GREEN BAY – The Packers dropped to 0-2 in the preseason with a 23-14 loss to the New York Jets on Saturday at Lambeau Field.
Head Coach Matt LaFleur and No. 3 quarterback Kurt Benkert, who played most of the game with Jordan Love resting a shoulder injury, shared several thoughts afterward on how it all went.
Here are five takeaways from the game:
1. Benkert's got some moxie to him.
In the opportunity of a lifetime for a player in his position, Benkert showed a lot of ability and character in leading the offense to two first-half touchdowns.
His laser along the sideline on just his second throw of the game that Malik Taylor caught for 23 yards – successfully challenged by the Packers after it was initially ruled incomplete – got Benkert going in producing the first TD.
Then he overcame getting tripped on his dropback from center not once, but twice, and kept the offense on track through two holding penalties to lead a 19-play, 81-yard scoring drive that consumed 10 minutes, 19 seconds and gave the Packers a 14-10 lead in the second quarter.
"That was the longest drive of my life. I've never had that happen," Benkert said of falling backward at the snap. He lost 3 yards on the first one, but gained 5 on the second one when he had time to get up and run. "It was wild.
"The thing that I'm most proud of is that drive that could have went to crap, and it didn't and we ended up rolling with it. I think that's kind of a testament to how I like to play. Just keep on going."
The drive also included a clutch fourth-and-2 completion to Reggie Begelton to keep it alive. Benkert finished 18-of-25 for 151 yards with a TD pass to tight end Jace Sternberger. He also threw an interception and lost the handle on a shotgun snap that fortunately running back Kylin Hill snagged off the deflection to avoid a potential turnover.
"He showed good command," LaFleur said. "Certainly there were a couple plays that I know he'd like to have back.
"I thought overall, (it was good to see) his ability to hang in the pocket, progress, make some off-schedule plays."
2. The Packers could have a difficult roster decision to make at QB.
LaFleur affirmed Love is the team's No. 2 quarterback, but Benkert might have played well enough to earn his way onto the 53-man roster as the No. 3.
If the Packers would prefer he be on the practice squad, he'd have to clear waivers first, and other teams' needs at the position could make them look closely at Benkert's film from today.
"He's definitely going to make it tough on us to decide which way we want to go," LaFleur said.
For his part, Benkert is trying not to get distracted by all the what ifs.
"I feel like I've put myself in pretty good position," he said. "But at the end of the day, I know it's a numbers game, and I could play like absolute crap and they need me and I'm on the 53, or I could play really well and they don't need me and I'm on practice squad.
"So I kind of ditched that mindset a few years ago and we'll see what happens. But I'm excited with how I played, and obviously there's still more room to grow."
3. The running game bounced back from a rough outing last week.
AJ Dillon ran four times for 28 yards on the opening TD drive, and it set the stage for a 135-yard day on the ground for the Packers. Patrick Taylor led statistically with eight carries for 48 yards, though he did have a fumble, and rookie seventh-round pick Kylin Hill – who's the clear front-runner for the No. 3 job behind Aaron Jones and Dillon – had seven carries for 29 yards, including a 12-yard TD.
"I thought our offensive line was much improved," said LaFleur, who started rookie fourth-round pick Royce Newman at right guard in this game. "Our run game was so much better. Really all the backs that were in there, they ran hard, they ran behind their pads. It felt like they were finishing forward."
4. The defense and special teams were uneven, going through a lot of ups and downs.
Jets rookie QB Zach Wilson wasn't bothered much, going 9-of-11 for 128 yards and two TDs, both to tight end Tyler Kroft as the Jets' starters produced probably like they should against a mostly reserve group.
But the run defense rose to the occasion a couple of times in short yardage. It also stopped the Jets after the Taylor fumble to force a field goal with the help of a sack of backup QB Mike White by rookie lineman T.J. Slaton.
"T.J.'s a really talented player and he's got a lot to learn," LaFleur said. "I think it's just going to come down to how consistent can he be? When he plays with great technique and fundamentals, he's pretty darn good. The talent's there, but it's got to be down in and down out."
That's the same refrain about the special teams, which allowed a 73-yard kickoff return right after Sternberger's TD, leading to the Jets' go-ahead score. Then again, rookie safety Christian Uphoff beat two Jets to make the tackle on a punt late in the game, a highlight-reel play in the third phase.
Punter JK Scott had a 21-yard shank sandwiched between strong kicks of 49 and 51 yards. Begelton had a punt return of 28 yards and running back Dexter Williams ran a kickoff back 32 yards, but there was little else to like about the Packers' four other returns in the game.
"We have to do a better job on our coverage units," LaFleur said. "Our coaches know that.
"I thought there were some good moments, but again, it comes down to consistency."
5. The Lambeau crowd needs to understand situations better.
Yes, it's only preseason, and LaFleur prefaced his comment by saying how much he loves Packers fans. But he'd prefer that Benkert not have to quiet a "Go Pack Go" chant on a big third-down play, and for the crowd not to do the wave when Green Bay is on offense.
"I'd rather see that when we're on defense," LaFleur said. "But no, we love our fans, but we will definitely try to get some more instruction."
That could include video board messages from the players, so stay tuned.