Karlos Dansby’s fumble return in OT gives Arizona 51-45 win despite Pack’s furious rallyBy Bob Baum, AP
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Fumble return gives Cards 51-45 OT win over Pack
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Old master Kurt Warner and playoff newcomer Aaron Rodgers staged a passing duel to rival any the NFL has seen. And when the highest-scoring postseason game in league history ended abruptly in overtime, Rodgers flung his helmet to the sideline in disgust.
He can blame the Arizona defense for his misery.
Karlos Dansby returned Rodgers’ fumble 17 yards for a touchdown to give the Arizona Cardinals a 51-45 victory over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday in the highest-scoring playoff game in NFL history.
Rodgers, who started the game with an interception but was marvelous after that, was stripped by Michael Adams. The ball careened off Rodgers’ foot and into the hands of Dansby, who ran untouched for the score.
“He made a sack, the ball went in the air, I just made a play on the ball,” Dansby said.
The reigning NFC champion Cardinals (11-6) rushed the field to celebrate.
“That’s probably one of the best games ever played in the playoffs,” Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said.
Warner, who improved his playoff record to 9-3, completed 29 of 33 for 379 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions. Rodgers was 28 of 42 for 422 yards and four TDs. All but two of Rodgers’ yards came after the first quarter.
“It’s clearly one of the toughest losses I’ve been a part of,” Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said. “I’m very proud of our football team and fight. This is a hard game to swallow.”
The previous high for combined points in a postseason game was 95 in Philadelphia’s 58-37 win over Detroit on Dec. 30, 1995.
The NFC West champion Cardinals play at New Orleans on Saturday.
It was the most points scored and allowed by the Packers (11-6) in their storied 41-game playoff history.
Dansby started and ended the game with big plays. He broke up Rodgers’ game-opening pass and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie intercepted. The next time the Packers got the ball, Dansby stripped Donald Driver and Arizona’s Alan Branch recovered.
With Anquan Boldin sidelined with ankle and knee injuries, Warner threw two touchdown passes to Larry Fitzgerald, two to Early Doucet and one to Steve Breaston, who caught seven passes for 125 yards.
The previous playoff game to end on a defensive touchdown was Jan. 4, 2004, when Al Harris returned an interception 52 yards for a touchdown in Green Bay’s 33-27 win over Seattle.
Neil Rackers missed a 34-yard field goal at the end of regulation for Arizona.
The teams combined for 1,024 yards. Arizona had 531, including 156 rushing, against a Packers defense ranked No. 2 overall, No. 1 against the run.
Green Bay entered winners of seven of its last eight, including a 33-7 pasting of the Cardinals on the same field a week ago.
The Packers had gone from 1½-point underdogs when the week began to 1-point favorites by kickoff.
But the team with the fewest turnovers in the NFL (16) started the game with two of them and ended it with another.
In between, Green Bay rallied from a 21-point second-half deficit to twice tie the game.
After Rackers missed the field goal, the Packers won the toss and elected, of course, to receive. Since Arizona hadn’t stopped them since the first half, it didn’t look good for the home team.
But on third-and-6 at the Green Bay 24, the 5-foot-8 cornerback Adams came through on a blitz and Rodgers lost the ball. On a bad bounce the Packers will remember for a long time, the ball bounced off Rodgers’ foot and right to Dansby.
“We had the play called earlier, but we missed the sack,” Dansby said. “With the game on the line, we called it again. … See you in New Orleans, baby.”
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