Cardinals QB Kurt Warner celebrates after Arizona's 51-45 overtime victory over Green Bay.
GLENDALE, Ariz. - After scoring touchdowns on all five second-half possessions, you couldn't blame the Packers' offense for feeling like they were in position to win Sunday's Wild Card playoff contest in Arizona after Green Bay won the coin toss to start the extra session.
"We were fired up," wide receiver Donald Driver said. "We got the ball back. The first thing we said when we ran to the sidelines was like, 'It's over. We're going to win the game.'"
And if the Packers were going to win the game, wide receiver Greg Jennings said the focus was on having the offense finish the job on its own.
"There was no doubt in our mind that we couldn't put the ball in the end zone," Jennings said. "We weren't thinking field goal. I don't think a field goal crossed anybody's mind. I think with us having the opportunity to step back on the field, we were going to put it in. It just didn't work out for us."
The Packers took over at their own 20 after Neil Rackers' kick to start overtime bounced through the end zone. On the first play, Green Bay found a matchup it wanted with Jennings matched up on safety Antrel Rolle. Jennings got behind Rolle deep down the middle, but quarterback Aaron Rodgers' throw was just out of his reach.
"I just missed it," Rodgers said. "Unfortunately when I came off of the fake, I wish I had just a tad more time. Knowing that it was not (Pro Bowl cornerback Dominique-Rodgers) Cromartie, it was Antrel. I still feel pretty good about the throw. Unfortunately it was just a little too far."
The Packers still looked to be in good shape after Rodgers found running back Ryan Grant on a pass in the left flat for a 14-yard gain out to the 34. But left guard Daryn Colledge was flagged for a holding penalty as he dragged defensive end Calais Campbell to the ground in the pocket, negating the first down.
Backed up to the 10-yard line facing a 2nd-and-20, Rodgers was able to find wide receiver James Jones on a short pass over the middle, and he picked up 14 yards to put Green Bay in a manageable third-down situation.
Facing a 3rd-and-6 at the 24, Rodgers worked out of the shotgun as cornerback Michael Adams came on a blitz from the right side. Adams came through untouched was able to get a piece of Rodgers' arm to force a fumble. The ball bounced off of Rodgers' right foot and into the arms of linebacker Karlos Dansby, who took the fumble 17 yards into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.
"We just didn't execute," veteran tackle Mark Tauscher said. "We didn't finish the game the way we needed to. We had everything the way we wanted. I think we pick up that first down, I feel really good about where we are at. A penalty, and then obviously the 3rd-and-(4) we just didn't execute the play that was called.
"This is a tough pill to swallow. This sucks. We have a very good team here, and we were just not able to get where we wanted to go. We put ourselves in a position where we had a chance to do something great, but we just didn't finish it."
Driver was matched up with cornerback Ralph Brown on the final play, and said he was grabbed as he made his move inside on a slant route.
"I knew (Aaron) was trying to come to either me or Greg, and Greg took his guy through so I knew I had one-on-one coverage," Driver said. "When I broke, the guy grabbed me. They didn't throw a flag on it, so there is nothing we can do about it."
Rodgers said after first looking to Driver, he shifted to wide receiver James Jones, but by then it was too late.
"I was looking on the front side to Drive," Rodgers said. "I felt like he was getting grabbed a little bit, and then came to James. It looked like they were kind of driving on James. He was running a little in cut. I tried to kind of pull the ball back and somebody hit my arm."
The last image of Green Bay's season was the rest of the Cardinals team rushing on to the field to celebrate with Dansby and the Arizona defense in the end zone, one they will have to take with them now into the offseason.
"It's like a dream," Driver said. "You don't think it's happening, but unfortunately it did. We sat there for a while just in shock because we knew that once we got the ball back, we were able to score because they couldn't stop us. We have to deal with it and we're going to have a long offseason now. It's going to be one of those things like happened in '07 (when Packers season ended with playoff overtime loss to N.Y. Giants). You just sit back and reminisce on it and can't wait to get back and start playing football again.
"These young guys, one thing we told them before this game is it is one chance, one chance only. We had an opportunity and we let it slip away."