Cardinals survive a successful Hail Mary to beat Packers in overtime

Cardinals survive a successful Hail Mary to beat Packers in overtime
Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald celebrates with teammate J.J. Nelson after scoring the game-winning touchdown against the Packers on Saturday night. (Christian Petersen / Getty Images)

Oh. Hail. No.

The Arizona Cardinals survived another Hail Mary touchdown pass by Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers and went on to beat the Packers in overtime, 26-20, in a divisional playoff game at University of Phoenix Stadium.


Carson Palmer dished a five-yard shovel pass to Larry Fitzgerald for the winning touchdown as the red-clad crowd went berserk, and the Cardinals advanced to next weekend's NFC title game to play the winner of Sunday's Seattle-Carolina game.

"To see Larry finish off that drive in the style he did was unbelievable," Arizona cornerback Patrick Peterson said. "This team is special. We've got something going on, something brewing in this locker room."

The game marked the first career playoff win for Palmer, the No. 1 pick out of USC in 2003.

It was a Palmer-to-Fitzgerald connection that set up the winning touchdown too. On the first play of overtime, Palmer rolled to his right and threw the ball all the way across the field to a wide-open Fitzgerald, who raced 75 yards through the Green Bay defense to set up the winning touchdown.

Minutes before that, the Packers took all the oxygen out of the dome with a 41-yard Hail Mary touchdown from Rodgers to Jeff Janis on the final play of regulation. Earlier this season, Rodgers beat Detroit with a similar Hail Mary.

"Lucky catch," Peterson said with a chuckle of the Janis touchdown. "I definitely should have been in front of him. But it was a hell of a catch. The most important thing is, we're moving on to next week. The Hail Mary, no one's going to remember that."

That touchdown capped an astounding drive in which the Packers, trailing by a touchdown, moved 96 yards in 55 seconds with no timeouts. Rodgers kept that alive by heaving a 60-yard desperation pass to Janis on fourth and 20 from the Green Bay four-yard line.

That was far from the only crazy play down the stretch.

Arizona took a 17-13 lead with 3:44 to play on a wild ricochet. On first down from the Green Bay nine-yard line, Palmer dropped back and tried to hit Fitzgerald on a slant. Packers cornerback Damarious Randall made a nice play on the ball, deflecting it before it reached the receiver's hands.

But instead of falling harmlessly to the turf, the ball bounced up, and Cardinals receiver Michael Floyd caught it for his second touchdown. The red-clad crowd erupted, sensing a trip to the NFC title game was mere minutes away.

The decibel count climbed on Green Bay's ensuing possession as the Packers turned over the ball on downs at their 24 with incomplete passes by Rodgers on third and fourth down.

Early in the fourth quarter, the Cardinals drove to the Green Bay 10 but were turned away disappointed. Palmer underthrew John Brown on a floating pass in the end zone, and Randall made the interception.

That was far from Arizona's only red-zone blunder.

Trailing by six midway through the third quarter, the Cardinals moved into scoring range with the help of an unnecessary roughness call on the Packers and a 19-yard reception by Fitzgerald.


Fitzgerald would wind up pushing his team the other direction too, when he was flagged for a blindside block on a reverse and the Cardinals went from the Green Bay five-yard line to the 20. That drive ended with an Arizona field goal.

The Packers took their first lead, 13-7, with 10:17 remaining in the third quarter, when Rodgers threw an eight-yard touchdown pass to Janis.

On the play, which capped an 81-yard drive that began with a Packers interception, Rodgers rolled to his right, moved back to his left, looked in complete and relaxed control as he scanned the field, then fired a dart into the gut of a sliding Janis. Rodgers surveyed the field for six seconds before throwing, a slow-motion eternity by NFL standards.

The score was set up by a 61-yard run by Eddie Lacy.

The Cardinals had a 7-6 lead at halftime, and they were struggling to get their offense on track.

The Packers converted six of 10 third downs.