GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Arizona coach Kliff Kingsbury called the safest play he could with the clock winding down.
A back-shoulder throw from Kyler Murray to A.J. Green would give the Cardinals a chance at a touchdown and keep their undefeated season in tact. If the pass failed, Arizona would still have enough time to try for a tying field goal.
The plan ran into one big snag: Green never turned around.
Rasul Douglas intercepted Murray’s pass in the end zone with 12 seconds left when Green failed to turn around, ending Arizona’s undefeated season with a 24-21 loss to the Green Bay Packers Thursday night.
“We feel that it was a safe throw if he knew the route to run, no question,” Kingsbury said. “It was the right place to go, just didn’t communicate on some level and the guy made a good play.”
The Cardinals (7-1) did their best to keep the Packers (7-1) within reach despite struggling through most of the first half.
Green Bay had a whopping 13-minute advantage in time of possession and Arizona had 98 total yards, yet the Packers’ halftime lead was just 10-7.
The Cardinals rose out of their slumber in the second half.
Arizona answered Aaron Rodgers’ 2-yard pass to Randall Cobb with James Conner’s 2-yard TD run, keeping it a three-point game.
The Cardinals appeared to be in trouble when Rodgers found Cobb again on a 6-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter, but pulled within 24-21 on Conner’s second TD run, from 9 yards.
That set up a the wild finish.
Green Bay was in position to put the game away by methodically marching 74 yards in 16 plays — 7:22 on the clock — to Arizona’s 1-yard line.
The Cardinals made a defensive stand when they needed it most, stopping the Packers at the goal line three times before Devon Kennard swatted Rodgers’ fourth-down attempt to the turf.
That left 3:23 for the Cardinals to take it 99 yards down the field.
They made it most of the way.
Murray did what he does best in crunch time, picking the Packers apart to take Arizona to Green Bay’s 5-yard line. With 15 seconds left, the Cardinals had at least one shot at the winning touchdown, possibly two, before sending Matt Prater out to attempt a tying field goal.
Instead of a winning TD or an incompletion, the Cardinals were left wondering what happened when Green failed to turn around and Douglas pulled in a juggling, game-sealing interception.
“I know he’s (Green) hot. Obviously, emotions run high,” said Murray, who threw for 274 yards and had two interceptions. “We both know we weren’t on the same page and it cost us.”
One play, one miscommunication, but plenty of missed opportunities before that.
The Cardinals were without three-time NFL defensive player of the year J.J. Watt due to what may be a season-ending shoulder injury and the Packers took advantage despite playing without their top two receivers.
Arizona’s offense showed some signs of life in the second half, yet never fully got untracked. Murray, despite his success late, failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time this season and had a quarterback rating of 67.0.
“We’re not going to put this on one guy,” Conner said. “We’re just going to get back to it. There’s not much to say. When you lose, you just take it and see what you can do to learn from it.”
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