The Packers pulled out the most improbable of victories, 24-21 over the Cardinals on Thursday night at State Farm Stadium.
Here are five takeaways from the down-to-the-wire triumph.
1. You can't make up Hollywood endings like that.
The Packers signed cornerback Rasul Douglas just three weeks ago, off of Arizona's practice squad no less.
On Thursday night, he was not only starting against his most recent former team but intercepting QB Kyler Murray's pass in the end zone with 12 seconds left to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
"Just game over," safety Adrian Amos said of the frantic finish. "That's wild that it ended like that.
"That's a big-time play."
Indeed. The game-clinching turnover came at the conclusion of a 94-yard drive by the Cardinals, who took over at their own 1, down by three points, with 3:23 left.
On second-and-goal from the 5, substitute defensive coordinator Jerry Gray called an all-out blitz, and Murray tried to hit receiver A.J. Green on the right side of the end zone with a fade/stop route against Douglas one-on-one. Except Green never turned around to look for the ball. Douglas got his hands on it, corralled it, and the Packers had survived.
"I just looked back, seen the ball and tried to make a play," Douglas said. "I don't know what he was doing."
The miscommunication ended Arizona's perfect season and kept the Packers' winning streak since Week 1 intact. Both teams are now 7-1, tied for the top record in the NFC.
2. The Packers know they shouldn't have needed all the drama.
Two bad goal-to-go sequences prevented the score from reflecting how much the Packers controlled the game, which saw Green Bay possess the ball for 15 minutes longer than Arizona (37:35 to 22:25).
In the second quarter, following a muffed punt that gave the Packers first-and-goal on the 3-yard line, three straight incompletions preceded a field goal.
Then, even more crucially, a fourth-quarter drive that covered 74 yards and consumed 7:22 on the clock put the offense on the 1-yard line looking to add to the 24-21 lead.
But Aaron Jones' apparent TD run on first down was overturned on review. Then Jones got stuffed, the offense took a delay of game penalty because it had no timeouts left, and Aaron Rodgers scrambled back to the 1 to set up fourth-and-goal. But with the Cardinals loading up in the box with big bodies, his play-action pass for Randall Cobb was batted down at the line.
LaFleur took the blame for not figuring out a way to score there and take full advantage of such golden chances. Arizona was able to overplay the run in close partly because the Packers didn't have Davante Adams or Allen Lazard as potential goal-line targets.
"That's one of the things that you've got to look at with yourself first in terms of did we give our guys a chance," LaFleur said. "Obviously when you're on the half-yard line and you don't score, that's a real gut check. That starts with me and I've got to do a better job."
Rodgers appreciated LaFleur's gutsy approach throughout the night – which included going for it on fourth-and-3 from the Arizona 7 in the third quarter, setting up the first of Randall Cobb's two touchdowns – and felt they had a great play-action bootleg called on the late third-and-goal. But tight end Josiah Deguara lined up in the wrong spot, leading to the delay.
"Matt's probably kicking himself about a couple calls, but I love the aggressiveness," said Rodgers, who was 22-of-37 for 184 yards and a 90.4 passer rating. "We excelled in a lot of phases. We just have to clean up some things in the red zone and put a team away like we had a chance to do tonight."
The Green Bay Packers and Arizona Cardinals faced off on Thursday Night Football on Oct. 28, 2021.
3. The running game made up for the depleted receiving corps and controlled the clock.
Running backs AJ Dillon (16 carries, 78 yards) and Aaron Jones (15-59) combined for 137 rushing yards, grinding out some tough runs. Dillon had a crucial fourth-down conversion when he was hit well short of the marker but still moved the chains, while Jones powered in for a TD when he appeared stood up shy of the goal line.
"That was definitely the key," Rodgers said of keeping the offense moving with so many young receivers being forced to play. "That's what we wanted to do coming in. We felt like we could run the ball against them. I thought both guys ran the ball well."
Aside from the veteran Cobb, the receiving corps consisted of Juwann Winfree, Equanimeous St. Brown, Amari Rodgers and Malik Taylor, and while they made some plays, their games were inconsistent, which Rodgers chalked up to nerves.
Winfree had four catches for 30 yards, but also dropped a couple and fumbled a ball out of bounds when he had a chance for a big play. St. Brown made an important fourth-down catch but otherwise had just one reception.
4. The defense kept the high-flying Cardinals at bay for almost 2½ quarters.
Other than one Murray bomb to DeAndre Hopkins in the first half to set up a TD, the Cardinals got little done on offense. Then the third quarter started with a sack by lineman Dean Lowry and an interception by safety Henry Black, the first of his career.
The Packers converted that turnover into a touchdown to go up 17-7 before Arizona's offense found any sort of rhythm. They were also containing the speedy Murray on scrambles, holding him to 21 yards rushing. Murray had just the one completion of 20-plus yards, to Hopkins, until the final drive when he had three more to finish with 274 yards (22-of-33, two INT, 67.0 rating).
"We played a great game minus a few plays," Amos said. "We didn't get off the field on fourth down (a couple of times). You pick out three or four plays here or there, I think we have a dominant game instead of just a good game."
Arizona's long march at the end was preceded by two touchdown drives covering 81 and 75 yards, with each requiring a fourth-down conversion. The Cardinals' momentum on offense was thwarted only by the final play, while the Packers' ball-control style limited them to just eight possessions total.
5. Amidst all the euphoria, more injuries dampened the mood a bit.
Rookie running back Kylin Hill left with a knee injury sustained on a kickoff return, and then tight end Robert Tonyan exited following a non-contact knee injury at the end of a 33-yard reception late in the third quarter.
LaFleur didn't get into specifics about Tonyan's injury, but his somber tone indicated the worst is feared.
"I'm sick for Bobby. He means so much to this team," LaFleur said. "I'm sick for us. My heart goes out to him."