NASHVILLE—Mike McCarthy thought the weather was delightful.
“The weather conditions tonight were outstanding,” the Packers head coach said of what was a steady downpour for the first three quarters of Saturday night’s preseason opener at LP Field. “You do wet-ball drills once a week. To be able to perform in the real thing, this is a great thing for our football team. To play in this environment is an incredible experience.”
When the experience ended, the Packers had lost, 20-16, to the Tennessee Titans, but it was one of those preseason games that felt more like a win. The final score represented the Titans’ only lead of the night.
Why did the loss feel like a win?
Because even with the trio of Aaron Rodgers, Eddie Lacy and Jordy Nelson having been given the night off, the Packers dominated the first two-and-a-half quarters of the game.
“Aaron’s not playing was more about us having four quarterbacks. We wanted to make sure our young players got the whole fourth quarter. Aaron’s had an excellent camp. It was about getting Chase (Rettig) work in the whole fourth quarter,” McCarthy said.
Rettig, an undrafted free agent from Boston College, moved the Packers into scoring position with just under two minutes to play, but his fourth-and-one pass fell incomplete near the goal line and the Titans held on for the win.
Matt Flynn was the Packers’ starting quarterback and he quickly and efficiently moved the Packers 64 yards in eight plays on their opening possession. Running back James Starks scored on a 20-yard run to give the Packers a 7-0 lead.
“He picked up where he left off (last season). I thought James looked like he was in midseason form. James was excellent,” McCarthy said.
Starks led the Packers in rushing with 49 yards on six carries.
The Packers’ No. 1 defense was suffocating against quarterback Jake Locker and the Titans No. 1 offense. The Titans’ only touchdown in the first half was largely the result of rookie Davante Adams’ fumble of a punt. The Titans recovered at the Packers’ 13-yard line and running Shonn Greene scored on the next play. The PAT kick failed.
Scott Tolzien replaced Flynn and Tolzien was sharp in completing eight of 12 passes for 124 yards. He led the Packers on a seven-play, 79-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter. Rookie running back Rajion Neal scored on a 12-yard run to give the Packers a 13-6 lead.
“I thought he did a lot of good things. The no-huddle flourished,” McCarthy said of Tolzien’s performance.
Why did McCarthy order a two-point conversion attempt following the Neal touchdown run?
“We talked about getting some two-point play opportunities. We practice them during the week. Why not practice them during the preseason?” McCarthy said.
Everything about this preseason opener was practice. The field was littered with long-shot rookies in the fourth quarter. One of those long-shot rookies that made an impression is cornerback Jumal Rolle, who made an open-field tackle and forced a fumble in Titans territory.
“It felt good to be out there after all the practice,” Rolle said. “Another week of practice; trying to get better,” he added of what’s ahead as the Packers head toward game two of the preseason, in St. Louis next Saturday.
“Gives us a chance to grow,” McCarthy said of the opener. Additional game coverage -