a stomach punch for the ages.

» What was the last song that played as the Cardinals celebrated their incredible win? Yep, I got you covered:

The Amazon Original Series "All or Nothing: A Season with the Arizona Cardinals" is available now on Prime video. For more information go to NFL.com/allornothing.