Twenty-two days ago, Rasul Douglas was signed off the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad.
On Thursday night, Douglas saved the day for the Green Bay Packers.
On second-and-goal at the 5, Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray threw the ball into the end zone to veteran A.J. Green. Green didn’t know it was coming and Douglas made a juggling interception to preserve a shocking 24-21 victory.
It appeared the Packers had won the game with about 4 1/2 minutes to go in the fourth quarter but they didn’t. It appeared the Packers were going to lose the game as the Cardinals easily drove the length of the field.
Then, in shocking fashion, the ball was in Douglas’ hands.
The Cardinals cranked up the tempo on a touchdown drive to pull within 17-14 midway through the third quarter. On the ensuing kickoff, Kylin Hill inexplicably took the ball out of the end zone and was tackled at the 9 in a vicious collision.
So, the Packers started 91 yards from the end zone. Without Davante Adams, Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Against the No. 1-ranked scoring defense in the NFL. And yet, they drove 91 yards for a huge touchdown. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Rodgers looked left, Randall Cobb streaked across the field to his right and Rodgers hit him for a 6-yard touchdown to make it 24-14.
James Conner answered that with his second touchdown run of the game, a 9-yarder up the middle after Kenny Clark jogged off the field for a breather.
With 4:45 remaining in regulation, the Packers appeared to answer but Aaron Jones’ 1-yard touchdown run on first down was overturned upon review. That might have been good news in that Green Bay could have drained some clock. Instead, the Packers got nothing out of it – a third-down delay of game when Josiah Deguara was confused on where to line up but with no timeouts available to show him the way was killer. After Rodgers scrambled to the 1, his fourth-down pass was batted down by Devon Kennard.
So, Arizona started at its 1. Three completions of 20-plus yards had the Cardinals on the verge of their first 8-0 start in the 100-year history of the franchise. Instead, Douglas extended Green Bay’s winning streak to seven.
After the opening 30 minutes, Green Bay has a 157-98 edge in yards, a 41-17 advantage in plays and a 1-0 lead in turnovers. And yet it led only 10-7 at halftime. The Packers wasted a first-and-goal at the 3 by ignoring a hot running game and throwing three consecutive incomplete passes, then stalled on a 2-minute drive at the end of the first half due in part to Juwann Winfree’s drop of a first-down pass.
Extra-effort runs by Dillon and Jones tied the score 7-7 early in the second quarter. On a fourth-and-1 on the first play of the second quarter, Dillon was hit 2 yards short of the marker by linebacker Jordan Hicks but powered through him for a gain of 3 to the 11. Next, Dillon slashed his way to the 3 behind blocks by right tackle Billy Turner and tight end Dominique Dafney. Finally, on third-and-1, Jones drove linebacker Isaiah Simmons into the end zone. Low man wins, and Jones got under the former first-round pick and pushed him 3 yards into the end zone.
What it means: The Packers are a great team with a great coach. How else do you explain what happened? The Packers were down four Pro Bowlers and their top three receivers. They were facing an undefeated team that had crushed most of their seven opponents. And yet the Packers improved to 7-1.
Key moment: What else but Rasul Douglas’ unexpected interception?
Key stats: Green Bay won the turnover battle 3-0, played ball-hog with a 15-minute edge in time of possession, and outrushed the Cardinals 151-74.
MVP: AJ Dillon was superb with 16 carries for 78 yards. Douglas had nine tackles and the critical information. He’s been a savior in his three games with Kevin King out of the lineup.
Looking ahead: The bruised-band-battered Packers will get an extra few days off to get ready for the next showdown, a date at the Kansas City Chiefs next week. The Chiefs are just 3-4, with an 18-point loss at home against Buffalo and a 24-point loss at Tennessee in their last three games. Kansas City is tied for 27th with 29.0 points allowed per game, 32nd in yards allowed per play, 28th in rushing yards per play and 30th in passing yards per play. They’re a league-worst minus-10 in turnovers with former MVP Patrick Mahomes’ league-high nine interceptions.