December 28, 2015 / 3:21 AM / 3 years ago

Cardinals demolish Packers and earn first-round playoff bye

(The Sports Xchange) - Quarterback Carson Palmer passed for two touchdowns, rookie running back David Johnson accounted for 127 yards from scrimmage and a score, and the Arizona Cardinals registered nine sacks en route to a 38-8 home victory over the hapless Green Bay Packers on Sunday.

Dec 27, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer throws a pass in the first half against the Green Bay Packers at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Packers 38-8. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Two of the sacks on Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers resulted in fumbles and touchdown returns by the Cardinals’ defense.

With their ninth straight victory, and a franchise-record 13th of the season, the Cardinals secured no less than the No. 2 seed in the NFC and with it, a first-round bye in the playoffs — another franchise first.

If Carolina loses next week at home to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Cardinals beat the visiting Seattle Seahawks, Arizona (13-2) would claim the No. 1 seed over the Panthers by virtue of a better conference record.

“It’s too early for that,” Cardinals defensive tackle Calais Campbell said when asked if Arizona is the best team in the NFL.

“It’s just one game. We still have a lot more to do moving forward. It doesn’t really matter to us who the best team is now because at the end of the year there is only one team that gets crowned.”

The Packers (10-5) never got going against the league’s seventh-ranked defense, which harassed Rodgers all afternoon.

Not only did Green Bay, which had won three straight, squander a chance to capture the NFC North title, but they lost two more starters during the game.

Already playing without left tackle David Bakhtiari and cornerback Sam Shields, Green Bay had nose tackle B.J. Raji leave the game in the first half with a concussion and right tackle Bryan Bulaga exit in the third quarter with an ankle injury.

Asked how the Packers can fix some of their obvious problems, Rodgers said: “We get healthy, that’s a start. We are professionals. We have to hold ourselves to a high standard and play better.

“Everybody has to play better. I can’t turn the ball over that many times. We have to protect better. We have to catch better. And we have to be better on third downs.”

By the time the Packers scored their first touchdown on a 28-yard pass from Rodgers to running back Eddie Lacy with 6:31 left in the third quarter, the Cardinals already held a commanding 31-0 lead.

Things got so out of hand, Packers coach Mike McCarthy decided to remove Rodgers with 9:56 remaining and insert Scott Tolzien. Rodgers was 15 of 28 for 151 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

“They’re very good,” McCarthy said of the Cardinals, “and we played poor. It starts with me. When a team plays poorly, the head coach is poor.”

Palmer finished 18 of 27 for 265 yards to go along with his two touchdowns and one interception. Wide receiver Michael Floyd led the Cardinals with six catches for 111 yards. Johnson had three receptions for 88 yards, ran for another 39 yards and took most of the second half off.

Editing by Andrew Both

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