Rodgers agony, Cards ecstasy

Karlos Dansby scores on a fumble return in overtime to give Arizona victory over the Green Bay Packers in the highest-scoring NFL play-off game.

The Cardinals  linebacker Karlos Dansby returns a fumble by the Packers' quarterback Aaron Rodgers for a touchdown in overtime.
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Karlos Dansby scored on a fumble return in overtime to give the Arizona Cardinals a wild 51-45 victory over the Green Bay Packers in the highest-scoring NFL play-off game on Sunday. The linebacker scooped up the ball and ran 17 yards for the winning touchdown after Michael Adams had jarred it loose from the Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers on the first series of overtime in the NFC wild card game.

"My reaction was like, 'Damn!' Everything is bouncing their way right now," Dansby said. "I was like, we got to do something." The win sends the Cardinals, the losers of last year's Super Bowl, to New Orleans on Saturday for an NFC divisional play-off against the top-seeded New Orleans Saints. "That has got to be one of the best games ever played in the play-offs," Ken Whisenhunt, the Arizona coach said after the victory.

The Cardinals QB Kurt Warner threw for five touchdowns but Arizona missed a chance to win in regulation when Neil Rackers went wide left with a 34-yard field goal attempt with 14 seconds left. "I play for the play-offs," said Warner, who completed 29 of 33 passes for 379 yards despite the absence of his top receiver, the injured Anquan Boldin. "Let's keeping going," added the 38-year-old QB, who may yet decide to retire at the end of the season.

"We knew how tough it was going to be on our defence with all the weapons they have offensively and how they've been playing. 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." Larry Fitzgerald and Early Doucet each caught a pair of touchdown passes as the Cardinals made amends for last weekend's 33-7 loss to the Packers to end the regular season. "Kurt Warner played lights out," the Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said.

"From the start of the game, there was a hump that we just totally never got over. It's clearly one of the toughest losses I've been a part of I'm very proud of our football team and fight. This is a hard game to swallow." Arizona led the game 17-0 after the first quarter and held a 31-10 edge in the third before Rodgers, who threw four touchdown passes, rallied the Packers. Two consecutive Rodgers touchdown passes pulled Green Bay within seven points and, after Warner and Rodgers traded another score each, the Packers tied the score at 38-38 on John Kuhn's one-yard run. Warner then hit Steve Breaston with a 17-yard toss for a 45-38 lead with under five minutes to play.

Rodgers was not done yet, however, and tossed an 11-yard pass to Spencer Havner with just under two minutes remaining to level the score once more and set up overtime and Dansby's decisive contribution. "We had the play called earlier, but we missed the sack," Dansby said. "With the game on the line, we called it again. "See you in New Orleans, baby." Meanwhile the two-time Super Bowl most valuable player Tom Brady threw three interceptions and fumbled the ball away in the New England Patriots' 33-14 first-round NFL play-off defeat to the Baltimore Ravens.

"We got off to a terrible start in the first quarter and never got back into the game," Brady said. * Reuters