GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Stepfan Taylor aced his first test.
Exactly what you expect from a Stanford kid.
Taylor ran for 64 yards in his NFL debut, and the Arizona Cardinals exposed several trouble spots for the Green Bay Packers in a 17-0 preseason win Friday night. Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton each threw for a touchdown against a Packers secondary that had trouble containing anybody, and Arizona’s aggressive new defense had three sacks, one interception and one forced fumble.
“You just try to come out there and play your game,” said Taylor, the Stanford career record holder in yards rushing (4,300) as well as total touchdowns (45). “You show how you’ve been preparing at practice and just go out there and try to play fast.”
Aaron Rodgers connected with James Jones for a 50-yard gain in his only series, and Vince Young showed flashes of potential just three days after signing with the Packers. But those were among the only highlights for the Packers, who were shut out in a full preseason game for the first time since Aug. 22, 1987.
The Packers also were shut out in the 2003 Hall of Fame game, though that game was called because of lightning with 5:49 left in the first quarter.
“You never feel good when you don’t win a game, but it is the preseason,” coach Mike McCarthy said.
It got so ugly that Packers fans, among the most loyal in the NFL, booed backup quarterback Graham Harrell late in the third quarter after yet another drive stalled.
“As Mike said after the game, the energy wasn’t there,” Rodgers said. “You expect, especially with this many young guys playing, a little bit more energy from some of those second and third groups. We didn’t have that tonight. I don’t know if we were a little fatigued or not, but we need to bring a little bit extra next week and start to get this thing looking the right way.”
The running game was one of Arizona’s (many) problems last year, and the Cardinals bolstered it by drafting Taylor and Clemson’s Andre Ellington to back up free agent acquisition Rashard Mendenhall and Ryan Williams. Though Mendenhall (patella tendinitis) and Williams (sore knee) missed the game and Ellington didn’t touch the ball, the Cardinals barely missed a beat thanks to Taylor and Alfonso Smith.
Smith added 21 yards on 12 carries.
“I can’t say enough about Stepfan and Alfonso for stepping up and carrying the load when Rashard couldn’t go,” Arians said. “We’re not going to push that knee.”
Taylor may not be a flashy running back like Adrian Peterson. But he is sturdy — he never missed a game at Stanford — and he doesn’t shy away from contact.
And, boy, can he run. Taylor ground down the Packers with one short-yardage play after another, but he also showed a knack for wriggling free for longer runs.
“I’m willing to compete and run north and south through the tackles,” Taylor said. “The first game back out, you feel like you can make some more plays, you’ve got to get used to getting hit again. Went out there and ran hard. The line blocked well, and we saw where we can improve as an offense. We felt like we felt some points out there on the field.”
Though Taylor never found his way to the end zone, he got the Cardinals in scoring position only to see two field goal attempts fail.
“I was disappointed in the kicking game,” Arians said. “Obviously.”
The kicking game was one of the few areas that wasn’t a disappointment for the Packers — and that’s because Green Bay didn’t attempt a single field goal.
The Packers have been hit hard by injuries already during training camp, and they were without five starters and key cornerback Casey Hayward on Friday night. The absences were glaring. The Arizona receivers were so wide open they may as well have been wearing red “Don’t touch!” practice jerseys, and the Green Bay offense could never find any kind of rhythm, starting with the very first series.
Even with the Rodgers-to-Jones deep ball putting the Packers at the Arizona 6, the Packers couldn’t convert. Jermichael Finley had the ball in his hands on third-and-2, only to drop it. McCarthy elected to go for it, but James Starks was stuffed a yard short of the goal line.
“That was huge,” Arians said. “We talk about defending every blade of grass. We got ourselves in a tough situation, but that’s something we can really build on.”
Same for their takeaways.
Harrell’s pass was picked off by Patrick Peterson in his first series, and he got sacked and stripped on his second. Arizona turned both takeaways into touchdowns.
“We did actually move the ball at times, but we just couldn’t convert when we needed to,” Harrell said.
Harrell’s second sack was courtesy of Tyrann Mathieu, the former LSU star playing his first game in two years.
Notes: Pacers WR Randall Cobb (biceps) and rookie RB Eddie Lacy (hamstring) did not dress. ... RG Daryn Colledge, who played five seasons in Green Bay after being drafted by the Packers in the second round in 2006, was among the Cardinals who did not dress. ... Will Batson missed field goals from 31 yards (wide left) and 42 yards (wide right). Jay Feely also missed a field goal from 53 yards, but was good from 21 late in the game.