2021 NFL season, Week 8: What we learned from Packers' win over Cardinals on Thursday night

Green Bay Packers
2021 · 7-1-0
Arizona Cardinals
2021 · 7-1-0

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  1. Three costly turnovers badly burned the Cardinals, but the last one will sting the most. Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray marched his team 94 yards in the final minutes, from his own 1-yard line to the Packers' 5, to put the Cardinals in position for what should have been at worst an overtime-forcing field goal and, at best, a game-winning touchdown. Instead, miscommunication between Murray and wide receiver A.J. Green put a second-down throw with 0:15 remaining right into the hands of Packers defensive back Rasul Douglas for a game-clinching interception. Green didn’t even turn for the ball, so Douglas didn’t even have to fight for it. It was a bitter way for the Cards to absorb their first loss of the season, but after throwing two interceptions -- one on each end of the field -- and muffing a punt to set up another Packers red zone chance, the Cardinals ultimately deserved the defeat.
  2. Run. The. Ball. It didn’t end up costing them the game, but the Packers blew a golden opportunity for a touchdown after Arizona return man Rondale Moore muffed a punt to give Green Bay a first-and-goal from the Cardinals 3-yard line in the first half. Packers running backs Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon had been powering through tackles for extra yardage throughout the game, but in a confounding sequence of play-calling, Green Bay opted for three consecutive passes, all incomplete, and settled for a thoroughly unsatisfying field goal. Dillon had bulled his way for an earlier fourth-and-1 conversion, and Jones had already muscled through Isaiah Simmons at the goal line for a short-yardage touchdown. Particularly given the Packers’ short-handed receiving corps, it made zero sense.
  3. Green Bay grinds up front. A Packers offensive line that was operating without injured starters at two critical positions -- left tackle David Bakhtiari and center Josh Myers -- dominated the game and did more to deliver the win than any unit on the field. Green Bay blew holes open for the rushing tandem of Jones and Dillon, leading to strings of first downs and a significant TOP advantage (37:35 - 22:25). The duo ran for a combined 137 yards on 31 carries. The pass protection was solid as well -- Aaron Rodgers was sacked just once for no loss -- although the play-calling helped that effort with a heavy dose of screen passes and shorter throws. Cardinals pass rusher Chandler Jones failed to record a QB pressure on 30 pass-rush downs. It was an impressive effort against a Cardinals defense that mixed up its fronts, blitzed heavily (even a seven-man rush on one play), faked blitzes, and did all it could to confuse the Packers line to no avail.
  4. Too little, too late for Cardinals offense. Arizona looked as out of sync offensively as it has all season for three quarters. Repeated three-and-out possessions in the first half, along with a costly interception by Murray on the opening drive of the second half, conspired to hold Arizona’s high-flying offense to seven points entering the fourth quarter. DeAndre Hopkins missing about two quarters with a hamstring issue rings hollow as an excuse on a night when the receiver-depleted Packers had to dip into the practice squad at that position. Apart from a 55-yard catch by Hopkins, who brilliantly faked a back-shoulder read only to then run right past Eric Stokes, explosive plays were in short supply until late in the game. The Cardinals came alive with two fourth-quarter touchdowns, but by then, their defense was wearing down and couldn’t get a necessary stop on Green Bay’s final touchdown.
  5. Rodgers relies on old hand. Rodgers faced a rather dire situation at wide receiver, and when it mattered most, he turned to a familiar and reliable option -- Randall Cobb -- for a pair of second-half touchdowns that ultimately provided the winning points. Minus star receiver Davante Adams and another receiving option in Allen Lazard (both on the reserve/COVID-19 list), the Packers had hoped to return Marquez Valdes-Scantling from a hamstring injury, but that didn’t happen either. Rodgers leaned heavily on Jones out of the backfield (game-high seven catches), but went to Cobb in the red zone for the money grabs. Given that Rodgers lobbied for Cobb’s addition in the preseason, the trust between the two shouldn’t be surprising.


Next Gen stat of the night: Kyler Murray completed three of six deep passes for 107 yards.


NFL Research: Cardinals RB Chase Edmonds entered Thursday night's game with the most rushing yards (397) of any NFL back without a rushing touchdown this season. He snapped that drought with an 11-yard score from the wildcat formation in the first quarter. 

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