Tuesday, May 15, 2012

APR's top 25 regular season upsets: #13

#13: 2003 Packers 13, Cardinals 20 (ρ=1.2979)
Packers' season: finished 10-6, clinched the #4 seed in the NFC, and lost to the Eagles in the Divisional round of the playoffs (the infamous "4th and 26" game).
Cardinals' season: finished 4-12. Head Coach Dave McGinnis was fired after the end of the season.
What happened: this is another game where you really need to look at the game book. Specifically, two key stats: the gametime temperature was 102°F (39°C) and the gametime humidity was 7%. I can tell you from personal experience, being outside and active in this kind of weather is a combination that can kick your butt, especially if you're not ready for it.
The problem is, you're sweating like it's 102° (which is to say, a lot). But because the humidity is so low, sweat pretty much evaporates immediatly. Unless you're really diligent to stay hydrated and replenish your electrolytes, you can really get dehydrated easily and be wiped out almost before you know it.
With that in mind, it's pretty clear what happened—the Packers weren't ready to play in the heat. Their defense couldn't get off the field, allowing the Cardinals to control the ball for the entire second half. And the Packer offense, which scored 30 or more points ten times that season, barely managed 13 against a very unremarkable Cardinals defense.
Also of note: the Packers trailed the Vikings for the NFC North division title for most of the season. The loss to the Cardinals very nearly cost them a spot in the playoffs. But in the closing moments of week 17, the Cardinals beat the Vikings on a last-second, 4th down touchdown. That Vikings loss gave the division to the Packers.

Next week: the Packers again, this time in a track meet at Lambeau field.