In what was one of the most impressive displays of preseason football this year, sack-less Aaron Rodgers once again led the Green Bay Packers to a heralded win in a sold-out game, 44-37 over the Arizona Cardinals, a win that is sure to impress NFL fans of all makes, regardless of team loyalty.
Immediately eliciting excitement from the fans of the green and gold, Rodgers executed a 78-yard drive to promising second year wide receiver Jordy Nelson that was finalized with a three-yard carry by fullback John Kuhn, complete with a promise of intense action to come in the nearing minutes.
Like a starving dog desperate for scraps, the Pack gobbled up the mistakes and shortcomings of the Cardinals, scoring off a recovered fumble as well as picking off a pass from Kurt Warner and reaffirming their 1994 decision to release him from Packer training camp as a free agent.
Battling against last year’s Super Bowl runner-up, the Cardinals, the edge-of-your-seat display that the Pack put on in the first half was exhilarating.
For an idea of how well he performed, consider that Rodger’s quarterback rating from last year was an impressive 93.8; he put up an astounding mark of 151.1 in the first half against the Cards. That, no one can scoff at.
Hurling balls with the accuracy of a threaded needle, his performance surely soothed any remaining fears General Manager Ted Thompson may have had when fully standing behind the long-preserved replacement of the iconic Brett Favre.
Defying the statistically-backed ranking at the end of last year’s season as the second most-accurate quarterback in NFL history, Arizona first string Kurt Warner was replaced by previous starter Matt Leinart in the second half to rally his team.
In an inspiring presentation of enthusiasm, Leinart brought the Cardinal fans to their feet, closing the fawning gap that the Packers had forged in the first 30 minutes of the game.
The Cardinals, who surprisingly became an NFL powerhouse last season, dominated the second half, finally revealing the potent offense that propelled them last year and has emerged slowly in this year’s preseason.
Bringing their fans to their knees, they brought the final score to 44-37 with the ball in their possession and only a handful of seconds left on the clock in the final quarter.
With fire flowing through their veins they brought the heat, and with an overtime game within reach, fan screams radiated through the University of Phoenix Stadium retractable dome and absorbed into the fine pruning of a rarely seen commodity in Arizona, real grass.
A mere breath away from completing what would have been an extraordinary comeback, the referees were forced to review three plays within the final 45 seconds of the game, reviews that ultimately assisted the team flown in from the Frozen Tundra to tuck away an impressive win.
Modest yet reliably optimistic Head Coach Mike McCarthy refuses to let the game forge false confidence in the preseason performances of his team. While appreciating the notable achievements of linebacker Aaron Kampman, cornerback Charles Woodson, wide receiver James Jones, and tight end Jermichael Finley, he focuses now on footage reviews to assist in team improvement.
Ken Whisenhunt simultaneously noted the encouraging re-emergence of the team he knew from last year, specifically with debuting rookie running back Bearnie Wells, and with Larry Fitzgerald, who found the performance “embarrassing”, stating frustration over being forced to perform well when pushed to a state of urgency.
Potentially held back by missing two of their top three receivers, the Cardinals retaliated well, showing once again that despite their current 0-3, the team has talent worth paying attention to in the upcoming season.
But Pack fans must be ecstatic, knowing that the 38-10 halftime score occurred with the first stringers from both teams performing. Coach McCarthy has a dominating team at his disposal.