Cardinals clinch No. 2 seed with one-sided victory
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) The Arizona Cardinals had lost dynamic playmaker Tyrann Mathieu for the season. Fellow safety Rashad Johnson, the secondary's ''quarterback,'' was sidelined with an ankle injury.
And the Cardinals responded with their best defensive game of the season.
Well, one of their best anyway.
''I thought we played better in Seattle,'' coach Bruce Arians said.
Maybe, but this one was a close second.
Arizona sacked Aaron Rodgers eight times and returned two fumbles for touchdowns in a 38-8 rout of the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
''We're blessed to play this game,'' Cardinals inside linebacker Deone Bucannon said. ''I love each and every one of the players in here, and we just want to keep rocking.''
The Cardinals' ninth straight victory - one shy of the club record set in 1948 - clinched at least the No. 2 playoff seed in the NFC and a first-round bye. And thanks to Carolina's loss to Atlanta, Arizona still has a shot at the No. 1 seed - Carolina needs to lose to Tampa Bay while the Cardinals beat Seattle next Sunday.
''It's all about when you click at the right time and your team is hot going into the playoffs,'' said cornerback Jerraud Powers, who recovered two fumbles, returning one 7 yards for a score.
By the time Karim Martin leveled Rodgers, the ball popped loose, and 6-foot-4, 318-pound Cory Redding followed a convoy 36 yards for the score, it was 31-0 with 9:34 to play.
''I think his feeble jump into the end zone was outstanding,'' Arians said.
Rodgers stayed in a while more, but finally sat down to watch the inevitable conclusion.
''We have a standard that we have set around here,'' Rodgers said, ''and we just haven't lived up to it consistently.''
Here are things to take from Arizona's dominant victory over Green Bay:
SACK CITY: The stars aligned for the onslaught of sacks and near-sacks the Cardinals put on the Packers.
First, Green Bay starting left tackle David Bakhtiari missed the game with an ankle injury. Then starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga left with another ankle injury.
The stage was set for Arizona to bring defenders early and often, and it worked.
Dwight Freeney led the way with three sacks, earning $100,000 for each one of them in incentives. Calais Campbell got 2 1/2.
The nine sacks were the most for Arizona since it had 10 against Philadelphia in 1986, two years before the Cardinals moved to the desert.
VERY MUCH STILL IN IT: The loss didn't mean a whole lot to the Packers in their quest for the NFC North title.
Green Bay dropped into a tie with Minnesota for the division lead when the Vikings cruised to a 49-17 victory over the New York Giants on Sunday night. Green Bay hosts Minnesota in its regular-season finale next Sunday.
Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said the Cardinals ''were very good, and we played very poor.''
FLOYD AGAIN: Arizona's Michael Floyd caught six passes for 111 yards. It's his fifth time over 100 yards receiving in seven games. In his previous 55 games, he did it six times.
''Everything is just clicking,'' Floyd said.
FITZGERALD'S MARK: Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald caught four passes to tie his career and Cardinals franchise single-season record of 103 receptions. It's the third time he's been over 100 catches and first since 2007. He caught 63 last season.
REDDING'S RAMBLE: When Redding scooped up that fumble and headed for the end zone, he couldn't help thinking about a similar situation earlier this season.
At Detroit, Redding intercepted Matthew Stafford's pass at the 30 but was tackled by Stafford at the 4-yard line.
''My boys and teammates gave me a hard time the first one,'' he said. ''Letting the quarterback tackle you - blah, blah, blah. I said if I get another opportunity, I'd have to get it to the end zone and it worked out that way.''
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