UNSUPPORTED BROWSER
More Sports

NFC wild-card round grades: Cardinals-Packers

Catching our breath and grading out the performances during the Cardinals 51-45 overtime win in the highest-scoring game in NFL playoff history, and the finale to wild-card weekend ...

Quarterback: This was KurtWarner at his best. The 'Zona defense forced early turnovers, but credit Warner for cashing them in and staking the Cards to a quick 17-0 lead. He hit seven of his first eight passes and made the types of plays that became commonplace during Arizona's Super Bowl run last year. He would remain in rhythm all day, and finished an eye-popping 29-of-33 for 379 yards and five touchdowns. If this is the final postseason for the 38-year-old, he couldn't have asked for a better start. Grade: A

Running Backs:BeanieWells carried his strong late-season performance into wild-card weekend, gouging the Packers for 91 yards on 14 carries. TimHightower and LaRodStephens-Howling also made some nice contributions. Grade: B

Receivers:AnquanBoldin was iffy all week with knee and ankle injuries, and ended up an inactive. No matter. SteveBreaston stepped into the starting lineup opposite LarryFitzgerald to contribute 125 receiving yards, one TD, and 28 rushing yards on a reverse. Fitzgerald coughed up the ball in the second quarter, which the Packers turned into their first TD, but he went on to catch six passes for 82 yards and two TDs. EarlyDoucet had one TD in the regular season, but hauled in two touchdowns Sunday. Receivers were running free in the Green Bay's once-vaunted secondary throughout the game. Without Boldin, their performance was especially impressive. Grade: A

Offensive Line: Warner was sacked one time and Wells regularly made it to the Pack's second line of defense. Pretty solid job. Grade: B+

Defensive Line: They were overrun along with the rest of the Cards' D in the second half. But in the opening 30 minutes, they rattled Aaron Rodgers. The Packers' QB was sacked five times. Grade: C

Linebackers:KarlosDansby was the Cards' defensive leader all season, and two plays after he stripped the ball from Donald Driver on a wide receiver screen pass in the first quarter, the Cards seized a 14-0 lead. The LBs spent the rest of the game on their collective heels as Rodgers and Co. went crazy. Of course, Dansby made the game-ending play, scooping up a Rodgers fumble in overtime and taking it to the house. Can't overlook that one. Grade: B

Defensive Backs:DominiqueRodgers-Cromartie was questionable all week with a bruised knee, but it took him all of one play to make his presence felt. His interception on Rodgers' first pass led to a Cards TD and all the early momentum -- and seemed to unglue the Packers. The Cards allowed 233.7 passing yards per game in the regular season, but Rodgers torched them for 422. Conerback MichaelAdams was a common victim, but he did save face by making the play of the game, stripping Rodgers in OT to set up Dansby's TD rumble. Grade: D

Special Teams:NeilRackers shanked the potential game-winning 34-yard kick with 9 seconds left in regulation. Breaston was solid on returns. The Cards punted just once. Grade: C

Coaching:KenWhisenhunt had a week to analyze last Sunday's blowout loss to the Packers and he made the necessary adjustments -- on offense, anyway. His team came out of the locker room on fire, but most importantly, Whisenhunt found a way to keep Warner upright throughout the game. Grade: B

Quarterback: Entering the playoffs, you would have been hard pressed to find a hotter quarterback than Rodgers. So, what happens on his first offensive play? A badly forced throw that was tipped and intercepted by Rodgers-Cromartie. Later in the first quarter, Rodgers missed GregJennings on a go route that would have been a sure TD. He passed for 33 yards in the first half. By the time he settled down, his team trailed by three scores. Game over? Hardly. Once in rhythm, Rodgers improbably led Green Bay back, and almost pulled off the third-biggest comeback in NFL postseason history. The final numbers get your attention: 422 yards, four touchdowns. That season-ending fumble is going to sting for a long time. Grade: B-

Running Backs:RyanGrant carried 11 times for 65 yards. With the Packers falling behind early, the ground game became more or less an afterthought. Grade: C

Receivers: Jennings and DonaldDriver combined for 138 catches as options 1A and 1B in the Pack's explosive passing game during the regular season. On Sunday, Driver fumbled after his first catch, but he did get loose a few times during the second-half bonanza. Jennings was nothing short of sensational, especially on a one-handed 6-yard TD reception in the third quarter. Tight end JermichaelFinley burned the Cards for several big plays and 159 receiving yards. JamesJones made a nice catch and run for a score late in the game. This unit didn't quite measure up to its 'Zona counterpart, but it was close. Grade: A-

Offensive Line: Rodgers was under almost constant pressure in the first half. ChadClifton left with an ankle injury in the second half but, for the final 30 minutes, the line kept their QB more or less upright, and balls started flying around University of Phoenix Stadium. Grade: B-

Defensive Line: The Packers entered the desert with the best run defense in the NFL, allowing just 83.3 yards per game, but like the rest of the Packers' D, this unit disappointed. Wells ripped off 6.5 yards per carry, and the only sack on Warner came from a linebacker. Grade: D

Linebackers:ClayMathews entered the game with a team-high 10 sacks, and made his presence felt early when he stripped Warner as the QB prepared to heave a pass downfield off a trick play. Later, Matthews scooped up a Fitzgerald fumble to set up the Pack's first touchdown. Hard to pinpoint much else that went right after that, however. Grade: D

Defensive Backs: The Pack entered with the league's No. 5 pass defense and an NFL-high 30 interceptions in the regular season. CharlesWoodson was a Defensive Player of the Year candidate. So, what was that? The Packers didn't cover anyone while quickly falling behind 17-0, and it didn't get much better as the game continued. Woodson fell down on Fitzgerald's 33-yard touchdown reception on the opening drive of the second half. Breaston and Doucet were open all game. With the game tied at 45 and less than 2 minutes left, Warner marched the Cards down the field, but a missed chip-shot FG momentarily prevented the end of the Packers' season. The best play this unit made was when Woodson correctly called "tails" on the overtime coin toss (proving once again that tails never fails). Come to think of it, that didn't work out so well, either. Grade: F

Special Teams: The Packers successfully pulled off an onside kick after cutting the deficit to 14 in the third quarter. JordyNelson didn't offer much on kickoff returns, and was fortunate to recover his own fumble on a second-quarter runback. MasonCrosby missed a long field goal, but was otherwise perfect. Grade: B-

Coaching:MikeMcCarthy's decision to go with a surprise onside kick after a third-quarter TD paid off with another score and -- for the first time -- momentum, which set the stage for the rest of the offensive free-for-all. With four seconds left in the first half and his team down 24-7, the decision to kick a 20-yard field goal instead of lining up at the 2-yard line and going for six -- especially with the Cards set to get the ball to start the third quarter -- was possibly too conservative. Those extra four points could have been big. Grade: B

Close

To continue enjoying content from the most trusted name is sports, please be sure to update your current bookmark.

Our updated web address is http://www.si.com.

To continue enjoying content from the most trusted name is sports, please be sure to update your current bookmark.

Just follow these 4 easy steps:

  1. Click the Chrome menu on the browser toolbar.
  2. Select Bookmarks.
  3. Select Bookmark manager.
  4. Locate your current Sports Illustrated bookmark, click the Organize menu, then select Edit. You can now easily update the web address of your Sports Illustrated bookmark.

    Our updated web address is http://www.si.com.

To continue enjoying content from the most trusted name is sports, please be sure to update your current bookmark.

Just follow these 2 easy steps:

  1. Click the Safari bookmark manager on the browser toolbar.
  2. This will open the Bookmarks Bar. In the Bookmarks Bar, select your Sports Illustrated bookmark and manually edit the Address field.

    Our updated web address is http://www.si.com.

To continue enjoying content from the most trusted name is sports, please be sure to update your current bookmark.

Just follow these 3 easy steps:

  1. Click the Firefox bookmark manager on the browser toolbar.
  2. Select Show All Bookmarks.
  3. This will open the library window. In the Library window, select your Sports Illustrated bookmark and manually edit the Location field.

    Our updated web address is http://www.si.com.
Don't Show This Again