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(Sunday, January 10th)
Final Score: Arizona 51, Green Bay 45 (OT)
Glendale, AZ (Sports Network) - Karlos Dansby caught Aaron Rodgers' fumble out of the air and returned it 17 yards to put a stunning end to the game, giving the Cardinals a wild 51-45 overtime win against the Packers in the highest scoring postseason contest in NFL history.
Michael Adams knocked the ball away from Rodgers, who then actually kicked the ball in the air with his right foot. Dansby was in perfect position to grab it and run unimpeded into the end zone, sending the NFC West-champion Cardinals into next weekend's divisional round.
Arizona will try to take the next step to reaching the Super Bowl for a second consecutive season on Saturday, when they visit New Orleans to play the top- seeded Saints.
"When we lost the toss I thought our defense was going to make a play," Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "I don't know why I thought that, but I just believed that because we missed the field goal where we had a chance to win, then maybe destiny was going to smile on us this time."
The loss was crushing for the Packers, who got the ball first in overtime after Cardinals kicker Neil Rackers missed a 34-yard field goal with just nine seconds left in the fourth quarter.
But Green Bay saw its playoff hopes slip away just 78 seconds into overtime, a crushing end for the Packers, who were down, 31-10, shortly into the third quarter but made up the difference thanks to Rodgers.
Rodgers, starting his first-ever playoff game, finished 28-of-42 for a Packers playoff record 422 yards and four touchdowns, with one interception. His counterpart, Kurt Warner, was even better, completing 29-of-33 passes for 379 yards and five touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 154.1.
The two were the main proponents in turning the game, a rematch of last week's regular season finale, into a shootout. The teams combined for 1,024 total yards and 62 first downs, both NFL playoff records.
Helping Warner and Rodgers were the teams' receivers, who made numerous skilled and acrobatic catches.
Steve Breaston had seven catches for 125 yards and a touchdown for the Cardinals, while Larry Fitzgerald and Early Doucet each had two touchdown grabs. The performance of Arizona's receiving corps was all the more impressive considering the Cardinals were playing without Anquan Boldin, who was inactive with injuries to his left knee and ankle.
For the Packers, Jermichael Finley recorded a Green Bay playoff record 159 receiving yards, while Greg Jennings had eight catches for 130 yards and a touchdown. Spencer Havner, James Jones and Jordy Nelson also had scoring receptions.
An interception and fumble recovery helped Arizona take a 17-0 lead after the first quarter, and the Cardinals were ahead 31-10 after Fitzgerald's touchdown reception just under four minutes into the second half.
But the Packers got back into the game by scoring four of the next five touchdowns, as the second half turned into a series of amazing plays.
From the Arizona 38, Rodgers passed to Jennings by the right sideline as Cardinals defensive back Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie went flying by. Jennings stumbled and fell but was untouched and got back up to run to the three. Two plays later, Rodgers went to Jennings again in the right side of the end zone. Jennings had to twist but stretched to make the six-yard catch with his left hand.
The Packers then surprised the Cardinals with an onside kick, as Brandon Underwood slid to the grass to make the easy recovery.
After Green Bay converted a fourth down, Rodgers found Finley for a 43-yard gain. A holding call on Donald Driver put the ball at the 21, but Ryan Grant ran twice for 11 yards. On the next play, Rodgers scrambled and threw to Nelson, who made the catch and sneaked into the end zone by the right pylon, getting the Packers within 31-24 with 4:07 left in the quarter.
The Cardinals responded with their own touchdown, after Beanie Wells got free for a 42-yard run to the Packers' 16. Later, as he was pressured, Warner floated a pass over the middle to Fitzgerald for the touchdown.
But the Packers drew even with the first two scores of the fourth quarter. Rodgers went to Jones on the right side of the field, and Jones turned past Bryant McFadden to run for the 30-yard score just under a minute into the frame.
After a Cardinals punt -- one of two in the entire game by both teams combined -- the Packers struck again. Rodgers completed long passes to Finley and Driver to set up John Kuhn's one-yard plunge, which made it a 38-38 contest with 10:57 to play.
Arizona went back in front with a relatively long drive, which took up more than six minutes. Breaston made a 26-yard catch over the shoulder with one hand to gain the Green Bay 20, and two plays later he caught Warner's pass over the middle for a 17-yard score.
"He didn't want his team to lose," Rodgers said of Warner. "We got on a roll there and Kurt just kept making plays. You have to give him a lot of credit. Kurt's a good friend and definitely a role model for myself, a younger quarterback in the league and I respect it."
That came with 4:55 to play, but Rodgers was again up to the task. He scrambled for a first down to bring the ball across midfield, then went to Jennings for 22 yards before the Packers called timeout with 3:12 to go.
His pass later in the drive was nearly intercepted, but McFadden ran into safety Adrian Wilson going for the ball, which fell to the ground. Rodgers then converted a third down before passing to Havner, who ran it in on the right side from 11 yards away to even the game, 45-45.
With 1:52 still on the clock, Warner had plenty of time. A 16-yard pass to Doucet put the ball at the Green Bay 16, and the Cardinals called timeout with 14 seconds left before bringing Rackers out. But the kicker yanked the ball wide left, and the game went to overtime.
"We knew we needed every play. It was going to take that kind of effort against these guys," Warner said. "We knew how tough it was going to be on our defense, with all the weapons they have offensively."
While the second half was a shootout, the first quarter made it seem like the game would be a rout.
On the first play from scrimmage, Dansby tipped Rodgers' pass, and Rodgers- Cromartie grabbed it. That led to Tim Hightower's one-yard touchdown run nearly four minutes into the game.
Then, on the second play of the next Packers drive, Dansby ripped the ball away from Driver, and the Cardinals recovered. That turnover led to Warner finding Doucet over the middle for a 15-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
Rackers later kicked a 23-yard field goal, as the Cardinals took a 17-point advantage into the second quarter.
The Packers got on the board with just under seven minutes left in the half, when Rodgers sneaked for a one-yard touchdown.
Warner hooked up with Doucet for another score on the next Cardinals drive, but Mason Crosby kicked a short field goal with time expiring, bringing the Packers within 24-10 at the break.
With his five touchdown passes, tying a career high, Warner moved into fourth place all-time for career postseason TD passes. He has 31, as only Joe Montana, Brett Favre and Dan Marino have more...The Cardinals totaled 531 yards, while the Packers had 493.
01/10 21:44:49 ET