In record shootout, the Cardinals' defense has the final say
The Packers won the overtime toss, and yet the Cardinals won the game, thanks to linebacker
How else could this one have possibly ended, but with a game-winning play by one of these two beleaguered and shell-shocked defenses?
Actually, Cardinals head coach
"It was almost like we'll flip the coin, and whoever wins the toss wins the game,'' Whisenhunt said of the explosive Cardinals and Packers, who combined for 1,024 yards of offense and 62 first downs (another playoff record). "[That's] kind of what you thought. We didn't have to go out and play it. But I'm glad we did.
"You know what, it's funny, because when we lost the toss, I thought our defense is going to make a play. I don't know why I thought that. I just believed, because we missed the field goal (
It did. And this time, destiny smiled on the team playing defense in overtime. Oh, if only the Packers hadn't won the coin toss.
"That's two really good playoff games we've been in within a year, and it's damn nice to win one of them,'' said Whisenhunt, referencing last February's last-second Super Bowl loss to Pittsburgh. "I know that's got to be probably one of best games ever played in the playoffs. And in order for that to happen, it takes two good teams. That was really a battle today. A lot of ups and downs. I don't know if I can take many more of those games, it's stressful.''
Then again, I suppose it's a matter of perspective. I caught up with Packers defensive coordinator
"We haven't had many like this,'' said Capers, who's entering his third decade of work in NFL coaching. "I guess if you're offensive guy, you consider it one of the greatest games ever, but as a defensive guy you don't.''
When your defense gives up 51 points, 531 yards, 30 first downs, and forces one punt in more than four quarters, I guess I can see Capers' point.
I can't believe I thought this guy was washed up in 2004 with the Giants.
"Whew, anybody else tired?'' asked Warner when he hit the postgame podium. Someone asked him if Sunday's shootout reminded him of his Arena Football League days, when touchdowns were a dime a dozen?
"That was so long ago,'' he said. "[Today] didn't remind me too much of anything I've every been a part of before. But what a great football game. That's what playoffs are all about. You never know what it's going to take any particular week. Obviously today it took 51 [points]. But those are the fun ones when you win.''
Warner seemed surprised to learn that more of his passes wound up in the end zone than on the ground, but he did admit that he was feeling it all day.
"It was one of those things where we felt good with our game plan, and I think it was one of those things where you knew we needed them,'' he said. "You knew we needed every play. It was one of those games where I felt great, I loved our playing, and I felt like I was seeing everything well. And it [adds up] to 50 points.''
It was Warner's NFL-record-tying sixth 300-yard passing game (matching
"It was frustrating, but give them credit, Kurt's a heck of a quarterback,'' Capers told me. "When we covered, he beat the coverage, and when we pressured, he got the ball out of his hands. They made the plays in the critical situations. One of the things we've been able to do for most of the year is make plays on the ball and come up with turnovers. But we weren't able to get that done today.''
No they weren't. All because of Warner.
Besides missing that sack, Adams was also called twice on pass interference earlier in the game. But there he was on the game's final play, crashing in from the left side of the Cardinals' defensive line, and jarring the ball loose from Rodgers on a third-and-6 from the Packers 24. The ball actually never hit the ground, going from Rodgers right hand, to tipping off his right foot, to Dansby's shoulder, to Dansby's hands.
"He kicked the ball,'' Dansby said. "He kicked the ball up into the air and gave me time to run up under it and get in the end zone and seal the deal.''
It set off a wild celebration in the Green Bay end zone, but the magnitude of his play quickly overcame Adams.
"In the end zone, when I sank to my knees and cried, that's when I let it all sink in,'' Adams said. "It was up and down all day, and more down than up. But, at the end of the day, I reached my ultimate high. I got to my knees and just thanked God and cried tears of joy. It's been a long time since I cried playing football.
"I think when I look back on it 10 years from now, it's going to be even sweeter than it was today. But to be able to be a part of that today, I thank God.''
After Adams missed on the earlier sack of Rodgers, Dansby said he gave his teammate what turned out to be very good advice.
"I told him if he hit the body, the ball will come out,'' Dansby said. "I told him that on the first [blitz], and the second time he hit the body and the ball came out, and I just made a play on it.''
"I just hooked it,'' a relieved Rackers said. "I just let the hips fly through and it started out left and it kept going left. I'm grateful my teammates came through and I don't have to sit on that one for eight months.''
Eight months? Who said he would get off that lucky?
Entering the game, Rackers had missed one field goal all season, going 16 of 17, even though he missed games in Weeks 15 and 16 due to a groin problem, and hadn't converted a field goal since Week 14 at San Francisco. So he was rusty, and that rust apparently didn't get completely removed by the 23-yarder he converted in the first quarter to give Arizona a 17-0 lead.
"When he missed it, I was like, 'C'mon man.' Is this supposed to be the highest-rated game ever?'' Cardinals defensive tackle
I suppose you can say Rackers did his part to add to the memorable finish.
But he also had his mistakes. He threw a horrible interception to
"I was trying to unload it,'' Rodgers said. "I should have held onto the ball.''
True, but the play Rodgers really wishes he had back was the first snap in overtime, when he missed a wide-open
"I just missed it, unfortunately,'' Rodgers said. "When I came off the fake, I wished I had just a tad more time. Knowing that it was not (Rodgers-Cromartie), it was Antrel, he was up on him. I still felt pretty good about the throw. Unfortunately it was just a little too far.''
"We had two turnovers in the first three plays of the game,'' Packers head coach
It was, sort of. But Warner said it wasn't the goodbye that had the same meaning as many were trying to assign it.
"Everybody relax,'' Warner said to the media when it continued to ask retirement questions. "That was my way of saying thanks to the fans because (as the NFC's No. 4 seed) we're not coming back here this year. I appreciate them.''
Warner dodged the retirement question, but said he would only step back and make a decision on whether he intends to play in 2010 once this year's playoff run is over.