GREEN BAY – A sense of relief washed over the Packers' locker room after hearing New England cornerback Isaiah Bolden had feeling in all his extremities following a scary ending to Saturday night's preseason game at Lambeau Field.
Gameplay was suspended with the Patriots leading 21-17 with 10 minutes, 29 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter after Bolden took a hit to the head from Patriots linebacker Calvin Munson while the two converged to tackle Packers receiver Malik Heath on a 7-yard slant.
After lying motionless, the rookie seventh-round pick was placed on a backboard and carted off up the home tunnel. After a discussion between head coaches Bill Belichick and Matt LaFleur, the decision was made to call the game.
Heath, who's a native of Jackson, Miss., actually knows Bolden, who played at Jackson State. The two trained at the same facility leading up to the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine. The undrafted rookie felt the right decision was made.
"I know him, so I didn't want to finish. I felt bad, too," said Heath, who said he planned to reach out to Bolden afterward. "It was a good thing we didn't finish it. It was scary, too. That could've happened to me on the hit."
Many Packers players said they'd never experienced anything quite like Saturday's injury-shortened game, though it's something that's been on the forefront of the NFL's mind since Buffalo safety Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest after making a tackle this past January against Cincinnati.
Linebacker Preston Smith reflected on Hamlin's injury earlier this year while admitting it was "kind of hard to witness" in-person what happened to Bolden. Quarterback Sean Clifford also was left speechless after leading the Packers' drive downfield at the time the injury occurred.
"First and foremost, you never want to see that happen. I'm praying for him," Clifford said. "This is a physical game played by a lot of people who give it their all. When that happens, it's just tough. It's part of the game and it's sad that it happened today but really again praying for him."
The Patriots announced on Sunday morning that Bolden has been released from the hospital and will travel with the team back to Foxborough, Mass. New England added that "due to the circumstances surrounding the abrupt and unexpected ending," the Patriots' joint practices with the Tennessee Titans this week have been cancelled.
On Sunday morning, Bolden expressed his appreciation on social media for everyone's prayers and expressed his excitement to be back with the team.
"That definitely was a shocker and one of those things that you kind of get the chills when you see someone pretty much without motion on the football field," linebacker Kingsley Enagbare said. "That's never a good sign, but I guess it's definitely for the best that the game ended the way it did. I know I was a little shook up, man. I know the rest of the guys probably felt the same way."
On his third and final series of the first quarter, Love drove Green Bay 93 yards on just five plays thanks in large part to a 42-yard completion to Doubs and a 19-yard touchdown pass to the rookie Reed.
The deep ball to Doubs was initially ruled incomplete after the side judge questioned whether the second-year wideout got both feet down. LaFleur challenged the play, and it was overturned upon review.
Love scrambled for 11 yards on the next play, but the Packers were then awarded 15 additional yards after Patriots defensive lineman Sam Roberts was flagged for a late hit on Love, who'd given himself up.
Two plays later, Reed snatched a Love pass out of the air on a crossing pattern and accelerated to the end zone for the score.
"Jordan just had trust in me," Reed said. "He had a lot of patience with the play, and we executed it well. I made a great catch and finished it to the end zone, which is great. That's just trust with the team, execution, and that's all it takes."
Enagbare's sacks set the tone: The second-year linebacker has put in a lot of work over the past 12 months to expand his pass-rushing repertoire.
On Saturday night, Enagbare put it all on full display while sacking Patriots starting quarterback Mac Jones on back-to-back drives. His first sack came after bulldozing through New England right tackle Sidy Sow on third-and-9 to force a punt.
Enagbare then did himself one better at the start of the second quarter when he completed the trifecta of not only sacking Jones but also forcing a fumble that he recovered at the Green Bay 38-yard line.
Both plays set up the Packers' only two TD-producing drives of the evening.
"It was one of those where I knew I had a good rush and I saw him step up in the pocket and I thought he was about to throw it," said Enagbare of his second sack.
"I was like, I'm going to go ahead and try to dive out there. That's pretty much a drill we work on every day, and I don't know how I got the ball. I just happened to look over and seen, there was like a little white light with the ball and I just jumped on top of it."
The Green Bay Packers hosted the New England Patriots for their preseason home opener at Lambeau Field on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023.
Carlson's big kick: Kicker Anders Carlson flashed his leg strength when he drilled a 52-yard field goal straight through the uprights to stake Green Bay to a 17-14 halftime lead, a no-doubter that likely would've been good from 60.
It was a big moment for the rookie sixth-round pick, who had two missed extra points in the Packers' preseason opener against Cincinnati.
"I think it's exciting for us specialists. We work really hard, so it was good to get out there and get those opportunities," Carlson said. "I love being in Lambeau, getting the opportunities I get. It wasn't as many as Family Night or Cincinnati, but we capitalized on our opportunities."
Finishing strong: While Doubs and Reed helped get the Packers going, Heath and fellow rookie receiver Grant DuBose made some key catches for the second-team offense down the stretch.
Heath finished with a game-high five catches for 75 yards, while DuBose added two receptions for 27 yards. All five of Heath's receptions produced first downs.
"I'm trying to capitalize on my opportunity," Heath said. "When the ball's in the air, I have to come down with it. I feel like I did all right but there's still things I gotta work on."