GREEN BAY – It’s never perfect in a first game, but the Packers did enough right on Thursday night they felt pretty good about their start to the preseason.
A punt return for a touchdown, a sharp-looking TD pass, and three of four turnovers by the defense all came in the second quarter of Green Bay’s 24-9 victory over Philadelphia at Lambeau Field.
Those outweighed some sloppy moments with ball-handling that the Packers will look to shore up before the games begin for real.
“I thought the work tonight was very good for us in all three phases,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. “We took a step tonight as a football team.”
With quarterback Aaron Rodgers taking a rest, Brett Hundley was the starter, and he overcame a rocky beginning that included a bobbled opening snap and a Ty Montgomery fumble.
On his third drive, starting in Eagles territory thanks to a turnover, Hundley made a check at the line of scrimmage that produced a pretty 20-yard TD toss to Jeff Janis between two defenders.
“I thought Brett handled some things,” McCarthy said. “Anytime you’re able to have a series, review it on the sideline, see things that are potential adjustments and it sets up a touchdown, that’s good football and a good step there for any quarterback.”
Hundley finished 8-of-15 for 90 yards with the TD and one interception. The Packers turned it over three times and fumbled it three others without losing the ball, so the normal emphasis on ball security will be intensified even more the rest of training camp.
The defense did its part, though, generating four turnovers that led to 17 points. The Packers also missed potential chances for more takeaways, too, on a damp and slippery evening.
Green Bay’s other score, its first of the game, came via a 68-yard punt return for a score by second-year receiver Trevor Davis. The 2016 fifth-round pick out of Cal showed off both shiftiness and speed in taking one to the house and firing up the 74,330 in attendance.
“I thought the blocking was really good,” McCarthy said. “We were able to set the wall and Trevor did an outstanding job, not only getting vertical but finishing when he bounced outside and made the punter miss. A well-executed play and a great return.”
Davis later added a 26-yard runback in making a strong early bid for the punt-return duties.
Those were the highlights of a strong overall night on special teams. The field-goal operation executed three extra points and a 39-yard boot without incident, and rookie punter Justin Vogel averaged a healthy 44.0 yards (43.5 net) on six punts, putting all but one inside the Philly 20-yard line.
“I thought we definitely improved special teams-wise,” McCarthy said. “I look forward to watching the video.”
The biggest downside to the game was the injuries, most notably a scary scene involving rookie receiver Malachi Dupre, who took a vicious hit from safety Tre Sullivan that knocked the ball out and left Dupre laying on the field for several minutes.
Dupre was taken off the field on a stretcher and gave a thumbs up to the crowd while being wheeled away. The immediate postgame report was he had movement and feeling in all his extremities and was at a local hospital for further evaluation. Dupre also tweeted after the game that he’s OK.
“All the information coming back from the testing is positive,” McCarthy said, adding that more tests were forthcoming. “There were moments of high concern. You don’t want to see any of your players go through that.”
Other injuries also struck cornerbacks Damarious Randall (concussion) and Raysean Pringle (evaluated for concussion), safety Kentrell Brice (finger) and offensive lineman Don Barclay (ankle).
Green Bay’s defense had a frustrating opening series, as Eagles QB Carson Wentz converted an early fourth-and-6 in Packers territory and followed with a third-and-13 pass that Mack Hollins turned into a 38-yard touchdown for a 6-0 lead.
On the play, Wentz dodged what looked like a sure sack by Clay Matthews, and Hollins used a stiff arm to get away from cornerbacks Kevin King and Quinten Rollins downfield and find the end zone.
“I think this was a normal first night,” McCarthy said regarding the tackling. “We have a lot of work to do.”
From there, the Packers’ defense didn’t allow much and got into takeaway mode. The final turnover, an interception by second-year safety Marwin Evans on a deep ball, gave fourth-string QB Taysom Hill one last possession with 3:04 left.
Hill hit rookie receiver DeAngelo Yancey deep for 46 yards and two plays later found undrafted rookie Michael Clark for a 7-yard TD with nine seconds left to close out the scoring.
“The way we called the last series, it was a reflection of how they were playing defense,” McCarthy said. “They were aggressive, so we got aggressive. I thought it was an excellent first impression for those guys.”
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