GREEN BAY – Rarely a day goes by in practice that the Packers don’t work on the two-minute drill, and rookie quarterback Joe Callahan put that experience to good use on Friday night.
Callahan ended the first half with a hurry-up touchdown drive, highlighting the Packers’ 17-11 preseason victory over the Cleveland Browns at Lambeau Field.
“I don’t care who you are or what year you’re in, I thought he did an excellent job there getting a touchdown before the half,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said.
The Division III Wesley College alum, playing the first half with Aaron Rodgers (rest) and Brett Hundley (ankle) sitting out, drove the Packers 80 yards in 12 plays and connected on a 2-yard TD pass with running back John Crockett to put the Packers in the lead for good.
Passes to receiver Jared Abbrederis and tight ends Justin Perillo and Kennard Backman all moved the chains for Callahan, who got the ball in the end zone with just seven seconds left in the half.
“It’s something that we practice every week,” Callahan said of the two-minute drill. “We kept a good tempo and we were able to communicate well with each other. I think those were some critical things that helped us out there.”
Callahan finished solid statistically, 16-of-23 for 124 yards and the one TD for a 97.0 passer rating. The Packers also got a pair of 54-yard field goals from veteran kicker Mason Crosby.
The rest of the game was a mish-mash of strange happenings. Three safeties were recorded – two by the Packers in the fourth quarter – as both teams turned away scoring chances near the goal lines and had their punters pinning offenses deep.
The only touchdown the Packers gave up came as a result of a special-teams breakdown. Tim Masthay punted from the back of the end zone, and Browns returner Raheem Mostert not only returned it 23 yards but was hit late out of bounds.
That put the ball on the Green Bay 10-yard line, and Cleveland needed just one play to score.
Other than that, Cleveland did little offensively. Robert Griffin III began his night with a 49-yard bomb to Terrelle Pryor, who beat cornerback Damarious Randall deep, but five snaps later Griffin was picked off by a diving Micah Hyde at the goal line.
Other defensive highlights for the Packers included an array of sacks by Datone Jones, Kyler Fackrell, Reggie Gilbert and Christian Ringo, the last two producing the safeties. Chris Banjo also recovered a fumble on a free kick, and rookie punter Peter Mortell placed all three of his punts inside the 20-yard line.
“Some guys had some striking plays,” McCarthy said. “This is our starting point. There will be plays we definitely highlight and plays that we learn from.”
McCarthy helped get Callahan comfortable by coming out and running the ball on the first series with four of the five starters on the offensive line in front of him.
Eddie Lacy carried four straight times for 24 yards, and James Starks followed with four carries for 14 more on an opening drive that stalled just short of Crosby’s range.
“We wanted to run the ball,” McCarthy said. “Eddie and James, they’re our 1-2 punch. They’ve been an excellent combination now going into our (fourth) year with those two guys. It’s important to establish that and make sure those two guys touch the football.”
Playing the entire second half, rookie QB Marquise Williams (6-of-14, 55 yards, one INT, 24.4 rating) didn’t fare as well as Callahan. His best drive early in the fourth quarter reached the red zone, but he was intercepted at the 1-yard line on a pass intended for rookie receiver Geronimo Allison near the pylon.
Other teaching moments came via two allowed sacks and several necessary scrambles by the young QBs. The Packers were also flagged 12 times for 112 yards in penalties, and the early safety was an ugly running play that saw Starks get buried in the end zone as soon as he got the ball – on the very first snap by the No. 2 offensive line.
All in all, it was typical for a first preseason contest, with the second one up next in six days, against Oakland again at Lambeau Field.
Rodgers indicated on the television broadcast he expects to get some action in that one, and McCarthy didn’t dispute that notion.
“I don’t have a set plan, but I think history would tell you he’ll play next week,” McCarthy said. “We’ll see what happens in practice.”