GLENDALE, Ariz. – Old master Kurt Warner and playoff newcomer Aaron Rodgers staged a passing duel to rival any the NFL has seen. And when the highest-scoring postseason game in league history ended abruptly in overtime, Rodgers flung his helmet to the sideline in disgust.
He can blame the Arizona defense for his misery.
Karlos Dansby returned Rodgers’ fumble 17 yards for a touchdown to give the Cardinals a 51-45 victory over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
Rodgers, intercepted on the game’s first play but marvelous after that, was stripped by Michael Adams. The ball careened off Rodgers’ foot and into the hands of Dansby, who ran untouched for the score.
“He made a sack, the ball went in the air, I just made a play on the ball,” Dansby said.
The reigning NFC champion Cardinals (11-6) rushed the field to celebrate.
“That’s probably one of the best games ever played in the playoffs,” Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said.
Incredibly, Warner had more touchdown passes (five) than incompletions (four).
“We knew how tough it was going to be on our defense with all the weapons they have offensively and how they’ve been playing,” he said. “It was just one of those games where I felt great. I loved our playing. I felt like I was seeing everything well and it accumulates to 51 points.”
Warner, who improved his playoff record to 9-3, finished 29 of 33 for 379 yards with no interceptions. The five TDs matched the 38-year-old’s career best.
Rodgers, in his first playoff start, was 28 of 42 for a Packers postseason-record 422 yards and four TDs. All but two of Rodgers’ yards came after the first quarter.
“It’s clearly one of the toughest losses I’ve been a part of,” Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said. “I’m very proud of our football team and fight. This is a hard game to swallow.”
The previous high for combined points in a postseason game was 95 in Philadelphia’s 58-37 win over Detroit on Dec. 30, 1995.
It was the most points scored and allowed by the Packers (11-6) in their storied 41-game playoff history.
Dansby started and ended the game with big plays. He broke up Rodgers’ opening pass and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie intercepted. The next time the Packers got the ball, Dansby stripped Donald Driver and Arizona’s Alan Branch recovered.
The teams combined for 1,024 yards. Arizona had 531 against a Packers defense ranked No. 2 overall. The 13 touchdowns are an NFL playoff record.
But the Packers, the team with the fewest turnovers in the NFL (16) started the game with two of them and ended it with another.
In between, Green Bay rallied from a 21-point second-half deficit to twice tie the game.