Ready or not, here comes the regular season.
Barely a month after the start of training camp and after four preseason games in which Aaron Rodgers played about a full game's worth of possessions, the Super Bowl XLV-champion Green Bay Packers completed their preseason on Thursday night by beating the Kansas City Chiefs, 20-19. A week from now, the stakes will be much, much higher with a season-opening, made-for-TV showdown against the Super Bowl XLIV-champion New Orleans Saints.
"Absolutely, we'll be ready," coach Mike McCarthy said. "Yeah, we're ready."
Even with a lockout that robbed him of his beloved offseason program, McCarthy barely deviated from his typical preseason formula. A week after playing the first half at Indianapolis, the starters played one series against the Chiefs before giving way to dozens of players fighting for their professional livelihoods.
The starters — or, more accurately, the starters who suited up — were sharp during their cameo appearance. The No. 1 defense allowed one first down before undrafted rookie linebacker Vic So'oto, who likely solidified a roster spot, sacked Matt Cassel on third down to force a punt. The offense promptly drove 56 yards in eight plays for a touchdown, even with all of Rodgers' top pass-catching weapons on the sideline. On the first snap, Ryan Grant blew through a huge hole on the right side for a 23-yard gain. Later, on third-and-9, Rodgers sidestepped reigning AFC sacks champion Tamba Hali and hit undrafted rookie receiver Tori Gurley for 12 yards and a first down at the 8. One play later, Rodgers found tight end Tom Crabtree for a touchdown.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport.