Lambeau Field is a tough place to play during the season’s colder months. Having the moniker “The Frozen Tundra” is not acquired without replicating the inhospitable conditions normally reserved for a National Geographic special. Yet the Arizona Cardinals went on the road in early December and battle the Green Bay Packers to a 20-17 victory. It was the first ever victory for the Cardinals at Lambeau Field. However, with every game comes the winners and losers, even if some of those losers are on the victorious team. Today we take a look at three winners and three losers from Arizona’s surprise win in Green Bay.
The veteran receiver came up big for the Cardinals against Green Bay. Fitzgerald had a big catch and run the last time the two teams played. This time it was a spectacular diving grab on a third and long to keep a drive alive. On the play quarterback Josh Rosen scrambled to his left and uncorked a deep pass toward Fitzgerald. The receiver dove to his left and managed to get his hands under the football and maintain position during the landing. It was another in a long line of great catches by the future Hall of Fame receiver. The reception opened the door for what would be the game winning field goal. During what has been a rough year, the veteran came through when his team needed it most.
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) December 4, 2018
The rookie running back had his best game of the season on Sunday. Edmonds found the end zone twice on the ground against the Packers. Arizona focused on getting Edmonds on the field to act as more than just a decoy. The rookie finished the day with 53 yards rushing on five carries with two touchdowns. He added another 13 yards on two receptions. The two scores were the first of Edmonds’ career and were the only touchdowns for Arizona on Sunday. The rookie looked confident and explosive for the first time all season. On Sunday, Edmonds showed why he deserves an increased role on offense.
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Call it serendipity but the Cardinals found themselves in need of a kicker as insurance for the aging Phil Dawson. With Dawson now on injured reserve, Gonzalez took over kicking duties and delivered when it mattered on Sunday. The former Sun Devil converted all four of his kicks against the Packers, two field goals and two extra point attempts, including a 44-yard kick to give the Cardinals a 20-17 lead. His counterpoint for Green Bay missed the game-tying kick as time expired and the Cardinals claimed the victory. For Gonzalez it was sweet redemption for the pain endured since entering the NFL. The kicker from Arizona State gave the Arizona Cardinals an upset victory and made history in the process. It could be the beginning of a long and prosperous career in the desert.
The Cardinals signed Mike Iupati before the 2015 season. In four seasons with Arizona, Iupati has yet to play all 16 games in a season. Of a possible 64 regular season games, the veteran has played in just 39 of them. On Sunday, Iupati was the only player along the offensive line who entered the preseason as a starter. Unfortunately the narrative of being prone to injuries followed the former Idaho Vandal. Iupati left midway through Sunday’s victory with a knee injury. On Monday the Cardinals announced they were placing their starting left guard on the injured reserve list. The move ends the season for Iupati and may have brought a disappointing conclusion to his time with the Cardinals. Iupati’s contract was voided for 2019 during this past offseason. The restructuring of his contract likely gave the guard a season to prove he was worth another contract. With no contractual requirement to bring him back, Iupati may have played his last game for Arizona.
Similar to Iupati, kicker Phil Dawson came to the Cardinals via free agency after spending time with the San Francisco 49ers. Dawson entered the NFL in 1999. This season Dawson has made five out of his eight attempts, for a 62.5 field goal percentage. Dawson has been hampered by a lingering hip injury which has caused the veteran to miss two games this season. On November 26th the Cardinals announced they were placing Dawson on the injured reserve list. The move ended the season for the veteran kicker. Dawson finished 2018 with his worst field goal percentage in his career, which also made it three consecutive years of declining success. With the heroics by his replacement, Dawson may become expendable once the season is over. Dawson had a cap hit of $3.5 million in 2018 and is a free agent after this season. Father time catches up with all and Phil Dawson may have played his last game in the NFL.
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The Cardinals entered Sunday’s matchup firmly in the third spot for the 2019 NFL Draft. Due to a tougher strength of schedule, Arizona was behind the Raiders and 49ers for the top pick. With the victory on Sunday, the Cardinals saw their draft slot drop by one spot. Arizona currently holds the fourth overall selection, dropping behind the New York Jets. The Cardinals are still in contention for the top overall pick but Sunday’s performance confirmed the disinterest the team has in racing to the bottom. At this point the Cardinals are playing for their careers and are not focused on anything beyond solidifying their place on the roster. While the victory against the Packers brought a momentary relief from the downs of the season, the Cardinals may be looking at their draft capital slipping if wins become a norm.
What Comes Next
The Cardinals may have saved their head coach’s job on Sunday. Steve Wilks is under pressure to turn things around in Arizona, even if it means seeing progress made from week to week. The Cardinals showed tremendous heart and toughness against the Packers and were likely rallying for their head coach. Arizona showed progress on Sunday, and gave everyone a glimpse of what this team can do with many holes still left on the roster. The Cardinals return home on Sunday to welcome the struggling Lions. Time will tell if the steps forward can continue.