Aaron Rodgers threw four touchdown passes and the Packers (6-3) rode an unexpectedly effective team running attack to win a game they badly wanted before a bye week they desperately need.
Green Bay's 31-17 win over Arizona (4-5) at Lambeau Field wasn't without casualty. Entering the game with half a dozen starters sidelined, the Packers sustained several injuries on Sunday, including to LB Clay Matthews and WR Jordy Nelson. But they had enough talent left in the tank to dispatch the reeling Cardinals, who lost their fifth straight game after winning their first four.
The Packers pumped out a season-high 176 yards rushing, trampling the Cardinals' sixth-ranked defense on the ground and opening up the passing game for Rodgers. The Packers can feel good about their suddenly and seemingly well-balanced offense, and the Cardinals can only shake their heads and wonder how they've fallen so far, so fast.
When the game turned: The Cardinals clawed back from a 21-7 deficit and had hit a field goal to cut the Packers' lead to 24-17 with less than a minute remaining in the third quarter. But on the final play of the quarter, backup (and supposedly block-first) TE Tom Crabtree slipped out of the backfield, got behind LB Paris Lenon and caught a perfect pass that Rodgers floated to him over the top of the defense. Crabtree did the rest, rumbling to the end zone for a 72-yard TD, the team's longest play of the season and the longest reception by a Packers TE since 1979 (Paul Coffman, 78). A scoreless fourth quarter meant Crabtree's touchdown provided the final margin.
Highlight moments: Crabtree's 72-yard score was one of a few, all Rodgers TD passes. In the second quarter, in a span of six minutes, Rodgers delivered two beautiful throws to emerging receivers who made two outstanding catches. First, Rodgers tossed a textbook-trajectory pass 21 yards that fell right into WR Randall Cobb's hands in the end zone for Cobb's second TD reception. The second was a 28-yard heave to WR James Jones, who, with a last-second adjustment, leapt high to make a breathtaking catch over CB Jamell Fleming's head. It was Jones' eighth TD reception of the year, marking a career high.
- Packers WR Randall Cobb -- three catches for 37 yards and two TDs; three rushes for 29 yards.
- Packers LB Erik Walden -- two tackles, three QB hits and one interception.
- Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald -- six catches for 74 yards and one dogged, determined TD.
What they said about James Starks' second-quarter fumble that Aaron Rodgers dived on head-first to recover:
- Rodgers: “Probably my best play of the game, unfortunately."
- Packers coach Mike McCarthy: “Not a fan of it. Saw him dive in there, scared the hell out of me … thought the worst. I get paid to worry. I was worried. He plays the game the way he's supposed to.”
Numbers you should know: Rodgers, who was 14 of 30 for 218 yards with four touchdowns and one interception for a 96.9 passer rating, completed less than 50 percent of his passes for the first time since last December's Week 15 loss at Kansas City (48.6 percent). … The Packers' season-high 176 rushing yards were spread among four players: RB James Starks (17 carries for 61 yards), RB Alex Green (11 for 53), Rodgers (eight for 33) and Cobb (3 for 29). … Green Bay committed just one penalty for five yards. … Cardinals QB John Skelton passed for 306 yards, his first game surpassing 300 yards since last December's Week 15 overtime win over the Browns. … The Cardinals' vaunted pass rush mustered only one sack, a tag-team effort by DEs Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell in the first quarter. … The Packers (33:30) had the ball for seven minutes more than the Cardinals (26:30).
Injury update: Packers -- They announced five injuries from Sunday's game. Cobb hurt his shoulder but returned. That was the only good news. Clay Matthews' pulled hamstring will be further evaluated on Monday, and McCarthy said he isn't sure how serious it is. RT Bryan Bulaga (hip), WR Jordy Nelson (ankle) and TE D.J. Williams (hamstring) all were injured and did not return. Coach Mike McCarthy didn't have any additional information.
Going forward: Packers -- They limp into their bye on a four-game winning streak. McCarthy had promised his team that their off week would start immediately if they won Sunday; if they lost, it wouldn't begin until Wednesday. Now they can rest, rehab, relax and recuperate until next Monday, when they'll begin preparation for their Week 11 divisional game at Detroit. … Cardinals -- They don't have it so good, having lost five in a row heading into their bye this week. Then they'll be welcomed back with a trip to currently undefeated Atlanta.
For more news and analysis from Cardinals blogger Jon Gold, follow @CBSCardinals on Twitter.