Cardinals stun fading Packers at Lambeau; McCarthy fired
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — The lowly Arizona Cardinals pulled off an upset at Lambeau Field that was so much a stunner that the Green Bay Packers fired coach Mike McCarthy after the game.
Zane Gonzalez kicked a 44-yard field goal with 1:41 left, Green Bay’s Mason Crosby missed a 49-yard attempt as time expired and the Cardinals braved wintry conditions to hold on for a 20-17 victory on Sunday.
The Packers (4-7-1) announced McCarthy’s dismissal following the postgame availabilities with the media. Team president Mark Murphy made the move after Green Bay took another debilitating hit to its fading playoff hopes.
“The 2018 season has not lived up to the expectations and standards of the Green Bay Packers,” Murphy said in a statement. “As a result, I made the difficult decision to relieve Mike McCarthy of his role as head coach, effective immediately.”
For McCarthy, a tenure highlighted by a Super Bowl win in the 2010 season ends with a loss to Arizona (3-9), one of the worst teams in the league.
After the game, but before the Packers fired McCarthy, the Cardinals were joking and yelling in the visitor’s locker room as if they didn’t believe what had just happened.
“We did that! We did that,” some emotional players yelled.
Cardinals rookie Josh Rosen struggled for much of the afternoon, but hit Larry Fitzgerald for a sliding 32-yard completion on third-and-23 to help set up Gonzalez’s winning kick.
“It’s hard to win in this league and it’s been a long time since we won a football game,” coach Steve Wilks said.
It was Oct. 28, to be exact, when the Cardinals beat San Francisco at home. Until Sunday, their only other victory this season came on the road against the 49ers.
Crosby pushed his kick wide right, with the flags atop Lambeau blowing in toward the field at the time of the play. Green Bay’s playoff hopes took another significant blow.
“It was clearly a very disappointing loss, it was a game we needed to win,” McCarthy said in his final press conference, before his firing was announced.
Gonzalez just joined the team this week after Phil Dawson was placed on injured reserve. The Cardinals had a patchwork offensive line, which didn’t bode well for what had been the league’s worst offense coming into the day.
“All the things that were said on the outside, these guys circled the wagons and came together,” Wilks said.
Green Bay has lost three straight and five of six.
Aaron Rodgers was 31 of 50 for 233 yards and a touchdown. A couple throws looked off, especially in the first half, and receivers had a few drops.
The offense regained some swagger after Rodgers orchestrated a 95-yard drive that led to Aaron Jones’ 8-yard touchdown run with 5:26 left, tying it at 17. Davante Adams tip-toed the sideline for a 19-yard catch to extend that drive.
But too many missed opportunities and drops caught up with the Packers in the end. They struggled on third down, going 3 for 14 in the continuation of a season-long theme.
Rookie Chase Edmonds ran for two touchdowns for Arizona. Rosen was 11 of 26 for 149 yards, making just enough plays in front of a makeshift offensive line.
“Other than (center Mason Cole), I don’t think a single one of those guys start the season,” Rosen said. “They’re doing a hell of a job.”
Fitzgerald’s 32-yard reception gave him 1,281 for his career, matching Hall of Famer Jerry Rice for most receptions in NFL history with one team.
“I’m not big on the records,” Fitzgerald said. “This is a difficult place to get a win and we needed it badly. It’s been a rough year. Mostly, I’m just happy we were able to come out victorious.”
Rodgers said his focus was getting his teammates to “play with that pride” and focus on the next four games. The Packers still have a chance to make the postseason, however slim.
“Yeah, I mean I’m not even thinking about that right now,” Rodgers said when asked if he would have any role with Murphy or general manager Brian Gutekunst about what direction they should go with the coaching staff.
McCarthy’s dismissal was announced about an hour later.
The offensive players, Rodgers said, bear blame for whatever happens in the future.
“Yeah, a lot probably. We haven’t played very well,” he said.
Rosen’s 32-yard completion to Fitzgerald sapped momentum from the Packers after Arizona was pushed back to its own 12. Dean Lowry sacked Rosen on first down, and Rosen threw an incompletion on second-and-18 following a botched snap. Wilks said he likes how Rosen shook off earlier struggles.
A 16-yard completion to Adams with 13:42 left in the second quarter gave Rodgers the team record for attempts without an interception. Hall of Famer Bart Starr set the previous mark of 294 from 1964-65.
Cardinals: LG Mike Iupati was carted off the field in the third quarter with a knee injury. Arizona was already starting rookies at center and right tackle.
Packers: RG Byron Bell and RT Bryan Bulaga each left in the second quarter with knee injuries.
Cardinals: Host the Detroit Lions on Dec. 9.
Packers: Host the Atlanta Falcons on Dec. 9.