CLEVELAND—Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy is looking for a greater sense of urgency, but he was otherwise complimentary of his team’s performance despite a 27-17 loss to the Cleveland Browns in each team’s preseason opener.
“I told the team at halftime that we needed to pick up our urgency. We did have a lot of substitutions. We have a lot more to offer in the way of energy and tempo,” McCarthy said in summary evaluation of his team’s play.
The Packers held a 17-14 lead at halftime, the result of Aaron Rodgers and Matt Flynn touchdown passes that sandwiched a 31-yard field goal by Mason Crosby. As the first half wore on, the Packers assumed control of the game, but the Browns reversed that trend in the third quarter.
Cleveland took a 24-17 lead midway through the third quarter, on a sack, fumble, scoop and 43-yard touchdown return that was the turning-point play in the game. Quarterback Graham Harrell coughed up the ball when he was hit from the blind side as he prepared to pass.
“Graham managed the game. He was in a tough spot in terms of protection,” McCarthy said.
Rodgers, the Super Bowl MVP, played the first two series of the game and completed six of eight passes for 74 yards and a touchdown, a 21-yard beauty to Greg Jennings.
“I thought the operation was excellent in that second series,” McCarthy said.
Flynn completed 11 of 18 for 126 yards, a touchdown and a 100.7 passer rating. He relieved Rodgers and finished the first half.
“His two-minute drill before the end of the half was excellent,” McCarthy said of Flynn.
“I feel like I’ve grown. This is my fourth year in this offense and I feel comfortable in everything I’m doing,” said Flynn, who was sacked twice and faced a considerable pass-rush.
Harrell played the whole second half and completed 11 of 22 passes for 100 yards, no touchdowns or interceptions and a 62.7 passer rating. Harrell was sacked three times for 32 yards.
“It gives us a chance to work with him,” McCarthy said of the playing time Harrell got on Saturday. “He has a very promising future.”
Undrafted rookie Brandon Saine led the Packers in rushing with 35 yards. James Starks ripped off 14 yards on two carries, but McCarthy announced after the game that Starks joins the injury report with an ankle injury. Tight ends Andrew Quarless (groin) and Tom Crabtree (ribs) were also added to the injury report.
Several front-line Packers players, including Charles Woodson and Jermichael Finley did not play, and star linebacker Clay Matthews played briefly.
Green Bay’s number one defense played two series; reviews were mixed. The first one resulted in a 71-yard, eight-play touchdown drive by the Browns. The second was a three-and-out.
Cleveland outgained the Packers, 364-341. The Packers dominated time of possession by more than three minutes.
The third-quarter fumble return for a touchdown was the difference in the game, just as turnovers in the Packers’ favor were the difference in the Packers’ Super Bowl XLV victory.
“We want to win every game, but don’t judge the season based on our won-lost record in the preseason,” safety Charlie Peprah said.