With a season-opening showdown the following Thursday at Seattle, the Packers almost certainly will keep the bulk of their key players on the sideline against the Chiefs.
Thus, the rallying cry coming from the victorious Packers’ locker room on Friday night might as well have been, “Ready or not, here we come.”
The Packers believe they’re ready.
“I feel good about where our starters are coming out of this game tonight,” coach Mike McCarthy said after his team rolled to a 22-7 halftime lead en route to a 31-21 victory over the Raiders.
That’s a strong statement because McCarthy wasn’t happy with the state of his team entering the 2012 and 2013 seasons.
Offensively, the No. 1 unit has scored five times (four touchdowns, one field goal) in eight possessions operated by Aaron Rodgers. Against the Raiders, Green Bay struggled at times but still scored three touchdowns in six drives.
“I think we're ready,” Rodgers said. “I think it's been a good preseason. We scored some points, moved the ball. We saw what we wanted to see out of our skill players and the offensive line. We have 13 days to the game.”
Rodgers and McCarthy both pointed to the play count as a positive. In six possessions, Rodgers and Co. ran 39 plays. Had Rodgers played one more series in the half and had a drive of, say, six plays, that would have put the Packers at 45 for the half – or on pace for a whopping 90 for the game. For context, Denver led the league last season with 72.3 plays per game while Green Bay was 11th with 67.1 plays per game.
By McCarthy’s full-speed-ahead logic, the more the merrier. The more passes thrown by Rodgers, the more balls thrown toward Jordy Nelson or Randall Cobb, the more handoffs to Eddie Lacy, the more opportunities for big plays.
“Man, they looked goooooood,” said former Packers receiver James Jones, who watched Rodgers’ full-throttle approach while in a Raiders uniform on Friday. “They looked like they were in midseason form. A-Rod is the man in that offense. They’re doing a lot of quick games, giving the receivers a chance to get the ball in their hands, make some plays for Aaron, but they looked good. They looked real explosive. They’re going to put that pressure on defenses to line up and be able to get in the right coverage to stop A-Rod.”
Added another former Packers stalwart, Raiders safety Charles Woodson: “The no-huddle is a beast.”
Defensively, the No. 1 unit has allowed two touchdowns. One of those came on Friday night – a 40-yard touchdown run by Maurice Jones-Drew in which three defenders were in position to make the play. The next four possessions ended in three-and-out punts and netted 0 yards. The fifth drive, with mostly starters in the game, netted 29 yards on two penalties but ended in a punt. The sixth drive, with mostly backups on the field, ended in a sack and forced fumble by Nick Perry.
“I think our No. 1 defense, they had the one big play that they gave up but, other than that, I think we dominated the line of scrimmage,” McCarthy said. “Three-and-outs speak for themselves. I was very pleased with the first unit.”
Other than Jones-Drew’s run, the Raiders accomplished almost nothing on offense. Starting quarterback Matt Schaub went 13-of-27 for 110 yards and a passer rating of 59.2. He was sacked twice and faced steady pressure. The second-longest run of the night went for just 6 yards.
“Yeah, for the most part,” linebacker A.J. Hawk said when asked if the defense is ready for the Seahawks. “We don’t want to give up that touchdown like we did today but you’ve got to give Maurice Jones-Drew credit; he made a couple people miss. There are different things that you want to hit on your checklist as a defense, (and) hopefully we’ve hit most of those and hopefully done all we can to get there. We still have 13 days left to really get ready so we’re going to use that to our advantage.”
The Packers’ preseason defensive success has come with plenty of stuff kept in mothballs for the preseason games. The hope is those defensive wrinkles, the addition of Julius Peppers and a healthy Casey Hayward will provide a defense that will help win games.
“I’m not going to say make a statement, but we know what we’re capable of doing,” cornerback Tramon Williams said.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com, and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.