The Packers held off the Cardinals 44-37, but not before Green Bay led 38-10 when it was starters vs. starters. The third preseason game is considered something of a dress rehearsal, but the key participants on that Friday night in Glendale, Ariz., had different viewpoints of what that matchup meant.
"I really watched it just to look at their personnel and just to watch our guys vs. theirs," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "But schematically, I don't put a lot of salt into the preseason. It's a different time, you're trying to accomplish different things. Just watching them play over the last four or five weeks has really been my focus just in the last couple days."
Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt echoed McCarthy's sentiments. The Packers' learning-on-the-fly defense attacked relentlessly in putting playbook concepts onto film against a Cardinals offense that didn't spend time preparing for coordinator Dom Capers' deep bag of tricks. It resulted in the Cardinals scoring 10 points in the first half but turning it over three times — including a fumble returned for a touchdown by Aaron Kampman.
"You go back and just look at it just to see where you were personnel-wise and how some of those things matched up," Whisenhunt said during a conference call with Packers beat reporters on Wednesday. "But I don't put too much stock in what happened in that game, just because we didn't really game plan and you're playing different players and we had a number of players that didn't play in that game and we had some turnovers. You have to give them credit. They played very well. But, once again, I think, not necessarily with this opponent, but with any opponent, we look at the last five or six games. That's where you really get a feel for what they're doing well and how you feel like they're going to attack you."
Game plan or no game plan, Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald was duly impressed. While the Arizona offense didn't prepare for the Green Bay defense, the Packers' offense didn't prepare for the Cardinals' defense yet scored four touchdowns, one field goal and missed a field goal in six first-half possessions.
"Oh, man, that was a whupping of epic proportions," Fitzgerald said in a conference call. "I mean, to get (38) put on you in the first half, that's just embarrassing as an NFL football team to allow that to happen. We weren't able to do enough on offense and that's just unacceptable. You saw the way they played in the preseason has carried over throughout the regular season, that's why they are 10-5 and locked up a playoff position. We know we have to play a lot better football than we did earlier this season."
Aaron Rodgers was practically flawless in his one half of action, completing 14-of-19 passes for 258 yards and three touchdowns. He acknowledges having confidence from that performance but knows this will be a bigger challenge this week. Defensive end Darnell Dockett and one-half of the secondary — safety Adrian Wilson and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie — were Pro Bowl selections.
"Hopefully, we're able to have the same kind of success and then that might turn into a situation where we could get some rest in the second half," Rodgers said. "But they're a very talented team. Obviously, the preseason is a little bit different. Scheming, you don't put a whole lot of time into the strategy of the game. They're going to have a very good game plan for us, they're playing very well on defense, they have three Pro Bowlers on defense, so it's going to be a tough challenge for us."
Thompson on injured reserve
Jeremy Thompson's season officially is over.
The Packers placed the outside linebacker on season-ending injured reserve and replaced him with practice squad defensive lineman Anthony Toribio.
The move wasn't a surprise. Thompson told Packer Report on Friday that he wouldn't be able to return to help the team in the playoffs. Three-and-a-half weeks ago, Thompson was taken to the hospital after suffering a neck injury at practice.
He continues to battle weakness in his right arm because of a nerve injury, and he's hoping rest and rehab will allow him to avoid surgery to remove a bulging disc that's pressing against the problematic nerve.
"I'm probably not ready to answer the question on Jeremy," McCarthy said. "There are tests that will continue to be done. There is no final decision on Jeremy. Everything has been positive to this point, and I'm hopeful and very optimistic that it will continue to go in that direction."
Toribio, a first-year player from Carson-Newman, was signed to the practice squad on Nov. 13, 2008, and spent the final two games of last season on the active roster — though he was a gameday inactive against Chicago and Detroit.
He'll provide depth for a defensive line that has been without Ryan Pickett (hamstring). He's mainly a nose tackle but could figure at end and play as a defensive tackle in nickel.
"We brought up Anthony Toribio to the 53-man roster because of the concern obviously with Ryan Pickett and now Michael Montgomery (ankle)," McCarthy said. "Anthony has been with us and he'll fit right in, won't miss a beat. It's exciting when you are able to bring up one of your own practice-squad guys, and we'll look for him to potentially contribute on Sunday."
Receiver Khalil Jones was signed to take Toribio's spot on the practice squad. He spent training camp with the Falcons. He caught 13 passes in four seasons and ran track for the Hurricanes.
Packers injury report
Out — S Derrick Martin (ankle). Did not participate — LB Nick Barnett (ill); LB Brandon Chillar (back); NT Ryan Pickett (hamstring). Limited participation — T Chad Clifton (knee); FB Korey Hall (elbow); DE Johnny Jolly (foot); DE Michael Montgomery (ankle); CB Charles Woodson (shoulder). Full participation — CB Trevor Ford (knee).
Barnett was sent home but should be OK for Sunday. Martin has what McCarthy called a "significant" ankle sprain. Even with Sunday's game being relatively meaningless, McCarthy said he'd give Pickett a chance to play.
"Really, Ryan's decision will be medical," McCarthy said. "That hasn't changed. It will be the same approach that we always have. Pat McKenzie, he'll make the final call on that. Also, Ryan has been here four years now. You have some history and so forth, but we'll give him a chance to get ready to play."
Cardinals injury report
Did not participate — S Antrel Rolle (thigh). Limited participation — DE Kenny Iwebema (head); FB Dan Kreider (neck); WR Sean Morey (head); TE Ben Patrick (head); K Neil Rackers (groin); CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (toe); RB Beanie Wells (groin). Full participation — LB Will Davis (knee); WR Larry Fitzgerald (elbow); CB Greg Toler (elbow).
— Sunday's game won't change the fact that the Packers will open the playoffs on the road. But McCarthy, echoing what he said on Monday, gave no indication that he'd treat this as a bye week.
"Our approach is going to be the same this week as it has been for the first 15," he said. "It's important for us to continue the way we have been playing the last seven weeks, and that's really the message to the football team. I'm sure it will be a message once you go into the locker room. We're not in this situation to back off. It's important for us to continue our style of play. Our approach this week will be the same that it has always been. I think routine in your preparation and your approach is a big part of your success, so we're going to go out there and our goal is to go to 11-5."
— Cornerback Charles Woodson won the Heisman Trophy at Michigan, and therefore is a Heisman voter. He said he voted for stud Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who will complete his collegiate career tonight against Arizona.
— Fitzgerald pointed out several times during his conference call that it was 70 and sunny in Arizona compared to about 20 in Green Bay. For instance, here's what he said about playing 12 games in a row without a bye: "We're professionals. We're dealing with the same things every other team in the NFL is, I mean, injuries and soreness and the end of the season fatigued. Everybody's dealing with that. I don't care where you are. At least we have the sun every day. We're not practicing inside the bubble and got to go home and drive through the snow every day. There's worst places we could be."
— Rather than being played in Hawaii the week after the Super Bowl, the Pro Bowl is being played in the Super Bowl city (Miami, this year) one week before the big game. "I definitely want to go to Miami, but want to be there the week after the Pro Bowl there," Rodgers said. "But I think you've got to take some pleasure in achieving the Pro Bowl nod because you realize you're being chosen not only by the fans but your peers and coaches, so that means a lot to me. But obviously I'd like to be playing the week after the Pro Bowl in Miami."
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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 email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.