GREEN BAY – Mike McCarthy credited Ron Wolf for starting off “a great day to be a Green Bay Packer” with his Hall of Fame induction on Saturday night.
The fans at Lambeau Field took care of the rest.
A crowd of 67,191 turned out for the annual Family Night as the Packers got the best possible tune-up for their upcoming preseason opener, which is now just a few days away.
“The work was excellent, the crowd was phenomenal,” McCarthy said following practice as he was preparing to head back out into the stadium bowl for the concluding fireworks show. “It’s an atmosphere that’s second-to-none.”
Once the 11-on-11 work commenced, the defense picked up where it left off at Nitschke Field during the week, with the secondary continuing to make play after play on the ball.
Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix intercepted a third-down Aaron Rodgers throw intended for Davante Adams along the sideline. Moments later, a Scott Tolzien pass deflected off of receiver Jimmie Hunt, and cornerback Tay Glover-Wright picked it off.
“When a veteran like Ha Ha can get one early, it gives us a little motivation on the back end, and he got it on (number) 12, so that’s a big thing as well,” cornerback Casey Hayward said. “Hopefully we can continue that trend.”
It did seem to fire up the defense, which then stuffed a fourth-and-1 run up front and provided rather steady pressure on the QBs throughout the night.
“I thought our pass rush was definitely better today,” McCarthy said. “We’re improving there. That’s what we need to do.”
The offense got things going, too. In the red zone, Rodgers scrambled and fired a TD pass to tight end Richard Rodgers standing right on the goal line. On the next snap, he zipped a quick out to Adams that was just out of reach of cornerback Demetri Goodson at the pylon, and the entire offense treated the north end zone fans by doing Lambeau Leaps.
The best connection of the night might have been earlier, though, during one-on-one work, when Rodgers lofted a pass down the sideline that Adams reached up and hauled in one-handed over rookie cornerback Damarious Randall. The impressive grab might be a sign of things to come for the second-year receiver.
“It wasn’t that great of a route, so I had to make up for it,” Adams said, smiling. “Aaron put it up there, and that’s one of the things we talked about trying to fix this year. He’s going to put the ball up a little bit more for me to go up and try to get it.”
Tolzien continued his strong start to camp with several pinpoint throws. He found Randall Cobb along the sideline after a scramble and placed a couple of screen passes nicely for solid gains.
He should have ended his night with a two-minute drill triumph, but a perfectly thrown pass on a go route for a 22-yard TD was dropped by rookie receiver Larry Pinkard. Goodson and safety Chris Banjo then broke up the next two throws in the end zone.
Had Tolzien gotten the TD, it would have made up for a potential error in hurrying to spike the ball rather than calling a timeout after a first down just outside the red zone. The clock play took a little too long and left him with just 19 seconds to work with.
“Those are the kind of things you learn from,” McCarthy said. “Maybe take the timeout there, keep more time on the scoreboard and save the down, too.”
With the crowd cranking up the noise, kicker Mason Crosby wrapped up the football portion of the evening with an 8-for-8 showing on field goals ranging from 33 to 51 yards.
After a day off Sunday, the Packers will hold two more public practices at Nitschke Field before heading east midweek to visit the Patriots. Making Saturday night even more special, the Packers won’t have this large a crowd on their side again until the end of the month for their third preseason game.
“It’s a different atmosphere than when it’s 8 o’clock in the morning when it’s a normal practice,” receiver Jordy Nelson said. “There’s a little more energy. Some people will shrink, some people will rise up. It’s a good stepping stone towards New England on Thursday.”
Click here to see video of Adams' one-handed catch
Click here to see photos from Family Night