Packers missed their early chances

Posted Dec 27, 2015

Fake punt, Daniels INT provided opportunities to stay in the game

GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Packers had two early chances to stay in the game, but when they didn’t capitalize, things were out of reach quickly in Sunday’s 38-8 road loss to the Cardinals.

Late in the second quarter trailing 10-0, Green Bay faked a punt near midfield, and punter Tim Masthay converted the fourth-and-2 with a 7-yard run around left end.

It didn’t amount to anything, though, as back-to-back sacks of quarterback Aaron Rodgers on the next series led to another fourth down, and a real punt this time.

Moments later came an even bigger break. Defensive lineman Mike Daniels reached up and snagged a Carson Palmer screen pass, returning his first career interception to the Arizona 15-yard line.

On third down, though, Rodgers tried to throw to a covered James Jones in the end zone, and Cardinals cornerback Justin Bethel made an acrobatic interception to keep the Packers off the board.

“That’s big on Mike’s part,” receiver Davante Adams said of the pick. “When our defense does that, we have to make sure we help the team out. When the ball is down there that close, we have to score. We need points.”

Instead of pulling within 10-7 or 10-3 with less than a minute left in the half, though, the Packers remained scoreless. With Green Bay getting the ball coming out of halftime, a one-score game at intermission wouldn’t have been so bad.

But the Cardinals then drove for a TD before intermission and got a fumble and two-play TD drive in the first minute of the second half, making it 24-0 in a total of one minute, 55 seconds of game time.

“We had a great opportunity, but unfortunately, we gave that one back and it got out of hand quick,” linebacker Clay Matthews said.

NFC playoff picture: The seeding for the NFC playoffs came into a little sharper focus after Sunday’s game.

Carolina (14-1) and Arizona (13-2) have the first-round byes and will be the top two seeds. The No. 1 seed is not yet decided. Carolina gets it with a win. Arizona gets it with a win and a Carolina loss.

The winner of next week’s Green Bay-Minnesota game will be the No. 3 seed. With a loss, the Packers would drop to No. 5. If the Vikings lose, they would drop to either No. 5 or 6.

Washington is the No. 4 seed as the NFC East winner.

Seattle will be either the No. 5 or 6 seed, depending on next week’s results. If the Packers lose next week, the Seahawks will be the No. 6.

Injury update: The Packers had several players shuffling in and out on the offensive line, but the only injury that forced a player to leave the game for good was Bryan Bulaga’s ankle injury.

Also, defensive lineman B.J. Raji left the game in the first quarter with a concussion.

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