Packers-Cardinals Preview


Rebounding with authority from an opening day misadventure to square their record at 1-1, Green Bay's resurgent Packers next hit the road for the first time in the new season, invading Sun Devil Stadium in Phoenix Sunday to take on the Arizona Cardinals (0-2).

Kickoff for the contest is 3:05, CDT (Wisconsin time).

Striking for a pair of first-quarter touchdowns and coupling an explosive ground game with a smothering defense on a soggy, rain-soaked field, the Packers led all the way en route to a 31-6 victory over Detroit's visiting Lions Sunday, thus posting their first win in fully renovated Lambeau Field after losing their home opener to Minnesota there a week earlier.

The victory, which finds them a game back of the Vikings (2-0) and in a tie with the Lions for second place in the NFC North Division, likewise ended a two-game losing streak in "Lambeau" for the Packers.

It also padded their imposing home-field record under GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman to 22-4 over the past three-plus seasons.

Sunday's success also was the Packers' 13th straight win over Detroit on Wisconsin soil, a streak that extends back to 1992 and includes their 16-12 playoff victory over the Lions in January of 1995.

THE TV-RADIO COVERAGE: Kenny Albert will call the play-by-play and Brian Baldinger will handle the analysis for the Fox Sports Network's telecast of Sunday's game against the Cardinals. Pete Macheska is the producer and Mike Frank directs.

The game also will be aired over the 62-station Packers Radio Network, with Wayne Larrivee handling the play-by-play and Larry McCarren the commentary and analysis. The Network's broadcast also will be available on for NFL Field Pass subscribers.

THE SHERMAN FILE: Sunday's victory gives Mike Sherman a 34-16 won-lost record for his first 50 regular-season games as Green Bay's head coach. It is second in Packers history only to Vince Lombardi's 37-13-0 record for his first 50 contests in that role. Team founder Earl "Curly" Lambeau is next up with a 29-16-5 mark for his first 50.

With Sunday's win, Sherman also owns a 4-0 home record against Detroit in "Lambeau." Overall, he is 6-1 against the Lions and 15-5 against the NFC Central/North Division from the career perspective.

THE SERIES: Despite the fact that they see each other only infrequently, being in different divisions of the NFL, the Packers' series with the Cardinals equals in longevity the Green and Gold's more celebrated rivalry with the Chicago Bears.

Both series were spawned in 1921, the year the Packers entered the National Football League, then only in its second year of existence. However, the Green and Gold have collided with the Bears 164 times in the interim but, in contrast, will be meeting the Redbirds for only the 67th time - and for the first time since the 2000 season.

Competitively, the Packers own a substantial, 20-game advantage, having won 41 of the 66 contests played to date against the Big Red. The Cardinals have won 21 and there have been 4 ties, the most recent of the latter a 16-16 standoff played at St. Louis in 1971 when the Cardinals were based in the Missouri Metropolis.

The principals in Sunday's desert matchup also have met once in postseason competition, the Packers emerging with a 41-16 victory in their Super Bowl Tournament contest on Jan. 8, 1983. The 41 points the Packers scored on that occasion remain a team postseason record.

The Packers and Cardinals also have squared off 20 times in preseason play, most recently in 2000 when the Green and Gold departed Phoenix with a 29-21 win. The Packers have compiled a 14-6 record in those encounters.

SHARED HISTORY: The Packers and Cardinals share a modicum of head-coaching history. Earl "Curly" Lambeau, who founded the Packers in 1919 and captained and/or coached them for 30 years prior to resigning after the 1949 season, also served as head coach of the Cardinals for two years (1950-51), likewise serving as vice president and general manager during that span.

The Packers and Cardinals, taking advantage of the built-in opportunity, played preseason games against each other in both '50 and '51 with Lambeau returning to prowl the sideline at old City Stadium as the leader of the Big Red, and Green Bay prevailed in both contests by identical 17-14 scores.

THE COACHES: Invariably positive, highly consistent and meticulously prepared, Michael Francis Sherman presided over more victories in his first three seasons (33) than any other head coach in the Packers' 84-year annals - more than team founder Earl "Curly" Lambeau, more than the storied Vince Lombardi and more than Mike Holmgren - the other winning head coaches in the history of professional football's most successful franchise.

In that highly productive three-year span (2000-2002), Sherman also proceeded to entrench himself in what have become substantially expanded responsibilities (he added executive vice president and general manager to his résumé after one season as head coach) while escorting Green Bay to three consecutive winning seasons and - in 2002 - to its first division championship since 1997 en route to a second consecutive playoff appearance, earning Sherman Staples 'Coach of the Year' honors for the '02 season.

Shouldering the additional duties with typically total commitment, and literally without missing a step, Sherman led the Packers to back-to-back 12-4 records in 2001 and 2002, the Green and Gold thus becoming the winningest team in the league over that two-year span (24-8). The 12-4 marks have been exceeded by only four teams in the club's 82-year NFL history and the 12-12 parlay was only the second such coupling in team annals (12 or more victories, back-to-back).

In the overall process, the 48-year-old Northborough, Mass., native also has rivaled the regular-season accomplishments of the fabled Lombardi over a comparable span, compiling a 33-15-0 mark in his first three seasons (16-game campaigns) compared to Lombardi's 26-12-0 over a similar stretch (two 12-game seasons and one 14-game campaign) while he served as the Packers' head coach and general manager (1959-61).

Additionally, Sherman equaled another Lombardi accomplishment by leading the Packers into the playoffs in only his second season (2001) at the controls.

En route, he has made Lambeau Field a largely uncomfortable place for NFL rivals to visit. Since he established residence at 1265 Lombardi Avenue in 2000, the Green and Gold have forged an imposing 22-4 record in "Lambeau" under his leadership - the best regular-season record in the NFL during that span - including the league's only perfect home record (8-0) in 2002.

The first man in a half-century to take on his tri-cornered role - since Lambeau functioned as vice president, general manager and head coach in 1949 - Sherman brings multiple credentials to his responsibilities. They include a Super Bowl following the 1997 season, during which he was a member of the Holmgren coaching staff that led the Packers into Super Bowl XXXII against the Denver Broncos at San Diego.

It was to be the first of three consecutive years in the playoffs for Sherman, who returned to the postseason with the Packers in 1998 and as the offensive coordinator on Holmgren's Seattle staff in 1999.

Now in his 26th year in the coaching profession, the Central Connecticut State University alumnus began his coaching career at Stamford, Conn., High School in 1978. He went on to coach in the college ranks for 16 years, including one year as offensive coordinator at Holy Cross and terms as offensive line coach at such highly respected programs as UCLA and Texas A&M.

Dave McGinnis, one of the league's premier defensive gurus, is in his fourth full season as head coach of the Cardinals after serving as the team's interim coach for the final nine games of the 2000 season and as defensive coordinator since 1996.

Prior to joining Arizona in 1996, McGinnis spent 10 seasons (1986-95) as linebackers coach of the Chicago Bears. During his decade with the Monsters of the Midway, Chicago played in nine playoff games and the defense ranked among the top six teams in fewest yards allowed seven times. McGinnis was part of a defensive staff that led the NFL in fewest points allowed in 1986 and 1988 and ranked first in total defense from 1986-88.

In addition, the 52-year old McGinnis coached Pro Bowl players at all three linebacker positions - outside linebackers Otis Wilson and Wilber Marshall and middle linebacker Mike Singletary, a 1998 Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinee who made the Pro Bowl every season under McGinnis' tutelage.

Prior to joining the Bears, McGinnis spent 13 years coaching at the major college level, including two hitches at his alma mater, Texas Christian University, where he had earned academic All-Southwest Conference honors twice (1971-72) and a bachelor's degree in business administration.

THE LAST TIME: The bare statistics eloquently tell the story of the Packers' last visit to Phoenix and Sun Devil Stadium - on Sept. 18, 2000, a day on which the Green and Gold weathered the sultry high-80s temperatures to dominate the Cardinals, 29-3, before the Big Red's first sellout crowd of the season (71,801).

Stepping out to a 17-0 halftime lead, the Packers had their way on both sides of the football, amassing a season-high 455 yards of offense to the Cardinals' 209, running off 69 offensive plays to Arizona's 57 and controlling the football for 36 minutes, 28 seconds to their hosts' 23 minutes and 32 seconds.

Placekicker Ryan Longwell was a major contributor to his resounding success, kicking five field goals in as many attempts - thus tying a club record - and adding a brace of extra points.

The defense, meanwhile, was stifling Cardinals quarterback Jake "The Snake" Plummer and the Arizona offense, holding them to a modest 28 yards rushing en route.

Coordinator Ed Donatell's larcenous defenders also intercepted Plummer four times along the way, free safety Darren Sharper making two of the "picks" and strong safety LeRoy Butler and right cornerback Tyrone Williams harvesting the others.

Quarterback Brett Favre, liberally spreading the football around, completed 17 of 31 passes to nine different receivers for 277 yards and one touchdown - a 55-yard second quarter bomb to Bill Schroeder - without an interception.

Offensive coordinator Tom Rossley also made productive use of running back Ahman Green as a changeup to starter Dorsey Levens - so productive that Green emerged with 142 all-purpose yards - 93 in 12 rushing attempts, including a 19-yard sortie for the Packers' first touchdown in the opening quarter, and 2 receptions for 49 yards.

THE INJURY REPORT: GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman, addressing the status of wide receiver Donald Driver, who suffered a neck strain in the Packers' season opener against Minnesota (Sept. 8), said Driver is likely to be listed as "questionable or doubtful" for Sunday's game against the Cardinals and as "probable" for the following game against the Chicago Bears Monday night (Sept. 29).

Sherman also confirmed that wide receiver Robert Ferguson's ailing ankle had held up well in the Detroit game but that he had "tweaked his MCL and is not as good as he was going into the game. But, hopefully, he will be able to make some comeback this week and be able to play again."

Linebacker Na'il Diggs, the Packers coach reported, "sprained his MCL," adding, "We don't think it's too significant. We're going to do an MRI just to check on it - just to make sure. He'll be listed as probable this week, more than likely."

THE (NFL) STATISTICAL UPDATE: Running back Ahman Green made a substantial impact upon the official NFL and NFC statistical rankings with his resounding performance against he Detroit Lions Sunday.

Green's 160 yards rushing represent a season high for the National Football Conference and his 65-yard scoring run on the second play of the game was the longest of the young season in the NFC.

Green's 275 yards from scrimmage (including 62 receiving) also are the third-most in the conference.

In addition, the Packers' three-time 1,000-yard rusher also leads the NFL in the production of first downs with 17 (12 rushing and 5 receiving) and is tied with Seattle's Shaun Alexander for the conference lead in non-kicker scoring with 18 points.

Quarterback Brett Favre ranks 10th in the NFC's fourth quarter passing with an 83.4 rating, based upon 12 completions in 19 attempts for 151 yards and one touchdown, with one interception.

Placekicker Ryan Longwell is tied for 10th place in kicker scoring with 12 points, punter Josh Bidwell ranks seventh in net punting average with a 36.8-yard average for 9 punts and Antonio Chatman stands 11th in kickoff returns with a 23.4 yard average for 10 runbacks.

From the team perspective, the Packers rank 16th on offense (10th in rushing and tied for 22nd in passing) and 19th on defense (21st against the run and 17th against the pass).

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