In what would be its final series of the night, regardless of the outcome, a Packers offense that had stumbled through its first two series came to life. It only took seven plays and 78 yards to raise Packers fans’ spirits and salvage a two-day vacation for a team tired from training camp.
Yeah, Aaron Rodgers and Greg Jennings did it again.
“Greg made a great catch on that touchdown,” Rodgers said of his 20-yard, back-shoulder throw to Jennings, which has become the trademark of the Packers offense.
Back in February, Rodgers and Jennings teamed to win a Super Bowl. Friday night, they teamed to erase a 6-0 Arizona lead and send the Packers on their way to their first victory of a new season.
All right, it was just a preseason game. This wasn’t the Super Bowl. It was a preseason home opener, a forgettable game for which neither coach game-planned. So what’s the big deal?
No big deal, except that the Packers weren’t looking real good when Rodgers and company took possession of the ball at their 22-yard line with 8:20 to play in the first half and the Cardinals leading. Rodgers had completed four of seven passes for a harmless 35 yards in the offense’s first two possessions. He had also been sacked twice and forced to scramble on another occasion.
This wasn’t vintage Packers offense, until Rodgers and company went no-huddle in their third series of the night. All of a sudden, the Packers’ tempo quickened, and so did the movement of the ball down the field.
“I feel we’ve always done a good job with the no-huddle. Aaron does an excellent job handling the calls at the line of scrimmage. We’re two-for-two with the no-huddle,” Coach Mike McCarthy said, referring also to Matt Flynn’s success in Cleveland last Saturday.
This is how quickly it all changed for the Packers at Lambeau Field on Friday: Rodgers to Donald Driver for 12, Rodgers to Jermichael Finley for 6, 7 and 17, and then Rodgers to Jennings for 20 and the score. It even perked up a running game, as Ryan Grant sandwiched runs of 9 and 7 yards among those pass completions.
All of a sudden, the Packers were unbeatable, again. Flynn replaced Rodgers on the next drive and, on a short field, needed only five plays to get the ball into the end zone. Rookie running back Alex Green was the star of that drive, dazzling the crowd on a 25-yard screen play.
The coach looked kind of relaxed when he met with the media following the game. He certainly looked more relaxed than he did while on the sideline during the first quarter of the game, as the Cardinals kind of had their way with the hometown team.
“We had a total number of reps we were trying to hit,” he said, explaining that series number three was going to be the nightcap for an offense that appeared a little wobbly.
Is there something to be made of the fact that the offense responded in what would be its final act of the night? It was either respond or wrestle with Friday’s failures through the weekend.
“It’s preseason football,” McCarthy said, careful not to make too much out of what the reigning Super Bowl champions did in something, well, as meaningless as Week 2 of the preseason. “I’m not trying to dismiss it,” McCarthy added. “I thought the team came out with a lot of urgency, compared to last week.”
You might recall that McCarthy was critical of his team’s lack of urgency in its loss in Cleveland. In the second quarter of Friday’s game, the urgency McCarthy sought surfaced.
“I think we did some good things,” Rodgers said, but he was quick to mention some bad things, too, namely the sacks. Flynn was also dropped twice.
“We’re getting beat on one-on-one pass-protection. You have to look at the fundamentals. We have to do a better job of picking up stuff,” Rodgers said.
There were highlights were many. Green’s performance immediately provided depth at running back, where James Starks continues to have difficulty avoiding nagging hurts, and where Grant continues his comeback from last season’s ankle injury and subsequent surgery.
“He’s a big back,” McCarthy said of Green. “There is definitely a place in Green Bay, Wisc., for a big back.”
“Tried to get him a little more work throughout the week. I’d like to see the one draw play because it looked like it had a chance to come out. He needs reps,” McCarthy said.
T.J. Lang might have scored points in his battle with first-round pick Derek Sherrod for the starting left guard job. Sherrod struggled in pass-protection. McCarthy said he’d need to see the tape of the game before he could evaluate Lang’s performance, but “it sounds like he played well,” the coach added.
You might even find some good news by reading into the coach’s comments concerning defensive end Mike Neal’s injured left knee.
After reiterating that Neal is “day to day,” McCarthy said: “We took the high side of caution on Mike and Clay (Matthews). If it had been a regular season game, it might’ve been different.”
There you go. Have a nice weekend, everyone.