Packers passive in preseason finale
Thirty-three years ago, the Green Bay Packers wound up an 0-4-1 exhibition campaign at Lambeau Field with their fans cheering for a Denver Broncos defensive back as he brought back an interception some 90 yards for a touchdown.
Coach Bart Starr's sixth team was humiliated that long ago night, 38-0. In fact, the Packers were shut out three times in the five games of the 1980 preseason, and scored an unheard-of 17 points themselves.
That 17 points still stand as the club record for scoring futility in a multi-game exhibition season.
Coach Mike McCarthy's eighth team in Green Bay completed exhibition play on a steamy Thursday night before a crowd estimated between 15,000 and 20,000 at 76,416-seat Arrowhead Stadium.
The Packers lost to the Kansas City Chiefs, 30-8, in a listless event meaningful only to the second- and third-stringers still competing for the handful of jobs that haven't been locked up.
Green Bay (1-3) finished the summer with 37 points, its third worst scoring output ever behind the aforementioned '80 team that went 5-10-1 and Mike Sherman's squad in 2004 that put up 36 points but finished 10-6 and won the NFC North.
In 2005, the Packers scored just 41 points in exhibitions before Sherman was fired following a 4-12 campaign.
In chronological order, McCarthy's teams had scored 79, 88, 71, 105, 123, 89 and 74 points in exhibition seasons. His career summer record is 15-17.
Green Bay's only touchdowns in August were a 9-yard pass from B.J. Coleman to tight end Jake Stoneburner against St. Louis and a 1-yard pass from Vince Young to fullback Jonathan Amosa against Seattle.
McCarthy was asked if it was tough to score just 37 points in four games regardless of who was playing.
“I don't care how it goes,” he said. “It's about competing and about winning.”
All summer, McCarthy said giving players ample chances in games was his No. 1 priority.
Expected to be one of the National Football League's highest scoring teams once again, the Packers failed to reach the end zone in five series directed by Aaron Rodgers and exhibited little horsepower on offense with its backups on the field.
“There might be a direct correlation between how much Rodgers played and how much they've scored,” an executive in personnel for an NFL team said, tongue planted squarely in cheek.
Of course there is. The Packers also didn't have wide receivers Jordy Nelson (knee) and Randall Cobb (biceps) until Thursday night, and along with the other starters on offense they played fewer than three snaps apiece against the Chiefs (2-2).
“I mean, you think Rodgers will play at a high level,” the scout said. “They don't have (Greg) Jennings and Donald Driver, but they have Jordy and Cobb and (James) Jones.
“But the quarterback, as always, will be the catalyst.”
Rodgers, tight end Jermichael Finley and outside linebacker Clay Matthews were the Packers' only healthy scratches.
The anemic level of the Packers' offense was reflected in the final stat sheet: 218 total yards, 3.5 yards per play, two for 15 on third down and 61 rushing yards in 24 carries.
In four games, Green Bay averaged a scant 249.9 per game and 3.86 per play, 75.3 rushing and 2.95 per rush, and a 31.7% conversion rate on third down.
The eight running backs carried 90 times for merely 211 yards (2.45).
“The quality of play tonight, particularly in the second half, wasn't quite what you hoped for,” said McCarthy.
In his three games, Rodgers played 45 snaps and looked more than ready to go. The No. 1 offense failed to penetrate the end zone but did generate three field goals.
Far less certain is the Packers' offensive line and running game.
Don Barclay made a third straight start at right tackle ahead of Marshall Newhouse while rookie David Bakhtiari started his fourth game at left tackle.
McCarthy indicated that starting Barclay against the 49ers was “the direction we're headed.” Still, he suggested he would wait until the practice week was over before making his decision final.
“That (the offensive line) should be a good group but there will be a couple experiments going on,” the scout said. “It could be a little bit of a concern outside at tackle.”
Rookie Eddie Lacy started at running back, carried for zero and 1 yard on his two attempts behind the No. 1 line and then gave way to Johnathan Franklin.
The UCLA rookie carried eight times for 23 yards and caught two passes for 11. The production wasn't much but did represent the brightest moment for Franklin in a lackluster August.
“You like to think the young guys will give them something they haven't had in the past,” the scout said. “But what Green Bay does well is throw the ball.”
Young and Coleman alternated series after Young made the start.
“Vince can run the ball,” said the scout. “Mobility is one of his biggest assets. If they were looking for something different than what they had Ted (Thompson) might have found it because of Vince's running ability.”
Whereas the Packers gave the majority of their starters just a couple snaps, new Chiefs coach Andy Reid didn't use any of his.
On defense, the Packers finished the summer allowing just 71 points. Just back from a month-long knee injury, cornerback Tramon Williams made an interception on his first exhibition play.
The Packers still were without linebacker Brad Jones, cornerback Casey Hayward and safety Morgan Burnett. All suffered hamstring injuries against the Seahawks, and McCarthy gave no indication if they'll be ready Monday when practice resumes.
“Really haven't seen much of their defense at all,” the scout said. “They've looked at a lot of different people.
“You expect their big boys up front to handle the run game. One of the people who is supposed to make plays is Matthews.
“They've got some pretty good young skilled guys on defense. I was impressed with Micah Hyde last week and tonight. He reads and he reacts, and he tackles.”
Meanwhile, Mason Crosby drilled field-goal attempts of 48 and 45 yards, wrapping up the job and a week that started with not one but two challengers on Nitschke Field trying to unseat him.
“That'll be mental,” the scout said. “How tough is he mentally? He's shown he can be good, and he's demonstrated things can go bad. If they go bad again, they'll end up making a midseason change.”