In a driving rain that often times resembled monsoon-like conditions, the Green Bay Packers held leads of 7-0, 13-6, and 16-13 but eventually lost to the Tennessee Titans 20-16 Saturday night in the preseason opener at LP Field.
(Note: This version of "quick takes" is obviously delayed. My feed of the game Saturday night was choppy and blurry, thanks to both the weather in Nashville and a poor internet connection on Preseason Live. These takes come after a much-needed second viewing.)
It was over when…
…When Chase Rettig's fourth down pass came up incomplete with 58 seconds left and the Packers down four. Jackie Battle's 7-yard scamper after Mason Crosby put Green Bay up 16-13 ended up being the difference. Preseason win-loss results mean little, but the Packers won't like coughing up leads like they did Saturday night.
- Scott Tolzien: While Matt Flynn struggled early on, Tolzien shined, completing eight of 12 passes for 124 yards and a passer rating of 100.7. He made several big throws, and it was clear his arm was better suited to cut through the unrelenting precipitation. He tightened the backup quarterback competition, if only momentarily.
- James Starks: Eddie Lacy was given the night off, so the first series was the Starks show. He made the most of it, rushing six times for a game-high 49 yards and a 20-yard touchdown run. Starks looked explosive, running through arm tackles and finding the right cutback lanes. He's established himself as one of the game's better No. 2 backs.
- Rajion Neal: Making the team as an undrafted free agent requires performances like Neal provided Saturday night. He rushed five times for 39 yards and scored a 12-yard touchdown in the second half. He later left with an injury, but Neal impressed in his homecoming (he went to the University of Tennessee). He could win a roster spot if the Packers decide to keep four running backs.
The Packers rushed 35 times for 146 yards and two scores. Starks and Neal combined to rush for 88 yards and two touchdowns on just 11 carries…Flynn struggled with his accuracy, completing just five of 10 passes. He appeared to struggle gripping the football, and there was a few instances where the quarterback-receiver communication looked off. Overall, Flynn completed just one pass to a receiver, while four of five completions were on throws under five yards…The Packers averaged just 5.1 yards per attempt and took four sacks for minus-35 yards…Green Bay was 4-for-12 on third down and 0-for-2 on fourth, while Tennessee finished 6-for-13. The Packers ran 64 plays over 11 drives…The Packers first team defense provided two early stops, giving up just 24 yards over eight plays. Davante Adams' muffed punt put the Titans at the Green Bay 13, and Shonn Greene rumbled in on the very next play…The Packers entered Titans territory on all three of Tolzien's drives. He averaged over seven plays and almost 50 yards over his three drives…Green Bay had four series (two from Flynn, two from Rettig) that netted negative yardage…The Packers forced punts on six of Tennessee's first seven drives. Two late 80-yard drives provided the winning points for the Titans…Jarrett Bush had a team-high eight tackles, including a sack. Jumal Rolle had a strip-sack in the second half, and Korey Jones intercepted Zach Mettenberger after Jackie Battle mishandled the throw…The Packers muffed four returns, including three punts.
– Starting center JC Tretter got whipped by nose tackle Sammie Hill on Green Bay's second run play of the opening series, but he then settled in and had a nice debut. He drove Hill completely out of the play on one Starks run, and his combo block helped spring both of the long runs to end the first drive. Tretter doesn't look big, but his balance is an asset. It was an encouraging debut.
– Tough ask of Davante Adams, a rookie with little experience in the area, to field a punt in a monsoon for his first taste of NFL action. He flat out dropped the second muff, but you'd have to think his confidence was a little rattled by that point. It was a tough start, but I'd like to see what he can do in better conditions.
– Greene's touchdown run against the first-team offense was too easy. Julius Peppers got caught too far up field, Mike Daniels was manhandled up front and Brad Jones took a terrible angle after misreading the play. Ugly.
– Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was active and always around the football. His debut was far from perfect, as he missed a tackle on the 170-pound Dexter McCluster and then was beat up the seam by a backup Titans tight end. But to his credit, the rookie stayed physical throughout the night, and he recovered after being beat to disrupt the catch attempt. He can play. Now, it's about gaining the needed experience and becoming more technically sound.
– Did Brandon Bostick look a lot like Jermichael Finley on his 24-yard catch-and-run or what? Bostick might be bigger and a touch slower, but he rumbled through tackles after catching the quick hitter in the flat much like Finley did so often early last year.
– The boxscore will say Chris Harper had a big night. His 55 receiving yards were a game-high. However, Harper also had two frustrating drops. He couldn't haul in a two-point conversion attempt despite being wide open, and his effort to catch a fourth down throw from Tolzien came up empty. Both plays need to be made. To make the team, Harper needs to find some consistency.
– You didn't hear much from Derek Sherrod. That's a good thing. He played a big number of snaps and didn't have any noteworthy plays where the Titans clearly got the best of him. It was a strong start for a guy who hasn't played more than a few snaps in over two years.
– The rain-soaked Packers (0-1) travel to St. Louis and the comforts of a dome to take on the Rams next Saturday at 3:00 p.m. CT.
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