Game Notes: Finley's Monster Game Helps Fuel Comeback

GLENDALE, Ariz. - Jermichael Finley was the Packers’ breakout offensive star throughout 2009, and that continued on Sunday in the second-year tight end’s playoff debut. Finley set a Packers postseason record with 159 receiving yards on six catches, topping the 148 yards posted by receiver John Jefferson in the 1982 first-round playoff game against the St. Louis Cardinals. - More Packers-Cardinals Game Center


TE Jermichael Finley set a team playoff record with 159 yards receiving on Sunday.

GLENDALE, Ariz. - Jermichael Finley was the Packers' breakout offensive star throughout 2009, and that continued on Sunday in the second-year tight end's playoff debut.

Finley set a Packers postseason record with 159 receiving yards on six catches, topping the 148 yards posted by receiver John Jefferson in the 1982 first-round playoff game against the St. Louis Cardinals. He shattered the Green Bay mark for a tight end, previously held by Keith Jackson with 101 yards on four catches in the 1995 NFC Divisional playoff in San Francisco.

Even more impressive, Finley came up just eight yards short of besting San Diego's Kellen Winslow for the biggest receiving day by a tight end in NFL postseason history. Winslow had 166 yards on 13 catches in the epic double-overtime 1981 AFC Divisional playoff tilt between the Chargers and Miami Dolphins.

Working both the middle of the field and the boundaries, about all Finley didn't do was get in the end zone, but he made big catch after big catch as the Packers rallied from substantial deficits all day.

Finley's impressive day didn't actually start until the final drive of the first half, when he hauled in a 44-yard pass while cornerback Bryant McFadden interfered with him. He snagged a 17-yard pass on the next play to set up a Mason Crosby field goal that got the Packers within 24-10 at halftime.

"I just told (tight ends coach Ben McAdoo) to split me out more," Finley said. "I couldn't get my groove down low because the end would chip me and then we would have a guy sitting in front and then they would have a safety over the top. I really had like three guys covering me so it was real hard to get me the ball."

Finley then added four catches, all part of separate TD drives in the second half. There was an 18-yard catch to start the Packers' first possession of the third quarter, a 43-yard catch-and-run (which was reduced by 10 yards for a holding penalty on Donald Driver), a 38-yard grab early in the fourth quarter, and a 9-yard reception to convert a third-and-5, one play before Spencer Havner's 11-yard TD tied the game at 45 with less than two minutes left.

"It shows a lot on the offense and it shows a lot of individuals that we came out and fought and got us back to that point," said Finley, whose 159 yards set a new personal high for any game, regular season or postseason.

Another young star

The Packers didn't have much to shout about on defense Sunday, but rookie outside linebacker Clay Matthews certainly made an impact.

Matthews recorded Green Bay's only sack all game of Kurt Warner, getting him from behind after a flea-flicker and forcing a fumble that Arizona recovered late in the first quarter.

Matthews, who led the Packers in sacks during the regular season with 10, also had a hand in the defense's lone turnover on the day, scooping up a second-quarter Larry Fitzgerald fumble forced by Charles Woodson and returning it 29 yards to near midfield. The Packers took advantage and drove for their first touchdown of the game to get within 17-7 at the time.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Matthews became the first rookie in NFL playoff history to post a sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery in the same game.

Unfortunately, it wasn't enough on a day the defense gave up 531 yards, and afterwards Matthews talked about how it wasn't much fun to be a defensive player in this game.

"This is one of those games the fans enjoy it but as a defender it's tough playing in it," he said. "For whatever reason we couldn't get off the field. It was tough being out there."

Still, Matthews is one of many rising stars on the Green Bay roster who hope to get more chances in the playoffs in years to come. This game gave them a lot to think about until they get another opportunity.

"As individuals we take it upon ourselves," Matthews said. "I know I wish I could have done more. I'm sure other people wish they could have done more. But that's how great teams are built.

"Yes, we're young, but that's how we need to think and we need to believe this offseason. We need to come back with this little taste of the playoffs we have and realize what it's like to lose and keep it going. We've got some playmakers on this team we're going to be around for a while."

Great grabs

It's hard to imagine two better catches than the two Greg Jennings made. First, Jennings snagged a 6-yard TD pass in the third quarter practically with one hand, reaching out with his left to deflect the ball back into this body and haul in Aaron Rodgers' bullet throw while going to the ground.

Then late in the fourth quarter, Jennings leaped on the near sideline over cornerback Bryant McFadden to bring down a lofted 22-yard throw, spinning and tapping both toes in bounds as he fell. The big catch led to the game-tying TD to Havner four plays later.

{sportsad300}But it was the one catch Jennings couldn't make that might be on his mind the longest. On the first snap of overtime, Jennings had a couple of steps on the closest defender deep downfield, but Rodgers' throw sailed a couple of yards beyond his reach and a near-repeat of Jennings' game-winning overtime catch to beat Denver back in 2007 wasn't to be.

"They're definitely up there," Jennings said of his two amazing catches. "The last one would have been even better than those two, but again, there goes those woulda, coulda, shoulda."

Déjà vu

Speaking of repeating history, there were a lot of eerie similarities between this game and the Packers' 2007 postseason run.

First, Green Bay fell behind 14-0 with two quick turnovers, just like in the NFC Divisional game against Seattle two years ago.

Then, a missed field goal by the Cardinals at the end of regulation was right out of the NFC Championship that year, when the Giants missed two field goals in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter to force overtime.

And finally, it was an overtime turnover - an interception against the Giants, a fumble against the Cardinals - after winning the coin toss that led to the game-winning points. The only difference this time was the opposing defense actually scored, rather than giving their kicker a shot at redemption.

"It's one of those things, you think when you get the ball you're going to win the game," Driver said. "The same thing happened in '07, in the NFC Championship. We think we're going to win it, and boom, the same thing happened."

Injury update

Left tackle Chad Clifton left the game in the second half with an ankle injury and was replaced by rookie T.J. Lang.

Safety Matt Giordano left the game briefly after what looked like a nasty knee injury on a second-quarter kickoff return, but he was able to come back in the game. In the second half, Giordano eventually replaced safety Atari Bigby, who left with a hamstring injury.

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