GREEN BAY, Wis. — An unthinkable season essentially ended in unthinkable fashion for the Green Bay Packers, who dropped a 20-17 verdict to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
Not long after, head coach Mike McCarthy was fired, replaced by offensive coordinator Joe Philbin.
“The 2018 season has not lived up to the expectations and standards of the Green Bay Packers. As a result, I made the difficult decision to relieve Mike McCarthy of his role as head coach, effective immediately,” Packers president and CEO Mike Murphy said in a statement. “Mike has been a terrific head coach and leader of the Packers for 13 seasons, during which time we experienced a great deal of success on and off the field.”
In 13 years at the helm of the Packers, McCarthy compiled a 125-77-2 record that included a Super Bowl victory in 2010.
The Packers, who entered the season with Super Bowl aspirations with the return of quarterback Aaron Rodgers, dropped to 4-7-1 on the season and 1-5 after their bye. They were 14-point favorites against the Cardinals (3-9), whose only victories had come against San Francisco.
“It’s just frustrating,” Rodgers said. “This was a game that we have won in the past, expected to win. Teams that want any shot of having some postseason success have got to win these games. Dome team, 35 degrees, snow, wind, it’s playing right into our hands and we just came out flat. I feel like the energy was a little bit flat. We got it going in the second quarter and I don’t know if we felt like they were just going to roll over at that point, up 10-7, but obviously we played three series in the third quarter and didn’t do anything and then we had couple decent drives in the fourth but we just didn’t play very well.”
Neither did the Cardinals, really. Rookie quarterback Josh Rosen was 11-of-26 passing for 149 yards. Arizona’s feeble offense, the worst in the league by most measuring sticks, gained 315 yards — the second-most of the season. However, its last four possessions ended with a field goal, touchdown, punt and field goal.
An 8-yard touchdown run by Chase Edmonds gave the Cardinals a 17-10 lead late in the third quarter. The Packers tied it with an impressive 95-yard touchdown drive. After nine consecutive third-down failures, Rodgers fired an 11-yard pass to Davante Adams. Later, Rodgers had more than nine seconds in the pocket before hitting Adams for 19 to the 8. On the next play, running back Aaron Jones plowed through linebacker Haason Reddick to tie the score at 17 with 5:26 remaining.
Arizona answered with the winning points, a 44-yard field goal by Zane Gonzalez with 1:41 to go. On third-and-23, Rosen bought time to his right and hit veteran receiver Larry Fitzgerald for a sliding 32-yard reception. It was a big-time play after he almost was intercepted on the previous play.
“(Offensive coordinator) Byron (Leftwich) always says it’s football karma,” Rosen said. “It’s almost like a dropped pick or some turnover that should’ve been, it’s almost like the other team is destined to score. Those are just the football gods.”
The Packers maneuvered into position to force overtime but Mason Crosby’s 49-yard field-goal attempt on the final play sailed wide right.
“Obviously, there was some swirling wind, and I played for right to left, and the ball moved right, which I was surprised about it, and that’s kind of how I reacted,” Crosby said.
The Cardinals, who had lost three in a row, reacted as if it had just clinched a playoff berth.
“I think you always have to have a win to validate the things you’ve been talking about,” Cardinals coach Steve Wilks said. “To come in, in this environment, and get a win, it was impressive.”