Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy watches a replay during the first quarter of Friday's game against the Arizona Cardinals at Lambeau Field. / H. Marc Larson/Press-Gazette
So what can the Green Bay Packers take from their 28-20 preseason victory over the Arizona Cardinals Friday night at Lambeau Field?
There were enough encouraging signs to give the Packers hope they will be ready for the regular-season opener in less than three weeks. There were also enough ugly moments to give Packers coach Mike McCarthy some fodder to keep his team motivated for the remainder of training camp.
“We’re happy we won the game, that was the objective,” said McCarthy, “but we have a lot of work to do and that’s the way we’ll approach it.”
It was impressive the way quarterback Aaron Rodgers distributed the ball among his top three receiving targets. Donald Driver had three catches for 40 yards, Jermichael Finley four catches for 33 yards and Greg Jennings two catches for 24 yards and a touchdown in the first three series.
Add to the mix solid performances from running back Ryan Grant (5 rushes, 23 yards) and rookie Alex Green (25-yard screen pass reception that set up his 2-yard touchdown run and first Lambeau Leap), and it’s obvious the Packers indeed have an impressive array of offensive weapons, just as everyone was expecting.
But no one should get a big head after this game.
“I’m not ready to crown anybody here,” said McCarthy.
He can point to the Packers’ first two possessions when they were forced to punt and produced just 37 total yards. There were enough miscues — some off-target passes, a pair of sacks and a pre-snap penalty — to suggest the Packers’ film sessions Saturday won’t be all smiles, high-fives and fist bumps.
“I thought we did better things on offense, but we had too many penalties and just a couple of conversions that we didn’t pick up,” said Rodgers.
The Packers quarterback was kicking himself for throwing behind Finley on the Packers’ second series that allowed linebacker Joey Porter to recover and bat away the pass. The Packers were eventually forced to punt.
“I wish I would have thrown a better one to him on the corner route that got knocked away by Porter,” said Rodgers.
But the preseason is the time to work out those issues, and Rodgers redeemed himself on the next series by going 5 for 5 for 62 yards and a touchdown in a no-huddle attack.
The Packers’ defense also had its share of ups and downs. It forced a three-and-out on the Cardinals’ first series, but gave up field goal drives of 66 and 56 yards on the next two series.
Allowing six points in three series isn’t a bad overall performance, especially considering Pro Bowl linebacker Clay Matthews wasn’t in the lineup. But there were some breakdowns on third-down plays that kept the chains moving for the Cardinals, and the Packers committed some critical penalties.
McCarthy isn’t ready to say his team is on target for the regular season. He needs more time for assessment, and the results of one exhibition game, both good and bad, won’t give him all the answers he needs.
He liked some of the things he saw. “I thought the team came out with a lot of urgency compared to last week,” he said. “That was the emphasis.”
On the other hand, he added: “It’s preseason football.”
In other words, the Packers are still a work in progress.
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