THE WEEK PAST: To be fair, the Packers' offensive effort against Arizona was entirely adequate - and, on occasion, swiftly lethal - but the defensive performance bordered on the extraordinary.
Coordinator Ed Donatell's quick-striking marauders, remarkably tightfisted, sacked Cardinals quarterbacks seven times and smothered Arizona's ground game, limiting the Big Red to a lone (one) yard rushing over the first three quarters.
The relentless defenders complimented its bristling pass rush by intercepting three Cardinal throws, recovering two Arizona fumbles and garnishing the performance by scoring a third-quarter safety.
After the Packers had mounted a "safe" 29-7 lead, defensive reserves permitted the Cardinals a pair of consolation touchdowns in the fourth quarter - the second of them with only one minute remaining in the game.
So substantial was the Packers' overall dominance that, despite substituting liberally, they controlled the football for 26 minutes, 11 seconds to the Cards' 18:47 over the first three quarters.
Brett Favre, provided with a more extensive opportunity than in the preseason opener at Philadelphia week earlier, guided the Packers to a 13-7 lead before retiring for the evening with 1:25 remaining in the first half.
Favre's 21-yard scoring strike to Donald Driver in the heart of the Arizona end zone sent the Green and Gold ahead to stay, 10-7, in the final minute of the first quarter. He followed that effort by putting together a 61-yard drive culminated by a 25-yard Ryan Longwell field goal on Green Bay's next possession.
With Doug Pederson moving in under center in the third quarter, the Packers went on to score 18 more points in succession before permitting those two harmless fourth quarter scores by the Cardinals.
Pederson triggered this productive stretch, finding a temptingly "lonely" Charles Lee open down the left sideline. The latter gathered in the football and streaked the distance untouched for a 39-yard TD.
The safety next was recorded when offensive tackle Steve Warren sacked Cardinals quarterback Josh McCown, for a 14-yard loss, forcing a fumble that McCown recovered in the end zone - before being tackled by the persistent Warren for the safety.
Second-year linebacker Torrance Marshall concluded the third-quarter point-fest by alertly pulling in a deflection off the helmet of teammate Aaron Fields and racing 18 yards into the end zone before the Cardinals were aware of what had transpired. Longwell's conversion provided Green Bay's final point, padding the lead to 29-7.
In the productive process, Pederson enjoyed a textbook performance, closing it out with a lofty 121.4 quarterback rating, based on 10 completions in 14 passing attempts for 121 yards and a touchdown - without an interception.
Favre also put up creditable numbers, completing 9 of 17 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown, also without an interception.
Rookie quarterback Craig Nall, entering the contest in the closing seconds of the third quarter, completed one of his 8 passes for 24 yards while finishing the game.
The trio distributed the football among eight receivers overall, Driver emerging with a team-leading 5 catches for 73 yards, first-round draft choice Javon Walker and rookie running back Tony Fisher of Notre Dame following with 4 apiece, Walker finishing the evening with a team-high 79 yards.
Meanwhile, with respect to the suddenly populous "sack set," it was a matter of share-and-share-alike, each of seven different players recording one of the whopping total - Hardy Nickerson, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, Vonnie Holliday, Billy Lyon, Jared Tomich, Steve Warren and rookie Aaron Kampman.
GM/HEAD COACH MIKE SHERMAN'S POST-GAME COMMENTS:
(on the defense): "I was real proud of our defense. I thought we continued to put pressure on the quarterback...caused five turnovers. We were able to flush the quarterback with a four-man rush...as well as when we also brought a sixth man. I was pleased with our defensive effort. I thought they did a fine job.
"I was disappointed on the sudden change on the turnover at the 20 (on an Ahman Green fumble on the game's opening series) when we allowed them to score that touchdown. But other than that, I thought they played very well."
(on the receivers) "I thought Donald Driver stepped up and made some plays...as did Charles Lee...And (Javon) Walker had a pass...which was a crossing pattern - it was thrown a little bit behind him. I would have liked for him to catch that. He had a couple there that he should have caught, possibly. Then he came back in the second half and made some nice catches to get back on board again.
"So, yeah, I was pleased with the receivers overall. I thought they did a nice job."
(on the punt return game): "I thought Darrien (Gordon) did a nice job when called upon. The first one was tough - he didn't get a lot of blocking on that. The gunner was right there on top of him. But the second and third ones he had some pretty nice returns (19 and 23 yards) - did a nice job. Made someone miss him - and that's what you need to do in order to be a good return man."
(on whether 'two straight good games' by Rondell Mealey and Tony Fisher made him feel comfortable about the depth at running back) "Not totally...I think they're catching the ball extremely well - particularly Fisher. He made a couple of great catches out of the backfield - on a swing pass down the sideline...But, no, I don't think it's cleared up at all. I think we have to continue to work them, let this thing play out and see where they are at the end of the preseason. But that will be a work in progress the entire preseason, in my mind."
(on what 'adjustments' had been made because of the Arizona heat) "We didn't make any adjustments, really. I mean the heat was equally hot was on their side of the field as well. And, you know, it's just part of life in the National Football League and our players understand that. You know, we have to play four of our first six (regular season) games on the road - that's what the league says we have to do and we have to do that. We have to play in Arizona in the summer time, that's what we have to and we hopefully have to be successful doing it.
"I think it's just one of the many challenges you have to face. We don't make a whole lot of excuses about it or cry or moan about it because no one's going to listen to us. So..."
(overall) "We had too many penalties. I know it's preseason, but we've got to be more disciplined.
"I was very pleased with how aggressive we've been on defense. I think that after that first drive, we really outplayed them defensively.
"Offensively, I thought we moved the ball well, but we have to put it in the end zone."
THE PLAYER PERSPECTIVE:
Vonnie Holliday: "I'm just very excited about this team. We had a couple of key pickups in the offseason in Joe Johnson and Hardy Nickerson, and those guys fly around with energy. I am just looking forward to the regular season.
"The defensive line - we played electric tonight. After losing Santana Dotson, it was a good sign the way the guys stepped up tonight.
"We got excellent penetration. We kept them off balance and we worked well as a unit...I think we set the pace for the rest of the defense.
"(Personally) it felt good to get a hit on the quarterback...(and) the fumble recovery was big."
(on the overall defensive performance) "I thought Arizona came out with a great game plan. They went with a lot of play-action passes and a lot of running, so it kind of caught us off guard. I know myself, I was rusty. It was the first time I had live action in a while. I thought we settled down and came back the next series. Unfortunately, we had a turnover on the 20-yard line and they had a short amount of distance to go for a touchdown. We don't want to give them those on sudden change, but it happens, so it is another part of the game we have to work on."
Quarterback Brett Favre: (on the play of rookie wideout Javon Walker) "He's going to be fine. This is his second game as a pro football player. He's running good routes and eager to play well. He'll be fine."
(on the touchdown pass to Donald Driver) "The play was designed to go to the other side and we had a mixup in routes, so I scrambled around and Donald did a good job of staying alive and getting open."
Rookie tackle Kevin Barry: (on his first extensive playing time, relieving starter Mark Tauscher at right tackle) "I played three-and-a half-quarters...He (Tauscher) let me know ahead of time what was going on...like if their guy was doing a certain thing - he'd tell me about that before I went out there...And, during the game, he'd let me know how I was doing."
(on his performance) "I made a few mistakes...just little things I can correct...But I felt I played a pretty good game."
Safety Matt Bowen: (on starting in place of the injured Antuan Edwards) "I'll have to watch the tape and see some things. I felt good, but there are some things I need to work on. I made some mental mistakes that you can't afford to do...But it was a good experience.
"I think every safety should be like Darren Sharper...I'll tell you right now - I've been watching football a long time in my life and I haven't seen one better than Darren Sharper. It's good to have him on your own team. You can learn a lot by just watching him. He's a great player to be around."
Wide receiver Donald Driver: (on his scoring reception) "That is one thing we had to do from last week - come in and connect...We had to come in here and work hard. The offense looked real good, and the defense - well, you could tell - we shut them down."
(on his overall performance) "Everybody is human...people drop balls and I feel like I had to make myself better (in the wake of a 'drop' in the Eagles game). Last week in practice, I decided that I wasn't going to drop any and I came out today and had a great day."
Wide receiver Charles Lee: (another touchdown pass recipient against Arizona, on whether he feels the need "to show something") "Not really. You know, the coaching staff and the people upstairs, they're aware of my talents and what I can do. The only thing for me, I think, is just to keep going out and trying to improve, day in and day out. Each day, I try to take a different phase of the game and focus more on that. And that just helps me get along and, you know, just helps me work a little harder."
-Saturday night's victory was the Packers' 12th in 17 preseason meetings with the Cardinals, dating back to 1950 when the Cardinal franchise was located in Chicago.
-A Record? It is possible that the 105-degree temperature at Sun Devil Stadium Saturday night was the highest kickoff temperature for a game in Packers history, although there is no such recognized record. As far as can be determined, the highest previous kickoff temperature they have experienced in the past quarter-century was the 104-degree reading for the kickoff of their September 24, 1978 game against the Chargers in San Diego.
-Familiar 'Figure:' The Packers have scored 29 points in each of their last two appearances in Sun Devil Stadium. In their most recent visit, prior to Saturday night, they scored a 29-3 victory over the Cardinals in their regular season encounter on September 24, 2000.
-On the latter occasion, placekicker Ryan Longwell tied a club record by kicking five field goals. Saturday night, he again showed good early foot, booting a pair of field goals in the first half - but then had no opportunities in the second half.
-Longwell, incidentally, earned high marks from special teams coach Frank Novak for the "upcurve" in his kickoffs. Novak, assessing efforts which saw Longwell average 68.3 yards for 6 kickoffs - all of them carrying inside the 5-yard line with entirely acceptable hang time, a "good" performance.
-Fellow specialist Josh Bidwell also had a productive evening, averaging a highly respectable 48.5 yards for 8 punts, with a 40.5-yard net.
-Because of injury concerns, the Packers opened with four changes in the starting lineups - Charles Lee for Robert Ferguson and Donald Driver for Terry Glenn at wide receiver, Paris Lenon for Nate Wayne at weak side linebacker and Matt Bowen for Antuan Edwards at strong safety.
-The defense made life particularly unpleasant for the Cardinals offense and starting quarterback Jake Plummer on his final series of the evening, early in the second quarter. On first down, linebacker Na'il Diggs burst through to throw David Boston for a 9-yard loss on a potential reverse, after which fellow linebacker Hardy Nickerson shot into the Arizona backfield to sack Plummer for a 3-yard loss on second down, after which Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila swept through to sack Plummer for a 4-yard loss.
-Individually, Torrance Marshall had a large evening. In addition to his interception runback for a touchdown, he paced the team in total tackles with five - all solo, with three on defense and two on special teams. One of the latter also saw him storm down field to hurl Arizona punt returner Arnold Jackson for a 5-yard loss in the final minute of the first half.
-Reserve cornerback Hurley Tarver also made an impact, posting two of the Packers' three interceptions. Tarver made his first pick of the evening on the final play of the first half, waylaying a throw from quarterback Chris Greisen - a Sturgeon Bay, Wis., native - at the Green Bay 28-yard line. He recorded his second theft late in the third quarter, picking off a Josh McNown aerial at the Arizona 42.
-Greisen, a fourth year professional, completed 4 of 13 passes for 61 yards, with one interception, during his second quarter stint.
-Rookie Tony Fisher and third-year pro Rondell Mealey, leading candidates to claim the backup role behind Ahman Green at running back, are running one-two statistically in team rushing after the first two preseason games. Fisher has gained 75 yards in 13 attempts, a 5.8-yard average, Mealey 71 in 19 carries, a 3.7 average. Mealey aided his cause by leading the Packers' rushing attack against the Cardinals, picking up 41 yards in 8 attempts, a 5.1-yard average.
-Fisher also is tied for second place in receiving with 5 catches for 46 yards, a 9.2-yard average, and has averaged 22.3 yards ford 3 kickoff returns.
-With four catches against Arizona, rookie Javon Walker became the team's leading receiver with 6 catches for 96 yards, a 16.0-yard average.
-Running back Ki-Jana Carter, previously slowed by injury, made his preseason debut in the third quarter and went on to close out the evening with 12 yards in 4 attempts, a 3.0-yard average.
-For the second game in a row, Frank Winters (offense), Hardy Nickerson (defense) and Rob Davis (special teams) served as Green Bay's "toss" captains.
-Sunday was moving day for Packers players. They checked out of their St. Norbert College dormitory rooms and moved into other quarters.