If Sunday reminded us anything about the NFL, it’s how little we actually know for sure.
There will be lots of speculation in the coming weeks about the future of the Green Bay Packers, and where fired coach Mike McCarthy will land. That conjecture is inevitable. But Arizona’s 20-17 victory over the Packers was so stunning, so against-all-odds weird, it’s worth revisiting.
The Cardinals were 14-point underdogs and their other two wins this season came against the down-and-out San Francisco 49ers. This matchup was rookie quarterback Josh Rosen against Hall of Fame-bound Aaron Rodgers, who was 16-1 for his career in December games at Lambeau Field. And the Packers hadn’t lost at home this season.
A dome team from the desert had no business winning a game that was 34 degrees at kickoff, and 23 degrees with the wind chill. What’s more, Arizona’s offensive line consisted of middle-round rookies and guys who joined the team only in the last 40 days.
The Cardinals were coming off a 35-point loss to the Chargers at StubHub Center, where visitors get the Four Seasons treatment, as opposed to playing at Lambeau, where the reliable season is sideways-blowing snow.
Speaking of Lambeau, that venerable stadium was still eight years away from being built when the Cardinals previously won in Green Bay (1949). Though, Curly Lambeau was coach of the Packers at the time.
All 20 of Arizona’s points were attributable to players who had never before scored for the Cardinals, and kicker Zane Gonzalez, who had two field goals and two extra points, had never before experienced an NFL victory. The former Arizona State kicker making his Cardinals debut was on the 0-16 Cleveland Browns in 2017, then had another loss and a tie with them this year.
All in all, it was a strange and unforgettable day. And a reminder that in the NFL, you just never know.
Pack your bags
Mark Murphy, chief executive of the Packers, on Monday outlined the reasons for parting ways with McCarthy, whose team had lost five of six beginning with an Oct. 28 defeat at the Rams and looked completely uninspired even with Rodgers at the helm.
“I felt that change was needed,” Murphy told reporters. “Mike’s tenure had run its course. I think we needed a new voice. And that happens in our league.”
So offensive coordinator Joe Philbin has been promoted to interim coach, as the Packers prepare to host similarly struggling Atlanta, which has lost four in a row and is in the NFC South cellar.
Murphy compared the Packers’ firing of McCarthy — who led them to nine playoff appearances and a Super Bowl victory in his nearly 13 seasons — to the Eagles’ parting of ways with Andy Reid after 14 years in Philadelphia. Reid, of course, has thrived as Kansas City’s coach.
“He’s going to be a strong candidate,” Murphy said of McCarthy. “It allows him to focus on the next opportunity.”
The Chargers are a game behind 10-2 Kansas City in the AFC West and play at the Chiefs in the Thursday night game that kicks off Week 15.
First, the Chiefs have a significant challenge Sunday against Baltimore, which has the league’s No. 1 defense and has won three in a row, as rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson is gathering momentum as Joe Flacco’s replacement.
Kansas City didn’t miss Kareem Hunt in its 40-33 win at Oakland, but the Chiefs are likely to miss the released running back when facing a better defense. Plus, the fact they gave up 33 points to the Raiders is troubling.
Only three of the 16 matchups in Week 14 feature two teams with winning records, and two of them are in prime time.