Game Review: No. 1 Offense Puts On First-Half Display

It was going to be difficult for the Packers’ first offensive unit to top its production from the first two preseason games, but it found a way to do just that on Friday night at Arizona. - More Packers-Cardinals Game Center

GLENDALE, Ariz. - It was going to be difficult for the Packers' first offensive unit to top its production from the first two preseason games, but it found a way to do just that on Friday night at Arizona.

The No. 1 offense scored 31 points on its six first-half possessions and the Packers held on for a 44-37 victory over the Arizona Cardinals in front of 61,753 at University of Phoenix Stadium to improve to 3-0 on the preseason.

Leading the charge for the offense once again was quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who continued his impressive preseason play by completing 14-of-19 passes for 258 yards, three touchdowns and a 155.2 quarterback rating in a half of play as the Packers rushed out to a 38-10 lead at the break.

"I thought we were great tonight," Rodgers said. "Three games, no punts for the first team, 31 points tonight. Again, I'll say that the line was great. I rarely got touched. In the run game, I thought we opened some holes up and then it's just pitch and catch out there and guys made plays."

With four touchdowns and a field goal on their six series Friday night, the No. 1 offense has now scored nine touchdowns and a field goal for a jaw-dropping 66 points on 12 preseason possessions. The only series the Packers did not score on in the first half came when Mason Crosby missed a 29-yard field goal in the second quarter.

The first offense has not had to punt in the preseason and the No. 1 offensive line has yet to yield a sack of Rodgers, who has connected on 27-of-38 attempts for 458 yards, six touchdowns, no interceptions and a 151.1 quarterback rating in the three preseason games.

"He knows that he has to be the one that leads this team," wide receiver Donald Driver said. "If he doesn't do it, then we can't ride anyone else. We have to ride his back and right now we are riding it.

"He's been exciting to watch. It's crazy, when you go out there and see this guy execute the way he has done, I guess you could go back to mini-camps and training camp and OTAs, this guy has made plays in those practices and it's showing on the field."

It showed from the beginning on Friday night, with Rodgers leading the offense on a seven-play, 78-yard scoring drive capped off by a 3-yard TD run from fullback John Kuhn on the opening series of the game.

Leading 10-3 early in the second quarter, Rodgers started producing with the long ball, first connecting on a 55-yard pass down the middle to Driver to the Arizona 9. Driver was able to hang on despite being interfered with by safety Antrel Rolle. Two plays later Rodgers found tight end Jermichael Finley in the back of the end zone to push Green Bay's lead to 17-3.

Later in the second quarter, the offense struck even quicker. On the first play of the series, Rodgers sold a play-action fake to running back Tyrell Sutton and found wide receiver Jordy Nelson wide open deep down the middle of the field for a 76-yard score and a 31-10 lead.

But the offense still wasn't done. Safety Anthony Smith picked off quarterback Kurt Warner's deep pass intended for wide receiver Jerheme Urban at the Arizona 49 and returned it 38 yards all the way down to the Cardinals' 11-yard line with just seven seconds remaining in the half to give the offense one more opportunity.

Rodgers needed only one play, finding Finley again on a back-shoulder throw for the 11-yard score and a 38-10 lead at the break.

"It's exciting, it really is," said Rodgers, who completed passes to eight different receivers on Friday night. "To have the defense playing the way they are playing and then offensively to go out there and score points and capitalize on mistakes. People are going to say it is preseason and we've been downplaying it a little bit, but this is the dress rehearsal for the whole season. To be able to go out and play the way we did today, you can't help but be excited in Packer Nation.

"The kind of weapons we have, to see Greg (Jennings) go down in the first quarter and to plug Jordy in there and him have a 78-yard touchdown. James Jones made some big catches and had a touchdown there called back. Jermichael Finley has obviously been a weapon for us all preseason. I'm excited."

Smith's takeaway was one of three in the first half as the first defensive unit continued its impressive run of takeaways in the preseason. Green Bay now has forced 13 turnovers in three games after posting four more on Friday night.

After not allowing any points in the opening two games, the No. 1 defense did finally see its preseason shutout streak come to an end, allowing 10 points and 204 yards of offense in the first half to one of the most potent offenses in the NFL.

{sportsad300}Warner completed 10-of-16 passes for 139 yards, with Pro Bowl wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald doing most of the damage as he caught three passes for 75 yards. The No. 1 defense did sack Warner twice, including a sack/forced fumble by Charles Woodson that linebacker Aaron Kampman returned for a 24-yard touchdown.

Green Bay's second units did not fare as well in the second half as Arizona scored 27 unanswered points.

Cardinals backup quarterback Matt Leinart led the comeback by connecting on 24-of-38 passes for 360 yards and three scores.

After Leinart found running back Jason Wright for an 11-yard touchdown to narrow Green Bay's lead to 38-37 with a little more than 30 seconds remaining, the Cardinals elected to go for the win. Leinart's pass intended for wide receiver Early Doucet for the two-point conversion in the back corner of the end zone went off of Doucet's fingertips.

Arizona then attempted an onside kick, but wide receiver Ruvell Martin ran up to field it and returned the kick 39 yards for a touchdown to seal the victory.

"We can definitely learn from some of the things that went on here at the end of the game," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "We had a chance to end the game twice and we did not. I can promise you one thing, we'll learn from that as a football team.

"I thought we were impressive in the first half as a football team. I thought the special teams did a very good job with the field position. I thought the offense was sharp (with) the point production that they were able to generate, defense with the takeaways once again."

With the starters expected to play sparingly in the preseason finale at Tennessee next Thursday, Friday night's game at Arizona was crucial as the Packers looked to build on the success they had in the opening two games.

"We just felt like we had to execute," Driver said. "Last year we felt like we didn't play that well in the preseason and it kind of went on into the regular season. But we feel like now we are playing well and everybody has confidence in one another."

"(Coach McCarthy) told us before the game that we were going to have to go out there and play. This was going to be our biggest test, and we felt that we had pressure on our backs. We had to go out there and play, and we always say that the only team that can beat us is ourselves, and we proved that today."

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