The Green Bay Packers beat the Arizona Cardinals 28-20 in their Week 2 preseason game and rookie Ryan Williams might be sidelined for the season with a torn patella tendon. But despite these negatives, not everything was bad that happened Friday night at Lambeau Field. In particular, there were five things that stood out as things that happened that were positive for the Cardinals.
The first team offense successfully moved the ball down the field
In last week's game against the Oakland Raiders, the Cardinals first team offense did not move the ball consistently well outside of the big pass play to Larry Fitzgerald and a pair of 15-yards runs (one a scramble by Kevin Kolb and the other by Beanie Wells). One of the things I hoped we would see is Kevin Kolb leading the team to points.
Mission accomplished. Sure, it was only a pair of Jay Feely field goals, but the two scoring drives were 11 and 13 plays in length. In each, there were four first downs.
It was this type of ball movement that was missing all last year. It is not coincidental that the defense played so well in the first quarter.
The team's young receivers all made plays
Yes, Larry Fitzgerald made another inhuman catch, but the promising thing was the play of the young receivers that the team is counting on. Andre Roberts, Early Doucet and Stephen Williams all made plays. Roberts had two catches for 31 yards. One was a good play that led to a first down. He came back to the ball to make the catch and made the defender miss to get yards after the catch.
Doucet had three catches for 43 yards, including one for a first down when the team was driving down the field at the end of the first half.
Williams had two catches for 19 yards and a TD. His TD catch was as good as they come. However, he also dropped a pair of passes in the second half.
Even DeMarco Sampson got in on the action, hauling in three passes for 68 yards. With play like this, it will be clear why the Cardinals never went out to bring in another guy to play the number two guy.
Beanie Wells ran like a feature back
After being criticized for not running tougher and stronger, Wells looked like a man with a mission. In the three series he played, he carried the ball 11 times for 44 yards. He was not perfect, as he still struggled a bit on making cuts on the stretch play. He showed toughness and strength when a hole developed and dragged defenders with him, but when he had to wait and make a cutback on more than one occasion he was unable to keep his footing and fell down.
With the injury to Ryan Williams, Beanie's play becomes very, very important to the Cardinals 2011 success.
The offensive line had solid pass protection
The much maligned Cardinals offensive line had a good night in pass protection. Arizona's quarterbacks were sacked only once the entire game. That sack of Kevin Kolb was his own fault when he held on to the ball way too long. While in the game, Kolb had time on almost every pass play. I can recall only one or two plays in which he was rushed. If anything else, the amount of time he had caused him to wait and see if anything down the field would develop.
The offensive line play was sloppy at the same time, as Levi Brown was penalized thrice (but only two for the record as his holding penalty was declined), but on the whole the quarterbacks were not running for their lives.
The pass rush was there
We were able to see some of the complexity and designed confusion from Ray Horton's defensive schemes. More importantly, the defense was able to get pressure on the quarterback. For the game, they sacked the Packers' QBs four times, twice with the first team in the game. Darnell Dockett was all over the field, logging a sack and also dropping back in coverage on a different occasion. Calais Campbell sacked Aaron Rodgers as well. Dan Williams and O'Brien Schofield logged the other sacks. Schofield also forced a fumble on another play.
Campbell was quick to praise the coverage down the field, saying that "had there been coverage like that last year," he would have had more sacks.
There certainly were mistakes, but it looks like we all got a taste of what could happen during the season once the rotations are set and everyone is certain of the plays.
Obviously in a loss you look to improve, but even with losing the game, it seems clear that the team took several steps forward overall. The sloppiness will have to be overcome, but the team did move forward. Hopefully the final two preseason games at home will allow everyone to iron out the wrinkles for when the games count.