GLENDALE, Ariz. — Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt took a cautious approach, Green Bay’s Mike McCarthy kept the Packers at full bore most of the day.
The result was a 33-7 Green Bay rout of the NFC champion Cardinals in their regular season finale on Sunday.
In a few days, the teams will meet again on the same field in the first round of the playoffs. The outcome will determine which coach took the right approach.
“We wanted to come out here to win the game, keep our razor sharp and gain some momentum going into the playoffs,” McCarthy said. “It didn’t matter who we were playing. I understand Arizona had a different agenda. … We like the way we played the last eight weeks and it was very important for us to maximize this opportunity.”
McCarthy knew he was taking a risk that one of his key players might get hurt.
Aaron Rodgers played three quarters, mostly against Arizona reserves, completing 21 of 26 passes for 235 yards and a touchdown.
Charles Woodson, who later left with a shoulder injury McCarthy said wasn’t serious, returned an interception 45 yards for another score as the Packers (11-5) won for the seventh time in eight games.
It was the most one-sided home loss for Arizona in Whisenhunt’s three seasons with the Cardinals, and many of the Packers didn’t think it was meaningless.
“They’ve got a lot to think about,” Green Bay defensive end Johnny Jolly said.
Cardinals defensive tackle Darnell Dockett, however, said the game “kind of really didn’t mean anything.”
“I guess if they want to celebrate it they can go ahead,” Dockett said. “But us personally, we know we’ve got some work to do and our main focus is next weekend.”
Arizona (10-6) sat quarterback Kurt Warner after one quarter. Backup Matt Leinart completed 13 of 21 passes for 96 yards and was intercepted twice.
Most of Arizona’s first-team defense played only one possession.
The Cardinals lost standout cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to a bruised left kneecap on the third play of the game.
Whisenhunt said he had two game plans ready. The one he would use was determined by the outcome of the Minnesota-New York Giants game. When the Vikings won, ending any chance for Arizona to get a No. 2 seed, Whisenhunt opted for the bland option.
“I can’t speak to what they were doing,” Whisenhunt said of the Packers. “I know we had a plan going in about what we were going to do if the situation was the way it ended up being. It was very difficult to stick to that plan. All I can say is hopefully it will pay off for us next week.”
Whisenhunt thought his team let down before the game even started after seeing the Vikings win in a rout.
Rodgers noted the Cardinals never blitzed after the starters left, giving little evidence in this game what they might use in the next.
“We’ll look at the film obviously and critique it,” Rodgers said, “but the body of work we’ll focus on is really the last four or five games they played before this one.”
Woodson left the game with a jammed shoulder late in the first half. McCarthy said he expects his star defender to be ready for the playoff opener.
“Just when he was walking off the field he told me right then ‘I’ll be fine,’” McCarthy said. “So I wasn’t concerned after that.”
In addition to Rodgers-Cromartie, Arizona wide receiver Anquan Boldin (right ankle) and defensive tackle Calais Campbell (thumb) also were injured.
Rodgers-Cromartie, selected to the Pro Bowl in this his second NFL season, was carted off after his knee came down on the cleat of Green Bay tight end Jermichael Finley less than two minutes into the game.
The loss of the player teammates call “DRC” would be devastating against Rodgers.
“It’s feeling a whole lot better than when it first happened,” Rodgers-Cromartie said. “It’s just real sore.”
Still, he insisted he would play next weekend.
On the possession before he left, Woodson picked off Leinart’s errant pass and raced down the left sideline, diving in for the touchdown to make it 26-0 with 4½ minutes left in the half.
It was his third interception return for a TD this season, a franchise record.
He also broke the Packers’ record with his eighth career defensive touchdown since joining the team in 2006 — seven interceptions and one fumble return. He had shared the mark with Herb Adderly (1961-69) and Darren Sharper (1997-2004).
Woodson set a career best with his ninth pick of the season. He has 45 in his career.
Arizona barely avoided its first shutout loss since the second week of the 2003 season.
Ralph Brown intercepted Matt Flynn’s pass and returned it 80 yards to Packers 8. After a penalty, Brian St. Pierre threw his first NFL touchdown pass on the next play, a 3-yarder to Larry Fitzgerald, with 2:59 to play.
Notes: Rodgers fell 26 yards shy of the Packers’ single-season record for yards passing. … Boldin passed 1,000 yards receiving for a franchise record fifth time. … The Cardinals’ Ben Graham had three punts inside the 20, tying the record of 42 for a season set by San Francisco’s Andy Lee in 2007. … Fitzgerald, who played the entire game, set a career high with his 13th TD catch of the season. … Green Bay beat Arizona in the preseason 44-37, leading 38-10 at halftime.