GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers dropped back and cocked his arm, ready to throw the ball downfield.
Instead of flinging to his intended target, the Green Bay quarterback was flung to the ground, causing the ball to break loose from his grip.
Arizona defensive lineman Cory Redding scooped it up, tossed Packers running back Eddie Lacy to the ground and rumbled 36 yards for a touchdown.
Another big game, another big letdown for the Packers.
Rodgers was sacked eight times, had two fumbles returned for touchdowns and threw an interception in the end zone, sending the Packers to a disheartening 38-8 loss to the Cardinals on Sunday.
"We are professionals. We have to hold ourselves to a higher standard and play better. Everybody has to play better," said Rodgers, who threw for 151 yards and a touchdown on 15-of-28 passing.
The Packers (10-5) had seemed to gather themselves over the past month, winning three straight after a stretch of four losses in five games that started with a blowout by Denver on Nov. 1.
Green Bay came into Sunday's game with a slight hope of earning a first-round bye in the playoffs, but it would have to start with a win over the Cardinals.
The Packers never really had a chance, unable to protect their quarterbacks behind an injury-riddled offensive line. Next up is the regular-season finale at home against Minnesota for the NFC North title after the Vikings cruised to a 49-17 victory against the New York Giants on Sunday night.
Taking advantage of Green Bay's shoddy O-line, Arizona (13-2) had nine sacks, its most since 1986 and third-most in team history. Three of those were by resurgent veteran Dwight Freeney and Calais Campbell had 2 1/2.
Instead of the Packers surging toward the playoffs, it's the Cardinals with the momentum after their ninth straight win clinched a first-round playoff bye.
"Our guys were just causing havoc," said cornerback Jerraud Powers, who had Arizona's second defensive touchdown.
The Packers had a hard time stopping it, right from the start.
Without starting left tackle David Bakhtiari (ankle) to protect him, Rodgers was sacked three times in the first half and threw for 58 yards while under constant pressure.
Green Bay's ground game did little to take the pressure off, its longest gain a 7-yard run by punter Tim Masthay on a fake.
Despite everything that went wrong, the Packers appeared to gain a spark just before halftime, when defensive tackle Mike Daniels intercepted Carson Palmer's screen pass and rumbled to the Arizona 15-yard line.
Instead of capitalizing on the Cardinals' first turnover in five games, Green Bay gave it right back when Rodgers threw a ball into the end zone that Justin Bethel intercepted.
The Packers compounded Rodgers' seventh interception of the season by allowing Michael Floyd to break free for a 47-yard reception on the next play. Palmer followed with a 7-yard touchdown pass to John Brown that put the Cardinals up 17-0 at halftime.
"That was a huge swing," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.
It got worse quickly for the Packers in the second half.
James Starks fumbled on Green Bay's first play, Arizona recovered at the Packers 28-yard line and David Johnson ran in for a 14-yard touchdown two plays later.
The Packers continued to have trouble protecting Rodgers and he started losing the ball.
The first fumble came on Kareem Martin's arm-flinging sack that led to Redding's touchdown.
After a 28-yard touchdown pass to Lacy, Rodgers found himself on the ground again, this time in the hands of Freeney. He lost the ball again, Powers grabbed it out of midair and scored on a 7-yard touchdown to put the Cardinals up 38-8.
Green Bay pulled Rodgers with about 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter, its disaster in the desert complete.
"We have a standard we have set around here for a long time and we just haven't lived up to it consistently," Rodgers said.
NOTES: Cardinals S Rashad Johnson missed his second straight game with an ankle injury. Arizona also was without its other starting safety, Tyrann Mathieu, after he tore an ACL last week. ... Green Bay DT B.J. Raji went out in the first half because of a concussion and did not return. ... Arizona has had 19 different players to score a touchdown this season, most in the NFL. ... Starks has four fumbles the past four games.
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