GREEN BAY – Their 36-6, season-ending loss to Seattle is being dismissed as meaningless, and the Cardinals are focused on a two-game run to the Super Bowl that’ll begin this Saturday with a rematch against the Packers.
“Guys just didn’t show up with any passion. We really didn’t have anything to play for. We were locked in the No. 2 seed. You try to rah-rah that thing in there, but it’s not the same. We don’t even talk about it anymore. For them, it was a matter of getting the season over and getting to the playoffs,” Cardinals Coach Bruce Arians said of his team’s loss to Seattle, which left the Cardinals at 13-3 and on a bye week.
How did they spend the bye?
“I think the worst thing you can do is relax too much. We had three really, really good practices last week. We’ll go out in pads today and have a good start to this week,” Arians said.
In the Cardinals’ perfect world, they would beat the Packers and host the Seahawks in a rematch of that Week-17 game. In the Packers’ perfect world, they would avenge their 38-8, Week-16 loss to the Cardinals and host the Seahawks for the right to go to the Super Bowl.
“That was a game when the ball bounced our way a few times. For most of the game, it could’ve gone either way,” Arians said of the Cardinals’ lopsided win over the Packers.
What did he see in the Packers’ playoff win in Washington?
“They ran the football extremely well, and protected. I expect them to have their full complement (of offensive linemen). They were down three offensive linemen the last time they were here,” Arians said.
The Cardinals possess the No. 1 offense in the league, and one of its stars is rookie running back David Johnson, who caught three passes for 88 yards in the Week-16 game. Johnson is a big, punishing runner who’s scored eight touchdowns.
“That’s the type of guy we’re always looking for. We fell in love with David because he was such a good receiver, but he’s on a 225 package, which makes him a different runner,” Arians said.
Carson Palmer is the NFL’s No. 3-rated passer at 104.6. He’s thrown 35 touchdown passes in what has been the best year of a career compromised by injury.
“He’s extremely excited and raring to go,” Arians said of his quarterback. “We have a couple of guys who’ve been there, and that helps. You see the young guys gravitating toward them. The veteran guys tell them what to do to get ready.”
The Packers’ pass rush is likely Arians’ No. 1 concern. The Packers sacked Washington’s Kirk Cousins six times.
“That’s been Dom’s history forever. He’s always had good outside pass rushers, and inside guys now that are very disruptive. Then you’ve got to handle the fire zones, too. It’s a challenge,” Arians said.
The Packers likely have a similar regard for the Cardinals’ pass rush, which recorded nine sacks in that win over the Packers, including two sacks that resulted in fumbles that were returned for touchdowns.
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