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Winning Streak Ends With Interception As Packers Top Cardinals

Murray picked off in end zone with less than 10 seconds left of 24-21 defeat

Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray scrambles away from pressure during Thursday night's game against the Packers.
Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray scrambles away from pressure during Thursday night's game against the Packers.

The storybook finish was there, a 99-yard game-winning touchdown drive on national television to pull off the best start in franchise history.

But A.J. Green wasn’t looking for a pass from Kyler Murray, and in an instant, the Cardinals weren't undefeated any longer.

"We didn't run the route and the guy made a good play," said coach Kliff Kingsbury, after Murray's attempted 5-yard touchdown throw to Green was instead intercepted by Packers cornerback and former Cardinals practice squad player Rasul Douglas with 12 seconds left to seal a 24-21 Green Bay victory Thursday night at State Farm Stadium.

"It wasn't the route that we thought we had checked and so we've got to communicate better in those situations."

It was a crushing way to have the Cardinals' undefeated season end, and it showed afterward.

"I honestly don't know what happened," Murray said about the final pass. "Miscommunication."

Tackle D.J. Humphries, normally one of the best talkers on the team, was terse in his short postgame press conference. The mood was understandably somber from others, frustration apparent.

"It's hard to lose, period," Humphries said. "It's an L. We're all competitors. Nobody wants to lose."

The Cardinals (7-1) now have the same record as the Packers (7-1) as the top of the NFC bunches up tighter. Truthfully, it seemed headed that way most of Thursday, with the Packers – without their top three wide receivers – grinding up 151 yards rushing and making things tough for one of the best defenses in the league.

But the Cards had their own issues. No J.J. Watt. Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins had two catches for 66 yards but barely played because of a bad hamstring. On top of that, Murray said, "we definitely didn't play up to our capabilities."

But this is Cardinals-Packers, and in this building, that tends to mean something crazy. In the 2009 playoffs, Karlos Dansby returned a Rodgers fumble in overtime of a 51-45 win. In the 2015 playoffs, the Cards survived a Rodgers Hail Mary to pull out the win with two fabulous plays by Larry Fitzgerald.

It was headed that way again. An apparent Packers touchdown late in the fourth quarter was overturned, the ball set just outside the goalline. And for four straight plays, the defense held, the last play linebacker Devon Kennard batting down an Aaron Rodgers pass to give the Cardinals life.

"That fourth-down stop is what this defense is," linebacker Jordan Hicks said. "Obviously we wish we had some plays back."

The Cards just happened to be 99 yards away from a win, and in a bad spot until third down – when Green came up with a first-down catch to jump-start the drive. And Green was the guy at the end, looking to add his name to Dansby-Fitz lore – but instead of the Packers got the end-game miracle courtesy of Douglas, whom the Packers signed off the Cardinals' practice squad 22 days prior.

Replays seem to indicate that had Green turned around, the play would've worked just as designed. Instead, Douglas had a chance to hang on to the ball unchallenged, and he didn't miss his chance.

Green did not speak to the media, and Murray said he didn't speak to Green either. "I know he's hot," Murray said. "Emotions are running high. Obviously, after the fact we both know we weren't on the same page, and it cost us. But we'll be better because of it."

Kingsbury said the Cardinals felt "it's a safe throw," and that "it was the right place to go" for Murray.

It was the first game this season Murray didn't account for at least one touchdown. The Cardinals had three turnovers – Murray had an interception earlier in the game off Rondale Moore's hands, and Moore also muffed a punt – and the Packers none, usually an equation for a much worse loss than the Cards suffered. The tackling for the Cardinals wasn't good much of the game either.

"We're not going to put this on one guy," running back James Conner said.

The Cardinals now get a mini-bye before a road trip to San Francisco, and they need it. Watt is gone. Hopkins, among others, needs to heal.

"We've reset after every win, and we have to reset after every loss," Hicks said. "That's part of it."

Going undefeated was incredibly unlikely. That reality doesn't make the final play any less of a gut-punch.

"We knew (adversity) would come at some point," Murray said. "We fought the whole game. We just came up short. If we make the last play, we're not talking about this."