GREEN BAY – The Packers would love nothing more than for their backup quarterbacks to produce like this throughout the preseason.
Brett Hundley, DeShone Kizer and Tim Boyle all led scoring drives in a 31-17 victory over the Tennessee Titans on Thursday night at Lambeau Field.
Take your pick as to which QB made the play of the day.
Hundley hit Davante Adams for 48 yards on Green Bay's first drive to set up a touchdown, Kizer scrambled and found Marquez Valdes-Scantling for 51 yards leading to another score, and Boyle closed the night with a 52-yard touchdown strike to Jake Kumerow.
"All three guys made big plays, and you have to be able to make big plays," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said after the trio combined to go 25-of-47 for 372 yards and three touchdown passes.
As Hundley and Kizer battle for the No. 2 job behind Aaron Rodgers, things weren't always smooth. A sack-fumble of Hundley fortunately didn't result in a turnover, but a later swat of his arm did produce a floating interception. Kizer bolted the pocket several times and sailed a few throws.
But on balance, the plusses outweighed the minuses. McCarthy noted Hundley had the best "tempo," while he credited Kizer for plugging away through a disjointed, penalty-filled drive to finish a 14-play, 90-yard possession to start the third quarter in the end zone.
"A big part of getting the offense going is to establish a rhythm and flow," McCarthy said. "When you get a lot of breaks in the action like that with penalties, it challenges your mechanics."
The Packers' stable of young receivers made their share of plays, too. They took the brunt of the criticism from Rodgers after a lackluster practice on Tuesday, but they stood out in several moments under the Lambeau lights.
Valdes-Scantling, the rookie fifth-round pick from South Florida, shined brightest with five catches for 101 yards, including a 15-yard contested touchdown catch on a throw to the back of the end zone from Boyle. Valdes-Scantling's big night would have been even bigger had he come up with a diving attempt on a deep ball from Boyle as well.
Fellow rookie Equanimeous St. Brown, a sixth-rounder from Notre Dame, chipped in four catches for 61 yards, while Kumerow's long TD late allowed him to finish with three grabs for 76 yards.
"I think they took another step from what they did in practice," McCarthy said of the young receivers, brushing off Rodgers' comments as ones made out of "emotion and frustration."
"The way they've been getting off the ball has been consistent, and that carried over to the field tonight. I thought they did a lot of good things."
Fourth-round choice J'Mon Moore would have joined the standout group had he not dropped a well-thrown deep ball from Boyle that might have gone for a 65-yard touchdown. Moore finished with three catches for 27 yards.
Highlights from Thursday night's preseason opener at Lambeau Field
Defensively, new coordinator Mike Pettine played it pretty straight, declining to blitz much. McCarthy said the coaches are putting a greater emphasis on evaluating players than experimenting with scheme at this stage.
The defense did produce one turnover, as rookie outside linebacker Kendall Donnerson stripped Titans running back Akrum Wadley and fellow edge rusher Vince Biegel recovered for the Packers. The takeaway led to a field goal for Green Bay.
Reggie Gilbert, who started the game at outside linebacker with Clay Matthews (rest) and Nick Perry (PUP) sitting, was probably the defensive standout. Gilbert pressured Titans No. 2 QB Blaine Gabbert a couple of times and is making a run at being first-man-up after the starters following nearly two full years on the practice squad and a late-season splash at the end of the 2017 regular season.
"Reggie Gilbert is a heck of a football player," McCarthy said. "I'm so proud of him, to watch a young man come off the practice squad and change his body. He just does it right. He's very disciplined."
Penalty discipline was lacking on both sides, as the two teams combining for 24 infractions for 198 yards, plus several other declined fouls.
With new rules and other points of emphasis for the coming year, it was a typical preseason opener with the officials calling things closely and adjusting to the new landscape themselves, particularly with the new helmet-use personal foul, which was called on the Titans a couple of times.
"The tape is going to be really good to learn from," McCarthy said. "You can call it a stepping-stone game. There were positive things, but things we clearly need to do better."