GLENDALE, Ariz. — Old master Kurt Warner and playoff newcomer Aaron Rodgers staged a passing duel to rival any the NFL has seen. And when the highest-scoring postseason game in league history ended abruptly in overtime, Rodgers flung his helmet to the sideline in disgust.
He can blame the Arizona defense for his misery.
Linebacker Karlos Dansby returned Rodgers' fumble 17 yards for a touchdown to give the Cardinals a 51-45 victory Sunday.
Rodgers, intercepted on the game's first play but marvelous after that, was stripped by cornerback Michael Adams. The ball careened off Rodgers' foot and into the hands of Dansby, who ran untouched for the score.
"He made a sack, the ball went in the air, I just made a play on the ball," Dansby said after the reigning NFC champion Cards (11-6) rushed the field to celebrate.
"That's probably one of the best games ever played in the playoffs," said coach Ken Whisenhunt, whose Cardinals play Saturday at New Orleans.
Warner had more touchdown passes (five) than incompletions (four). "It was just one of those games where I felt great," said Warner, 38, who denied an ESPN report that he plans to retire after this season. "I felt like I was seeing everything well, and it accumulates to 51 points."
Warner, who improved his playoff record to 9-3, finished 29-of-33 for 379 yards, with no interceptions. The five touchdowns match the 38-year-old's career best. Rodgers, in his first playoff start, was 28-of-42 for a Packers postseason-record 422 yards and four touchdowns.
"It's clearly one of the toughest losses I've been a part of," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "This is a hard game to swallow."
Warner threw two touchdown passes to Larry Fitzgerald, two to Early Doucet and one to Steve Breaston, who caught seven passes for 125 yards.
"Whew," Warner said at the start of his postgame news conference. "Anybody else tired?"
It was the most points scored and allowed by the Packers (11-6) in their 41-game playoff history. The teams combined for 1,024 yards. Arizona had 531, including 156 rushing, against a Packers defense ranked No. 2 overall and No. 1 against the run. The 13 touchdowns are a playoff record.
Neil Rackers missed a 34-yard field-goal attempt near the end of regulation for Arizona.
The Packers won the toss before overtime. Because Arizona hadn't stopped them since the first half, it didn't look good for the Cards.
But on third and 6 at the Green Bay 24-yard line, Adams came through on a blitz and stripped Rodgers. On a bounce the Packers will remember for a long time, the ball caromed off Rodgers' foot to Dansby.
"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."