GREEN BAY – The Packers-Patriots preseason game ended prematurely with 10:29 left in the fourth quarter Saturday night, following an injury to Patriots cornerback Isaiah Bolden, who was carted off Lambeau Field after an apparent head injury.
New England won the game, 21-17. Here are five takeaways from the contest:
1. No one wants a game to end like that, but it was the right decision.
Early reports after the game from the Patriots were that Bolden, a rookie defensive back who was hit in the head by a teammate as the Packers completed a pass downfield, had feeling in all his extremities while being taken to the hospital for more tests and observations.
Coaches Matt LaFleur and Bill Belichick talked on the field and mutually agreed to call off play, and the majority of postgame thoughts were with Bolden.
"Obviously a very scary ending to the game right there," LaFleur said. "That's a scary situation, one that you never want to see in our game. I thought it was in the best interests for both teams.
"That can only go through the commissioner. We both agreed that was probably the right way to handle the situation. I've got no regrets about that decision."
2. After two scoreless possessions, QB Jordan Love and the No. 1 offense ended strong with a 93-yard TD drive.
The scoring drive actually covered 96 yards after a false start before the first snap, and the key play was a 42-yard completion down the sideline to Romeo Doubs. He was initially ruled out of bounds, but the Packers won a replay challenge to get the call reversed.
"The whole time, Rome was saying he caught it, said he thought he got his feet in," Love said.
From there it didn't take long to score, as Love scrambled 11 yards and was hit late for a 15-yard penalty. Two snaps later, he zipped a pass to rookie receiver Jayden Reed on a long-developing crossing route for a 19-yard touchdown.
"We've all seen the growth over these last few years," LaFleur said of Love. "It's been pretty cool to witness but you've got to have a short memory in this game … there's a lot of work and, quite frankly, it's only the preseason. We're going to have to keep building upon this."
The start wasn't what the Packers wanted, particularly as the first possession ended with an errant shotgun snap that rolled deep into Green Bay territory and was recovered by the Patriots, setting up their first touchdown.
LaFleur and Love both explained the offense was using two cadences on the third-and-5 play, and after the first cadence a Patriots defensive lineman flinched but didn't enter the neutral zone. Thinking he had, center Josh Myers snapped it anyway looking for a free play or penalty, and Love wasn't ready for it.
"Obviously, something we gotta clean up," Love said. "Something you never want to happen."
The second drive saw the Packers pick up a pair of first downs on passes to rookie tight end Luke Musgrave and Doubs, but they stalled out just across midfield.
Giving the starters a third possession worked out nicely, and Love finished 5-of-8 for 84 yards and the TD. LaFleur said he anticipates Love and the starters playing a little more in the preseason finale next week vs. Seattle, but he could change his mind. If he does, Love declared himself "definitely ready for Week 1."
3. The No. 3 running back job is becoming quite the battle.
Taylor, whose experience and special-teams roles make him the favorite for the time being, bounced a run to the outside for an 8-yard TD to cap a 62-yard drive in the second quarter.
But it was Wilson, the undrafted rookie coming off a big night last week in Cincinnati, who did most of the damage on that drive, touching the ball on the first five plays and covering 39 yards (28 rushing, 11 receiving).
On the night, Wilson finished with 15 carries for 63 yards, plus two receptions for 15 more.
"Wilson ran really hard," LaFleur said. "He ran with really good power. Ran through some arm tackles. Ran with low pad level. I thought he had an outstanding day. This is two games in a row. Excited for him."
He added Wilson still has plenty of work to do in pass protection, and he wants his conditioning to improve. LaFleur tested that with Saturday night's workload.
The Green Bay Packers hosted the New England Patriots for their preseason home opener at Lambeau Field on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023.
4. Several other rookies continued to shine.
Backup QB Sean Clifford had another solid, if less spectacular, outing in completing 13-of-19 for 137 yards, putting up 10 points. Receiver Malik Heath showed his toughness on some difficult catches, with a team-best five receptions for 75 yards in all. Fellow receiver Grant DuBose got his first preseason action and caught two passes for 27 yards.
Defensively, the Packers' depth on the line is developing nicely with draft picks Colby Wooden and Karl Brooks both making plays once again. Wooden had three tackles and a QB hit, while Brooks had a tackle for loss on a running play, a QB hit, and a sack that was unfortunately wiped out by an illegal contact penalty downfield.
Rookie kicker Anders Carlson also turned in a good night, making all three of his kicks. Two were PATs (one from 38 yards out due to a penalty), and the other was a 52-yard field goal to end a 55-second drive directed by Clifford at the end of the first half.
5. Kingsley Enagbare was the defensive star of the night.
The second-year edge rusher turned in a pair of sacks, stripping the ball from Patriots QB Mac Jones on one of them and recovering the fumble himself. The turnover set up the aforementioned 62-yard TD drive.
LaFleur said Enagbare had put together an impressive week of practice, getting multiple "sacks" in the joint workouts with the Patriots, and the strong work carried over.
The head coach not only wasn't surprised by the output, but he actually predicted it.
"He performed just like he had practiced," LaFleur said. "It's funny, because I ran into him right before kickoff and I was like, 'Hey, you're going to get yourself a couple sacks today,' and he went out there and did it."