Key to the Game; Defining Numbers

With so many key players out, the Packers found an unlikely winning formula against Arizona. Plus, 12 great statistics that help explain how Green Bay won its fourth in a row.

Packer Report recaps the Green Bay Packers' 31-17 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

Key to the game

When the injury list includes five of NFL Network's list of the game's top 100 players, you need your best players to do the little things and your role players to make big plays.

And that's exactly what Aaron Rodgers and Tom Crabtree did in making key plays to help the Packers extend their winning streak to four heading into a badly needed bye week.

Midway through the second quarter, with Green Bay leading 14-7, the Packers took possession at their 25. On the first play, James Starks coughed it up. A turnover was just what the underdog Cardinals needed to reverse their four-game losing streak. Instead, Rodgers recovered the ball with a head-first dive.

"That was, in that situation, probably my best play of the game, unfortunately," Rodgers said after harshly critiquing his performance. "No joke, I've visualized that play, making a play like that. I was just coming around on the back side of my keep fake there after handing off. I saw the ball come out and it was like flow motion for me. I saw the ball tipped and I tried to get in position to scoop and cover."

It turned out to be a critical play, with the Packers turning that drive into a touchdown on Rodgers' 28-yard strike to James Jones, though coach Mike McCarthy's heart skipped a beat.

"I wasn't a fan of it," he said. "It's a play you, I think as a young coach, you're patting the guy on the back and everything, but it scared the hell out of me, frankly. When I saw him dive in there, I just thought the worst. I think it tells you about him as a football player, which I obviously have great respect for that. He plays the game the way it's supposed to be played but I get paid to worry and I was worrying. That was a heck of a play by Aaron."

With Rodgers struggling to 14-of-30 accuracy – the second-most accurate passer in NFL history had endured just three sub-50 percent games as the starter — and Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson out of action again, the Packers needed someone to make a play after the Cardinals had rallied within 24-17. That was the block-first Crabtree, with his 72-yard catch-and-run touchdown.

On second-and-4, Crabtree lined up at fullback and stayed in the backfield to protect for a moment. Crabtree then went forward, with linebacker Paris Lenon apparently thinking Crabtree was going to block on a draw to Alex Green. Instead, Crabtree kept going and Rodgers hit him for the longest touchdown of the season.

"We definitely needed that as a team," Crabtree said. "That kind of put us over the top and secured the win and took the momentum away from them. They had the momentum at that point and I think that play helped take the wind out of our sails."

Defining numbers

1: The Packers are returning to their disciplined ways of last season, when they tied for the league low in penalties. They were hit with one penalty for 5 yards against Arizona.

1: Number of third-down conversions in the second half (1-for-9). The Packers went 5-for-6 in the first half.

3: Defensively, Green Bay and Arizona entered the game tied for the NFL lead with 26 sacks. Offensively, the Cardinals (39) and Packers (28) had given up the most sacks in the league. Naturally, the teams combined for just three sacks — two for Green Bay and one for Arizona.

4: Number of first downs by the Packers in the second half on eight possessions (not counting a take-a-knee drive to end the game). They had 16 in the first half on five possessions (not counting a take-a-knee drive before halftime).

5: Missed field goals by Mason Crosby this season. He missed four all of last season and didn't miss any until Nov. 20.

22: Aaron Rodgers has thrown for 22 touchdown passes over the last six games, a franchise record, breaking the 20 by Rodgers (twice in 2011) and Brett Favre (1996).

25: Doing it in back-to-back seasons, Rodgers became the first quarterback in NFL history with two seasons of 25-plus touchdown passes in the first nine game.

25: With James Starks (61), Alex Green (53), Rodgers (33) and Randall Cobb (29) rushing for at least 25 rushing yards, the Packers had their first 25-yard quartet since Nov. 2, 2003, at Minnesota. Ahman Green (137), Donald Driver (45), Najeh Davenport (43) and Tony Fisher (38) as Green Bay ran for 261 that day.

34: Rodgers has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 34 consecutive home games, the longest since a 39-game streak by Dan Marino from 1983 through 1988.

72: Tom Crabtree's touchdown was the longest reception by a Packers tight end since Paul Coffman's 78-yarder for a score against Miami in 1979.

176: The Packers' rushing total was a season high and their best output since rumbling for 202 against Cleveland on Oct. 25, 2009. Ryan Grant ran for 148 that day.

263: The difference in field position. Green Bay's average starting point was the 39-yard line while Arizona's average start was the 24.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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