What We Saw: Week 8

It's backup QB SZN

Packers @ Cardinals

Final Score: Packers 24, Cardinals 21

Writer: Benjamin Haller (@benjaminhaller1 on Twitter)

 

An absolute humdinger of a Thursday Night Football game between two of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, with their teams boasting two of the best records in the league, did not disappoint one bit. The Green Bay Packers were battered and bruised after losing a number of key starters including Davante Adams to COVID-19 protocols but still managed to come away with a narrow victory under the tutelage of Matt LaFleur and Aaron Rodgers. A late end zone interception from Rasul Douglas, after a miscommunication between Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray and veteran receiver A.J. Green, stifled a surging Cardinals comeback to hand Green Bay their first win on the road in Arizona since Week 17 of 2009.

Both defenses were terrific in this game, bringing pressure and different reads that flummoxed the two signal-callers at times. Kliff Kingsbury showed some innovations and changes of tact in the second half as James Conner ran in two touchdowns after two long drives where Murray peppered his receivers with short throws. Aaron Rodgers wasn’t really a factor in the passing game with much of the damage for the Packers coming on the ground โ€“ Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon combining for 38 touches and 188 yards including a Jones touchdown. Rodgers only had 184 yards in the air all game but did find trusty veteran Randall Cobb twice where it counted to propel the Packers to 7-1.

And on a day that could have ended up a little bit like this for Rodgers and the Packers…

 

…finished up with hugs and smiles from everybody associated with Green Bay. Especially, these two old pals!

 

Green Bay Packers

 

Quarterback

 

Aaron Rodgers: 22/37, 184 yards, 2 TD, sack | 2 carries, 3 yards

 

For once, the performance of Aaron Rodgersย at the quarterback position wasn’t a key factor in deciding this game. Rodgers was good when he needed to be but struggled to find rhythm with so many young or inexperienced pass catchers on the field. He moved the chains on a couple of key drives to give the Packers the advantage. This beautiful side-arm throw to Robert Tonyan was his best of the night.

 

On the Packers’ first drive of the second half, directly after the interception from Murray deep in Cardinals territory, Rodgers executed his most important throw of the night, connecting with Equanimeous St. Brown to convert on fourth down and set up Randall Cobb‘s first score.

 

It was a perfectly placed throw and the veteran did a nice job of breaking coverage and protecting the ball from the cornerback.

 

Rodgers hit Cobb to stretch the Packers’ lead out to 10 at the start of the fourth quarter before the Cardinals rallied. He had the Packers at the goal line again with 4:46 left on the clock but couldn’t punch the ball in. After Jones’ run was called back, he failed to connect with St. Brown and then criminally took a delay of game penalty on third and one. Rodgers tried to scramble himself but was stopped by another impressive goal line defense from the Cardinals.

 

Rodgers couldn’t give Cobb the hat-trick and the Packers turned the ball over on downs at the Arizona 1-yard line. There was no late-game heroics and it was up to the Packers defense to bail them out at the end of the game.

 

Running Back

 

A.J. Dillon: 16 carries, 78 yards

Aaron Jones: 15 carries, 59 yards, TD | 11 targets, 7 receptions, 51 yards

 

In somewhat of a surprise, A.J. Dillon led the Packers in carries after seeing a season-high 16 carries and his most since the game against the Steelers in Week 4. Dillion ran well early in the game and did what he does best a downhill runner, charging into contact and driving his legs for extra yardage. He also converted on a key fourth down to set up the first Packers touchdown.

 

Aaron Jones still had a healthy night despite being out-carried by Dillon. Seeing all 11 targets out of the backfield in the passing game, Jones added 51 yards in the air to his 59 on the ground to once again go over 100 yards and record his second best fantasy score of the season. After two failed pass attempts in the red zone, Jones just about broke the plane to put the Packers on the board.

 

Or did he? This angle shows that the ball never seemed to get to the goal line. Still, the touchdown call stood.

 

Jones needed to perform with all the receivers out for Green Bay and to go up against a Cardinals defense that has given up the third fewest points to running backs this season and post that score was a terrific effort. Still, it could have been much better. Jones was stuffed twice at the goal line late in the fourth quarter. Jones was initially ruled to have hit pay dirt on one run, but it was overturned on review.

 

Still, Jones had a strong run prior to that touchdown negated by penalty to set up the opportunity and was a dynamic threat both on the ground and through the air for the Packers all night. He was a difference maker.

 

Wide Receiver/Tight End

 

Robert Tonyan: 4 targets, 3 receptions, 49 yards

Juwann Winfree: 6 targets, 4 receptions, 30 yards

Josiah Deguara: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 20 yards

Randall Cobb: 5 targets, 3 receptions, 15 yards, 2 TD

Equanimeous St. Brown: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 12 yards

Amari Rodgers: 3 targets, 1 reception, 7 yards | 1 carry, 11 yards

Marcedes Lewis: 1 target

 

The list of receivers missing this game totalled nearly 80% of all Rodgers’ targets this season, so it was always going to be an unspectacular night in terms of statistics. As expected, tight end Robert Tonyan led the team in yardage albeit with a measly 49 yards. He would have likely garnered more if he hadn’t left the game with a nasty looking knee injury midway through the third quarter. LaFleur confirmed after the game that he was “sick for him” as the injury looks severe and potentially season-ending. Backup Josiah Deguara saw a couple of targets in relief of Tonyan and looked the goods. He is likely to step up into a starting role going forward.

 

Tonyan got the first red zone look of the night but could only manage a 1-yard completion before Jones scored his touchdown. Second-year receiver Juwann Winfree saw a red zone target on the next drive but he could only tip a good pass by Rodgers out of reach. And from there, red zone situations fell to just one man โ€“ Randall Cobb. He couldn’t grab his first one but on the Packers’ first two drives of the second half, Cobb hauled both red zone targets in for scores. His second grab putting the Packers up by 10.

 

Cobb only mustered 15 yards on three catches but two of those were crucial to the outcome of the game. Rodgers had a few issues with the younger receivers, both Winfree and rookie Amari Rodgersย needing assistance at the line of scrimmage on more than one occasion. Veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis nearly pulled off one of the best touchdown catches of the season but he just couldn’t get his second foot down quick enough to stay inbounds.

 

Arizona Cardinals

 

Quarterback

 

Kyler Murray: 22/33, 274 yards, 2 INT, 2 sacks | 6 carries, 21 yards

 

If Rodgers wasn’t really a deciding factor in why Green Bay won the game, Kyler Murray was unfortunately one of the key elements as to why the Cardinals lost it. A surprisingly inaccurate, hesitant Murray looked as if something was amiss for most of the night. With his pinky finger strapped and an unwillingness to use his legs to extend plays, Murray looked hamstrung for some reason. A sloppy, lacklustre first half showed no signs of abating as on the first drive of the second half, Murray threw a terrible turnover off a tipped check down that gave the Packers the ball at the Cardinals’ 14-yard line. Rodgers duly took advantage and put the Packers up by 10.

 

To his credit, Murray responded immediately and there was a sudden belief and urgency that had failed him in the first half. He led the Cardinals down the field twice for touchdowns, both drives polished off by the goal line running of James Conner. And after the Cardinals defense stuffed the Packers late in the fourth quarter, Murray got the ball back at his own 1-yard line with 3:23 to play, trailing by three. He produced his best two throws of the night to give the Cardinals hope.

The first was from deep inside his own end zone on third down to find A.J. Green.

 

Then on the next play, Murray threw a perfectly placed ball to Christian Kirk, who hauled it in under heavy coverage.

 

Murray then hit Chase Edmonds for a 22-yard gain. He had brought his team from their own 1-yard line to the Packers 8-yard line with just 15 seconds remaining. Just as the juices seemed to be flowing and Murray was concocting his own late-game magic, he rolled his ankle under a tackle when trying to rush the ball for a first down. Severely limping, he got back up and threw a perfect ball to Green in the end zone. Then came the brain fade by Green.

 

Running Back

 

Chase Edmonds: 7 carries, 30 yards , TD | 4 targets, 3 receptions, 39 yards

James Conner: 5 carries, 22 yards, 2 TD

 

We knew exactly what we were getting with this Cardinals running back room, and once again Chase Edmonds and James Conner complemented each other perfectly and combined for three touchdowns on the night. Edmonds got the bulk of the work out of the backfield, out-touching Conner 11 to 5, however the former Steelers back came alive once again near the goal line. Edmonds punched in the first Cardinals score directly from the snap.

 

But Conner was brought to Arizona to do one thing โ€“ score touchdowns at the goal line and Kingsbury is using his talents wisely. Another two scores brings his total for the season to eight in seven games. Phenomenal!

 

This duo may not be the most prolific or attractive from a fantasy perspective, but on the field they are both efficient and effective.

 

Wide Receiver/Tight End

 

DeAndre Hopkins: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 66 yards

A.J. Green: 8 targets, 5 receptions, 50 yards

Christian Kirk: 6 targets, 4 receptions, 46 yards

Zach Ertz: 4 targets, 4 receptions, 42 yards

Rondale Moore: 5 targets, 3 receptions, 24 yards, Fumble (Lost)

Antoine Wesley: 3 targets, 1 reception, 7 yards

 

On a night when the Packers were missing their top two cornerbacks, the stage was set for Murray and DeAndre Hopkins to ball out and take over this game. It looked encouraging in the first quarter after this deep ball from Murray found Hopkins for a big gain. Unfortunately, Hopkins was penalised for a face mask penalty which negated any touchdown call.

 

Hopkins then only had on more target and catch, a third quarter grab that resulted in a first down, and it became apparent that the star wide receiver had suffered an aggravation of his niggling hamstring injury. Hopkins was seen without his helmet on the sideline for pretty much the rest of the first half and most of the second half. He made that brief cameo before exiting once more.

It should have been a more productive night for the enigmatic Christian Kirk, too. Kirk hauled in four of his six targets and a couple of them were crucial grabs on drives that resulted in the Cardinals coming back into the contest. However, he was overthrown by Murray on a deep ball that could have sent him to the house in the fourth quarter.

 

Newly acquired veteran tight end Zach Ertz linked up well with Murray once again, nabbing a key pass in the third quarter on the touchdown drive that brought the Cardinals within three points โ€“ Ertz finished with a perfect 4-of-4 for 46 yards but didn’t see any looks in the red zone.

Rookie Rondale Moore had a torrid night. Not only did the young man muff a punt that allowed the Packers the ball back near the Cardinals goal line in the first half, he also tipped the pass from Murray that went straight into the arms of Green Bay’s Henry Black.

https://twitter.com/TedBuddy8/status/1453896824557760513

 

But, the biggest faux pas of the night was from veteran A.J. Green, who completely zoned out on this Murray pass to the end zone with the game on the line in the final seconds. Seemingly not expecting the ball, and intent on blocking (what?!), Green failed to turn and grab the pass from Murray, which veteran Rasul Douglas bobbled then secured for the game-winning interception. Oh, A.J!

 

Benjamin Haller (@benjaminhaller1 on Twitter)

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