Mike McCarthy: Packers ‘didn’t grade out very well as a football team’ Friday night

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Eighteen hours after being shut out in the preseason opener, Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy was keeping the loss in perspective. But the game-film review session revealed what most would expect after the Packers struggled in multiple areas against the Arizona Cardinals on Friday night at Lambeau Field.

“When we went through the grading, we didn’t grade out very well as a football team,” McCarthy said Saturday afternoon. “We graded out poorly as an offense.”

Shuffling between four quarterbacks, four running backs and double-digit wide receivers and offensive linemen, there was no combination of players able to help Green Bay move the ball. The Packers finished with 223 total yards on 66 plays, and, most importantly, no points.

Aaron Rodgers led the starters on an 11-play opening drive, accumulating 81 yards in just over four minutes. It was clearly Green Bay’s most efficient series of the game, but it failed to result in any points when a fourth-down running attempt to James Starks came up short — apparently. Though replays appeared to show the ball cross the goal line, referee Carl Cheffers didn’t overturn the initial call after McCarthy challenged.

“The ball was over the goal line; Carl said he could not see his knee,” McCarthy said. “(Starks’) hip was three feet off the ground, so, I mean, I couldn’t see his knee either. You can figure that out. It was at least three feet off the ground.”

That was the end of Rodgers’ night, leading the way for Graham Harrell, Vince Young and B.J. Coleman to play the remainder of the game. Rodgers’ exit was also the end of the Packers’ offense having any success.

Harrell’s six drives at quarterback produced only 94 yards, with one interception, one fumble and four punts.

“Did I give him a lot of opportunities to go down the field? No, no, I did not,” McCarthy said of Harrell. “So that’s something you could look at in hindsight, as far as creating opportunities. Graham has to play better, and it’s tough. Playing quarterback in the preseason, it’s never clean, and it’s been like that as long as I’ve been in this league. You’re going to have things go wrong. You’re going to have guys run the route too deep and your guy who doesn’t get off the press and they run into each other, then you have to go on to the next receiver.

“It’s those types of things where you have to play through odd looks. Play through situations that someone gets beat and throw the ball away, and things like that. It’s a challenge for any of those guys that get in there at that time because you’ve got some guys playing in their first NFL game, you’ve got some guys playing right tackle that haven’t even practiced there. That’s the way the preseason goes. For quarterbacks particularly, you have to play above that.”

Green Bay’s lack of a running game didn’t help the backup quarterbacks, either. With running backs Eddie Lacy (hamstring) and DuJuan Harris (knee) unavailable, Starks, Alex Green and rookie Johnathan Franklin didn’t capitalize on the additional snaps. Starks had 38 yards on 12 carries (3.2 average), Green ran for 16 yards on seven attempts (2.3 average) and Franklin could only muster 14 yards on six rushes (2.3 average).

“I thought the attempts were there,” McCarthy said. “It wasn’t very clean. It wasn’t consistent enough. We didn’t have enough plus-5-yard runs. It’s a starting point, and, like anything, you have to get the attempts. We’ll continue to work all of our backs and our run-blocking unit will get better.”

There were some players who received positive grades. According to McCarthy, offensive lineman Don Barclay “was clearly one of the top performers of the game,” also noting that starting left tackle David Bakhtiari “played well (and) did some good things.” McCarthy singled out Tyrone Walker — who led the team with five catches — as well, describing the undrafted rookie wide receiver as “very instinctive, very athletic; has a pretty good understanding of what we’re doing on offense.”

One downfall of not getting near the end zone — aside from the first series with Rodgers — was not being in field-goal range. The competition between Mason Crosby and Giorgio Tavecchio is no closer to being decided, as neither player got a chance to line up for a try.

“With the kicking battle, that’s something we’re going to have to pick up the volume in practice,” McCarthy said. “We had to be smart with those guys and don’t over-kick them early in camp, but their volume is definitely going to pick up because we need more information and both kickers need more opportunities. What happens in the games, happens in the games. I’m not going to go for 60-yard field goals.”

The one injury that happened during the game was to first-round pick defensive lineman Datone Jones. After one drive, Jones went to the bench and got his left ankle taped. He did not return. The next day, McCarthy still did not have any further information on Jones’ injury.

The Packers have Sunday off before returning to the field for a Monday morning practice that is closed to the public but open to the media.

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