Last year, it was a muffed onside kick against the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game that haunted the Green Bay Packers. This year, it was so much more.
The Packers found themselves up 13-10 with four minutes remaining, but Carson Palmer and the Cardinals were driving. At Green Bay’s 9-yard line, Palmer threw a slant over the middle intended for Larry Fitzgerald. It deflected perfectly off Packers cornerback Damarious Randall and landed in the arms of Michael Floyd to make it 17-13.
However, the craziness was just getting started.
A turnover on downs after four plays by the Packers gave Arizona the ball at Green Bay’s 25-yard line with 2:42 left, and the Cardinals managed to kick a field goal four plays later.
Down 20-13, Green Bay got the ball at its own 14-yard line with a chance to send the game to overtime. A Dwight Freeney sack quickly pinned Rodgers & Co. deep in their own territory, as the Packers faced a 4th & 20 from their 4-yard line. Rodgers heaved one downfield and found a wide-open Jeff Janis for 60 yards, managing to extend the game.
Three plays later, Green Bay sat at Arizona’s 41-yard line with 5 seconds left down by 7 points. Just like against the Detroit Lions earlier this season, Rodgers launched one into the end zone, and this time, it was Janis who found a way to come down with it to send the game to overtime.
With 63,400 shocked fans in the University of Phoenix Stadium, even the coin toss needed drama. After head referee Clete Blakeman tossed it in the air without any rotation, a second attempt was made which irked both teams. The Cardinals won the second coin toss, and elected to receive.
Any excitement among Packers fans was quickly wiped away once overtime began. Larry Fitzgerald’s 75-yard catch on the first play of overtime took the ball down to the 5-yard line, and the Cardinals scored two plays later.
It sets up an intriguing matchup for the Cardinals, as they wait for the winner of the Seattle Seahawks-Carolina Panthers game. While the Cardinals march on, the Packers once again go home with a bad taste in their mouth.
At this point, it’s hard to even conjure up a way the Packers can lose in more heartbreaking fashion next season.