It was the perfect ending for what many will call a great game. On the first play of overtime, Carson Palmer spun away from a defender and threw across his body to an uncovered Larry Fitzgerald.
The 32-year-old darted through tacklers for 75 yards as the screaming Cardinals fans finally drowned out the visiting Green Bay Packers. He was tackled at the 5. On the next play, Palmer shoveled the ball to Fitzgerald who ran it in to give the Cardinals a 26-20 victory over the Packers Saturday night.
“As simple a word as ‘special’ is, it describes him probably the best,” Palmer said. Fitzgerald “finished with eight receptions for 176 yards.
“As an elder statesman on this team I just try to elevate my game and make plays for my teammates,” he said.
The Cardinals (14-3) play the winner of Sunday’s Seattle-Carolina game for the NFC title.
The Packers ended regulation with a spectacular play of their own and seemingly held the momentum going into overtime. Aaron Rodgers, in a play reminiscent of his final-play heave against Detroit this season, took the snap with 5 seconds to go in regulation, scrambled around and heaved it 41 yards to the end zone.
“I didn’t know where anybody was really,” Rodgers said. “I saw Jeff briefly and I just tried to put some air on it to give him a chance.”
Arizona won the overtime coin toss – after the referee declared the first toss hadn’t flipped – took the ball and scored a touchdown, denying the Packers a chance to touch the ball in the extra period.
“It comes down to a coin flip sometimes after a long hard-fought game,” Rodgers said, “back and forth, bizarre plays made by both teams and unfortunately it comes down to that..”