I’m just as stunned as you are. The 2-9 Arizona Cardinals, 15-point underdogs coming off a 45-10 loss to the Chargers last week, went into Lambeau and came out with a 20-17 victory. I don’t think even the biggest Redbirds homer out there would have predicted this.
We’ll talk about what this win means for the Cardinals moving forward in the coming days, but for now, let’s go through the winners and losers in the aftermath of this stunning upset.
K Zane Gonzalez
The hero of the day was new kicker (and former Sun Devil) Zane Gonzalez. On a frigid, snowy December day, Gonzalez calmly went a perfect 2/2 on XPs and 2/2 on FGs, including the game-winner with just 1:41 left on the clock. Anyone think Phil Dawson makes all those kicks? I didn’t think so. It’s tempting to go back and say we’d have another win or two if we had a better kicker earlier in the year, but at least the kicking game looks like it’s in much safer hands... er, feet, for the rest of the season.
RB Chase Edmonds
Edmonds was so good today that he had most Cardinals fans (and fantasy players) wondering if David Johnson was hurt. While DJ was plodding for 69 yards on 20 carries, Edmonds was gashing the Packers defense for 53 yards on his 5 carries, including 2 huge TDs. He was quick to the hole and showed great burst all day—just take a look at his 29-yard scamper at 0:45 on the tape. DJ’s job obviously isn’t in danger, but a lot of teams are using secondary running backs to great effect. Having another playmaker in the backfield would greatly benefit Josh Rosen in the last four games.
WR Larry Fitzgerald
Does Larry save his best for the Packers or what? His final stat line wasn’t anything special—3 receptions for 48 yards—but Fitz’s diving 32-yard catch on 3rd-and-23 on the game-winning drive will be on his Canton highlight reel. Simply put, if Fitz doesn’t make that catch, we don’t win this game. It may be a lost season for the team (and perhaps the final season of his career?), but Fitz is still giving it his all.
The Offensive Line
It wasn’t a perfect game from the O-line—they gave up two sacks, committed two false starts, and had two holding penalties (both on Korey Cunningham)—but the Redbirds had their best rushing day of the season by far today. DJ and Edmonds combined for 122 yards on 25 carries, Josh “Wheels” Rosen picked up 32 yards on two scrambles, and Christian Kirk picked up 23 yards on a perfectly blocked jet sweep. Add in a 5-yard carry by T.J. Logan, and the result was 182 yards on 29 carries (6.3 YPC) and those 2 Edmonds TDs. And keep in mind that this was with Will Holden playing RT with D.J. Humphries out again and Oday *checks notes* Aboushi playing RG. The Packers run defense is nothing special, but this was still an outstanding performance in the bitter Wisconsin cold.
DC Al Holcomb
Holcomb made the loser’s list last week after an embarrassingly listless performance by the defense against the Chargers, but what a difference a week makes. Holcomb has taken a lot of heat for the 4-2-5 defense we’ve been running most of the season, but it worked to perfection against Aaron Rodgers and Co. today. With Gerald Hodges (12 solo tackles) and Antoine Bethea (8 solo tackles) leading the way, the Redbirds held the Packers RBs to 18 carries for 49 yards (2.7 YPC), although Aaron Jones did score a TD. Even more impressively, they held Rodgers to just 233 passing yards on 50 attempts (4.7 YPA). The Packers had to work for everything on offense today, and they came up just a few yards short of a game-tying FG on a day when every yard mattered.
HC Steve Wilks
I don’t think we necessarily won today because of any coaching decisions Wilks made, and the 7 penalties certainly aren’t a good look, but to get a road win like this a week after it looked like the team had quit on the coaching staff is impressive nonetheless. No one, whether it be the fans or the media, would’ve batted an eye if the team rolled over today and lost by 20. But Wilks had the team ready to play (unlike the coach on the other sideline—see below), and this win will be a nice feather in his cap in his exit interview with Steve Keim and Michael Bidwill after the season. Will it be enough to save his job? That probably depends on the next four games. But Wilks lands on the winner’s list this week at least.
QB Josh Rosen
Don’t get me wrong—Rosen took care of the ball today (no turnovers) and his 3rd-down throw to Larry was a dart. And at the end of the day he got to walk out of Lambeau with the second game-winning drive of his career, which you can never take away from him. But watching Rosen today was an exercise in frustration. He went 11/26 for only 149 yards (5.7 YPA) and no touchdowns (with 2 sacks taken). He consistently sailed passes and had several misfires even when he had time to throw. We ‘ve been making excuses for Rosen all season (lack of preseason snaps, McCoy, the O-line, no WR depth, etc.), and they’re valid to an extent, but at some point the numbers have to improve. Yes, the team won today, but it had very little to do with Rosen. Can Rosen put the team on his back and win a game with his arm? That remains to be seen.
C Mason Cole
Cole has filled in admirably for A.Q. Shipley in his rookie season, but he had a case of the Munyers today, with two bad snaps that resulted in fumbles. Fortunately, Josh Rosen was able to recover both of them. Throw in an ineligible downfield penalty that was negated by a Korey Cunningham holding penalty, and it wasn’t Cole’s best day. When a center is playing well, you generally don’t hear their name much. We heard Cole’s name too many times today.
RB David Johnson
DJ ground out 69 yards on the day, which was key in keeping the ball out of Aaron Rodgers’s hands, but he was easily outplayed by Chase Edmonds, who replaced him for long stretches, looking much more spry and holding up well in pass protection. DJ has played much better since Lord Byron took over as OC, but he doesn’t seem to have the same burst he had in 2016. It’s far too early to say we have a backfield controversy, and, like I said above, the league has been trending toward using multiple dynamic RBs… but if a team starts sniffing around DJ, the Cardinals would be smart to at least listen to offers with Edmonds waiting in the wings. I hear the Chiefs are in the market for an RB these days…
Packers (ex-) HC Mike McCarthy
Of course, the biggest story to come out of Green Bay today isn’t that the Cardinals won, it’s that the Packers fired their head coach right after the game. It had been clear for weeks that the team was no longer responding to McCarthy, but it looks like losing to our lowly Redbirds is a fireable offense for a would-be Super Bowl contender. But now that McCarthy is a free agent, could we see him in the desert next season? I’m not so sure he’d be a great hire, but he’ll likely be one of the names that comes up if (when?) we’re in the market for a new head coach.
This is one of the most shocking upsets of the season, both in terms of point spread and the narrative going into the game, with the Redbirds having nothing to play for and the Packers trying to save their season. The Redbirds’ upset changes the tenor of the season a bit and, for now, cools Wilks’s hot seat. I do wish Rosen had played a bit better, but a win is a win, and the team was in dire need of one.
What are your thoughts on the game, Cardinals fans? Is this a “signature win,” as many in the media have been saying? What did you think of Rosen’s performance? Let us know your winners and losers in the comments.