Arizona’s overtime win over the Green Bay Packers featured much more than Aaron Rodgers’s latest Hail Mary and the Cardinals’ Hail Larry.
There was a coin flip that didn’t flip, Patrick Peterson’s 100-yard interception return that didn’t count and Randall Cobb’s one-handed 51-yard catch called back by offsetting penalties and much, much more.
It was a bizarre night in the desert when the Cardinals escaped with a 26-20 overtime victory Saturday night.
And that’s not even counting Rodgers’s jaw-dropping finish to regulation or Larry Fitzgerald’s 75-yard catch and run to set up his winning score.
The coin toss going into overtime was a “debacle,” Rodgers said.
He called “tails” and referee Clete Blakeman tossed the coin into the air and it fell to the turf.
Rodgers said he got an explanation from Blakeman.
“It was just tossed in the air and did not turn over at all and landed on the ground,” he said.
“So we obviously thought that was not right. He picked the coin up and … he flipped it [again] without giving me a chance to make a recall there. It was confusing. I think he was trying to avoid the embarrassment of what just happened and flip it quickly.”
The coin landed on heads – both times – and Arizona got the ball to start the overtime.
Just to get the game to that point, Rodgers managed to pass for 101 yards – on two completions – in the final 55 seconds of the fourth quarter.
Even more astounding, it was fourth-and-20 from the Packers four-yard line when Rodgers took the snap and retreated into his end zone, scrambling to his left and finally letting the pass fly.
Jeff Janis, who stands 6 foot 3, pulled it down at the Arizona 36, a 60-yard gain.
The Packers were out of timeouts, and they weren’t set on the next snap. With 21 seconds to go, the ball was pushed back to the Cardinals 41. A short pass attempt fell incomplete and there were just five seconds left.
It was enough time for a final heave to the end zone, where Janis outjumped the All-Pro cornerback Peterson and safety Rashad Johnson to bring the ball down as the Packers fans went crazy and the Cardinals faithful fell silent.
Janis hadn’t had a TD catch in his career until he had two Saturday night.
He was seeing extensive action because Davante Adams was out with a knee injury and Cobb was knocked out of the game with a chest injury sustained on a spectacular one-handed grab of Rodgers’s 51-yard pass in the first quarter, a play that was negated by offsetting penalties.
Arizona coach Bruce Arians provided Rodgers enough time for the Hail Mary finish to regulation by, with his team leading 17-13, choosing to have Carson Palmer throw a pass on second-and-eight from the Green Bay 22 with 2 minutes 34 seconds to play, rather than running the ball to run out more time.
Did he regret it?
“Oh, hell no,” Arians said. “I never regret a call. … I play to win. Ten-point game, it’s over.”
On the first play of overtime, Palmer rolled to his right to evade tacklers, then spotted Fitzgerald alone on the far side of the field.
The Cardinals’ 32-year-old receiver, who set a franchise record with 109 catches this season, broke a handful of tackles as he made his way 75 yards downfield to the Green Bay five.
Two plays later, he lined up in the backfield and took a shovel pass for the game-winning score.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run that shovel in practice and just waiting for my opportunity,” Fitzgerald said, “and lo and behold, the second round of the playoffs you get your number called on a shovel. My eyes lit up in the huddle.”
The stadium rocked with chants of “Lar-ry! Lar-ry!” and the Cardinals were headed to the NFC championship game against Carolina.
Arizona caught a break to take the lead in the first place.
In the fourth quarter, with the ball at the Packers nine, Palmer threw toward Fitzgerald at about the two-yard line. But defender Damarious Randall deflected it. The ball sailed into the end zone – and right into the hands of Arizona’s Michael Floyd.
In the second quarter, Peterson’s 100-yard interception return was negated by a penalty.
Maybe this weirdness is just what happens in big games at University of Phoenix Stadium.
It was the site of Arizona’s 51-45 overtime wild-card victory over the Packers in 2010.
And just this past week, Alabama used an onside kick to pull off a wild victory over Clemson for the college football national championship.
Whatever, this was a Saturday night to remember.
“It was nuts,” Fitzgerald said. “It was nuts.”Report Typo/Error