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After Tough Night, Big Stop For Defense Almost Saves Cardinals

Kennard's knockdown of pass on fourth down set up chance to win

Cornerback Marco Wilson (20) and linebacker Dennis Gardeck (45) combine for a tackle during Thursday night's loss to the Packers.
Cornerback Marco Wilson (20) and linebacker Dennis Gardeck (45) combine for a tackle during Thursday night's loss to the Packers.

With a little more than three minutes left in the game Thursday, the Cardinals' defense made their most significant play of the game, the Packers just one yard from putting the game out of reach.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers lined up in the shotgun on fourth-and goal and rolled right, looking in the direction of wideout Randall Cobb for a touchdown that would've sealed the victory.

But linebacker Devon Kennard battled down the pass, sending the crowd inside State Farm Stadium into a frenzy and sending his offense back on the field with an improbable chance to win.

"That fourth down stop is what this defense is," linebacker Jordan Hicks said. "It's what we've been all year. We wish we had some plays back, cut down on the mistakes and tackled better. But no matter who they have at receiver, as long as 12 (Aaron Rodgers) is out there, it's a really good offense."

With three of their top receivers out -- Davante Adams, Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling -- the Packers used a simple yet effective strategy against the Cardinals: run the ball and milk the clock. It's why the Cardinals offense did not have the ball as much compared to other games this season.

"They had a good plan," coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "They ran the play clock down and Aaron (Rodgers) protected the ball and got completions and they were real effective with their offense."

Rodgers only had 184 yards, although he did have two touchdown passes and the Packers did not turn the ball over. On the ground, A.J. Dillon and Aaron Jones combined for 137 yards on 31 carries. Countless missed tackles were a culprit for that.

"I think when they started having success running the ball, it was a go-to for them," Hicks said. "And it wasn't anything exotic, we just didn't tackle as well as we wanted to." 

Hicks lamented that the unit was unable to generate a turnover -- "That feels like a big difference," he said -- and while the vital stop at the end nearly saved the Cardinals' outcome, he emphasized it can't change how the group looked at the game overall.

"Win, lose or draw, it's about approaching the game the same way and correcting mistakes," Hicks said.