Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs face off during the second half Thursday at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. / AP
KANSAS CITY, MO. — Mike McCarthy’s main mission was to come out of the Green Bay Packers’ preseason finale with his most important players healthy and an extended evaluation of backups vying for the last few spots on his roster.
That meant the outcome was immaterial in the Packers’ 30-8 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night at Arrowhead Stadium, as brutal as the team’s offensive performance was.
McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson, along with their respective staffs, now will grade this game’s videotape and decide by 5 p.m. Saturday who makes their final 53-man roster from the 75 currently on the team.
“Well, we’ve got plenty of film on all of our players,” McCarthy said. “That was really the priority coming in here. Great environment to play in. Obviously, the quality of play, particularly in the second half, wasn’t quite what you’d hope fo,r but definitely we’ll be in a position to make these decisions in the next 48 hours.”
After the game, the Packers’ coach essentially acknowledged that Don Barclay will be his starting right tackle, and that rookie defensive backs Micah Hyde and Chris Banjo continue to stand out in preseason play. Left only partially acknowledged was the poor offensive performances when anyone other than Aaron Rodgers was at quarterback in preseason play. That continued Thursday night, when Vince Young and B.J. Coleman combined for only six points and 218 yards in total offense.
“This is really the point that you work towards and it’s a tough 2 ½ days in front of you,” McCarthy said. “But it’s all about the regular season. Everything that you’ve started since the day your season has ended (last year) is about getting ready for the opening of the regular season. It’s all part of your plan, the adjustment in your plan, the process, and we’ll be at that point come Monday.”
McCarthy didn’t even bother to play his two healthy stars, Rodgers and outside linebacker Clay Matthews, or for that matter tight end Jermichael Finley. Most of the rest of his starters didn’t play much – his starting offensive line, for instance, played only the Packers’ first offensive series. Even receivers Jordy Nelson (knee) and Randall Cobb (biceps), who hadn’t played in the first three preseason games because of their injuries, played the game’s first three snaps before exiting for the night and intact.
Kansas City coach Andy Reid went a step further by sitting essentially all of his starters, including quarterback Alex Smith, on both sides of the ball.
So the Packers finish the preseason knowing Rodgers is healthy after playing five series in the first three games. All his starters on that side of the ball should be available for the regular-season opener at San Francisco next week.
On the other hand, McCarthy scratched three key defensive from Thursday night’s game, all with hamstring injuries: cornerback Casey Hayward, safety Morgan Burnett and inside linebacker Brad Jones. It’s unclear if any of them will be available for the regular-season opener at San Francisco next week.
“Our health is as good as it can be,” McCarthy said. “It was part of some of our decisions on who played, how much players played, so we’ll see how those guys are when we get back on the field Monday.”
Rodgers’ health no doubt was paramount to the Packers’ fortunes this season no matter what, but the preseason didn’t give McCarthy and Thompson much reason to feel good about their chances of winning if Rodgers can’t finish a game or has to miss a week or two because of injury.
Young and Coleman didn’t do much of anything against Chiefs — Tim Masthay punted nine times. Young played 11 series total, and his numbers reflected the Packers’ problems moving the ball all game. He had a 61.0 passer rating (14-for-30 passing for 144 yards) and lost a fumble when the ball was stripped from him in the pocket. He also didn’t do much damage outside the pocket — he was sacked twice and gained only 12 yards on three scrambles.
Young put up the Packers’ only two field goals, though the first came on a three-and-out after a Tramon Williams interception gifted the offense possession in scoring position. The second scoring drive was Young’s lone successful possession of the night, when he moved the team 50 yards on two passes — one to tight end Ryan Taylor (24 yards) and the other to receiver Jeremy Ross (26 yards).
Kicker Mason Crosby kept up his recent strong run of kicking in practice and made both of his attempts, from 48 and 45 yards. Though the Packers could pick up a kicker cut by another team after Saturday’s roster reduction to 53 players, Crosby probably has retained his job to the start the season after a couple shaky stretches in camp.
Hyde was among the players who made the biggest impression all camp, and he did so again Thursday night when he sacked Chiefs backup quarterback Chase Daniels on a slot blitz in the first quarter with Kansas City threatening to score at the Packers’ 14. Hyde had two sacks in four preseason games and has made a strong case that the Packers have to get him on the field at least as a dime back because of the threat he presents as a blitzer and playing the ball from the slot.
Jeremy Ross caught three passes for 50 yards and appears to be the likely returner on punts and kickoffs and No. 5 receiver. Neither of the returners used Thursday night, Alex Green on kickoffs and Hyde on punts, did enough to suggest they’re better returners.
Defensive lineman Johnny Jolly also made another play, this time a sack of Daniels on second down from the Packers’ 6 in the first quarter. That helped keep the Chiefs out of the end zone. Jolly appears to have the team made, though he hasn’t adjusted to the player-safety rules emphases after being out of the NFL since ’09. He picked up a 15-yard personal foul for a late hit on running back Shaun Draughn, who had recovered the fumble.