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Cardinals Can’t Stop Rodgers; Fall to Packers 31-17

The season that has been going downhill for Arizona continued in that direction Sunday, as the team couldn’t stop Aaron Rodgers in a 31-17 loss to the Packers.

Rodgers threw four touchdown passes, two to Randall Cobb in the win.

Rodgers only completed 14-of-30 passes for 218 yards with an interception, but connected with Tom Crabtree on a crucial 72-yard score after the Cardinals pulled within seven late in the third quarter.

Green Bay had a rare advantage in the running game, outgaining Arizona, 176-54, on the ground.

The Packers (6-3) head into their much-needed bye week riding a four-game win streak. Already without several key players due to injury, Green Bay saw linebacker Clay Matthews (hamstring), wide receiver Jordy Nelson (ankle) and offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga (hip) all exit early.

The Cards are also off next week, but it must recover from a different kind of ailment — a debilitating five-game skid after starting the season 4-0.

“If you look at the five games that we’ve lost, the one thing that’s consistent is that we’ve had opportunities to make plays and we haven’t done it,” Arizona head coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “It’s like a broken record.”

John Skelton was 23-of-46 through the air for 306 yards with an interception and a touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald in defeat.

Early in the third quarter, the Packers settled for a 33-yard Mason Crosby field goal after Erik Walden intercepted a tipped pass.

The kick gave Green Bay a seemingly comfortable 24-7 lead, but Skelton and the Cardinals responded with 10 straight points to make it a one-possession game. Fitzgerald finished an 8-play, 87-yard drive by breaking several tackles en route to a 31-yard touchdown.

Another promising Arizona drive stalled inside the red zone, and Jay Feely booted a 20-yarder to pull within 24-17 in the final minute of the third.

The Packers answered with their longest play of the season two snaps later. Crabtree ran a delayed seam route out of the backfield and was somehow left uncovered.

Rodgers hit the tight end in stride, and Crabtree did the rest, sprinting untouched for a 72-yard score to stop the Cardinals’ momentum.

Arizona went three-and-out on its first two possessions of the fourth quarter, and Skelton’s incompletion on 4th-and-3 with just over two minutes remaining essentially sealed the outcome.

Rodgers did it all in the first half as he showed off his precision passing and scrambling ability while even recovering a James Starks fumble deep in Packers territory.

The mobile quarterback ran for a 25-yard gain on Green Bay’s first scoring drive and picked up nine more with his legs on 3rd-and-8 from the Arizona 18.

On 3rd-and-goal from the 13, Rodgers threw a quick slant to Cobb, who used two blocks from his fellow receivers, spun off a defender inside the five and broke the plane with 5:31 remaining in the first quarter.

Rodgers was credited with an interception on the first play of the second quarter when Cardinals cornerback William Gay wrestled the ball away from Cobb after the ball bounced off the receiver’s chest.

On the first play after the turnover, Skelton hit Andre Roberts for a 40-yard gain down to the Green Bay three, and LaRod Stephens-Howling bounced outside two plays later for a 1-yard TD run.

The Packers responded with a 12-play, 80-yard march, capped by Cobb making an over-the-shoulder catch in the right side of the end zone.

James Jones scored just after the two-minute warning, as he jumped over rookie cornerback Jamell Fleming and hauled in Rodgers’ 28-yard toss near the left pylon for a 21-7 lead heading into the break. Rodgers kept that drive alive by diving head-first to corral Starks’ fumble at the 32-yard line.

“That was probably my best play of the game,” Rodgers said. “I saw the ball come out, and it was like slow motion for me. I saw the ball and tried to get in position to scoop and cover.”

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