The Green Bay Packers hung on for a 44-37 preseason win over the defending NFC Champion Arizona Cardinals last night in Phoenix, but that really doesn’t begin to tell the story.
A friend turned to me this morning and asked, “Do you ever remember a preseason when the Packers looked this good?” The answer is no. The Packers went 4-0 in the preseason in 1999, but that team wasn’t very good – it was Ray Rhodes’ team.
I think the last time a Green Bay Packers team looked this good in the preseason might have been when the roster was filled with guys with names like White, Butler, Freeman, Brooks, Levans, Jackson, Brown, Howard and Favre.
I’m not one to put the cart before the horse, but this Packers’ team has the potential to be great.
The Packers’ starting units ended the half up 38-10 on the Cardinals.
The Packers’ offense rolled over the Cardinals’ defense, with both the air and ground games hitting on all cylinders.
Aaron Rodgers was locked in, again, going 14-of-19 for 258 yards, 3 touchdowns and a 155.2 passer rating. More impressive was Rodgers’ precision on the deep ball. He hit on passes of 25, 32, 55 and 76 to four different receivers. Most of this was done without Greg Jennings, who went down on his first reception with a concussion. Thankfully, Jennings is fine.
Meanwhile, Rodgers looks like he might be the best quarterback in football. Rodgers is 27-of-38 for 458 yards, 6 touchdowns, 0 interceptions and a passer rating of 151.1 this preseason. Fuck Brett Favre.
A few other telling stats about the Packers offense: they outgained the Cardinals’ starters 357 to 204 yards in the first half. The Packers’ first team hasn’t punted once this entire preseason.
And so, the defense.
Although they didn’t have an answer for Larry Fitzgerald (5 catches, 75 yards) – probably the best receiver in football – and they gave up some yards, the Packers’ starters continued to force turnovers. The Packers recovered two fumbles, the second of which Aaron Kampman returned for a touchdown, and Anthony Smith had a big interception return to set up a score.
Charles Woodson, who would force three fumbles on the night, recover one and record two sacks, wreaked havoc on Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner. The Packers consistently pressured Warner, who has one of the NFL’s quickest releases, with blitzes from all angles.
Comparing this year’s Packers’ defense and last year’s looks like night and day. The Packers’ complete inability to pressure opposing quarterbacks last season hurt them on numerous occasions. It’s clear that won’t happen this season.
The only question mark I have about the Packers right now is kicker Mason Crosby, who missed field goals from 29 and 48 yards. ESPN’s Kevin Seifert points out that the Packers’ usual holder, Matt Flynn, didn’t play, and that may have contributed to Crosby’s problems. Still, Crosby was less than stellar last season, so performances like these raise a red flag.
Despite that blip on the radar, the Journal Sentinel’s Bob McGinn reports that NFL scouts are impressed with the Packers.
“Is it possible to peak this early?” a personnel director for another NFL team said at halftime. “They are one of the best teams I’ve seen. Very consistent. Very disciplined. Very detailed.”
A personnel director for another club was asked if Green Bay was among the top clubs he has watched.
“The answer is ‘yes,’ ” the scout replied. “It’s not the regular season, but people do treat the third preseason game to a degree as the final tuneup. They are executing on offense both run and pass.”
The games don’t count for another two weeks, but I think it’s safe to say there’s a lot to look forward to in Green Bay this season.