Game Review: Plenty To Evaluate From Loss In Preseason Finale

The Packers finished up the preseason with a 30-14 loss to the Titans Thursday, but with the starters playing only half of the 1st quarter, this game was about getting one final look at all the backups fighting for roster spots before the final cutdown Saturday from 75 to 53. - More Audio | Video | Packers-Titans Gameday


Noah Herron

NASHVILLE - All that's left now is to watch the film and make the final decisions.

The Packers finished up their 2007 preseason with a 30-14 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Thursday at Nashville's LP Field, but with the starters playing only half of the first quarter, this game was primarily about getting one final look at all the backups fighting for roster spots before the final cutdown from 75 to 53 players on Saturday.

"I'm very pleased with the number of reps that we got in the situations we put our players in," said Head Coach Mike McCarthy, who got to see many of his backups go against Tennessee's starters before the Titans went to their bench in the third quarter. "We're not happy about the final score obviously, but the evaluation part of it, I thought we got a ton of information to draw from."

The loss evened Green Bay's preseason record at 2-2, but for the third straight game, the Packers' starters exited with the lead.

The defensive starters played just one series, forcing a three-and-out by Tennessee and holding the Titans to just 4 yards. The No. 1 defense has been the strongest and most consistent unit for the team throughout the summer, and the starters clearly have high expectations for the regular season, which begins Sept. 9 against the Eagles.

"From what we've shown this preseason, I think we have a real good confidence going into the season," Pro Bowl defensive end Aaron Kampman said. "We're excited to get started and look forward to the challenge of Philadelphia."

Meanwhile, the offensive starters played two series and scored on their second drive. Directing an effective no-huddle attack, Brett Favre completed four straight passes - two to Bubba Franks for 9 and 20 yards, one to James Jones for 8 yards, and a slant-and-run to Greg Jennings for 23 yards - to set up goal-to-go from the 9-yard line.

"I think our tempo was great," center Scott Wells said of the no-huddle. "We were getting the line down before their defense was set. I know several times we lined up we still had 23, 24 seconds on the (play) clock.

"That really helps us out. It keeps them on their heels, limits their blitz, gets them gassed. When you press the tempo, it really limits their defensive calling."

On third down, Favre then hit Noah Herron with a short dump-off over the middle, and the third-year running back dodged a tackler and dove over the goal line for a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter.

"That was all Noah," Favre said. "They played coverage, had three guys out there over our two receivers on both sides, and Noah was one-on-one. He just caught the ball and made a hell of a play."

From there, the Titans' starters took control of the game against the Packers' reserves, driving two straight times for touchdowns while holding the Green Bay offense scoreless the rest of the first half.

Aaron Rodgers' first series as quarterback produced his best chance to score. Completions of 11 and 13 yards to Jones, plus an 11-yard pass to Ruvell Martin set up a 52-yard field goal attempt, but Mason Crosby barely missed wide left.

"For a second, I thought I had it," said Crosby, who had plenty of distance on the kick. "It was coming back a little bit. But I couldn't tell what the wind was doing. It seemed a little calm on the field, but the ball gets up there it starts moving a little bit. I thought it was going to come back to the right but it just stayed left the whole time."

{sportsad300}In the final day of the kicking competition with Dave Rayner, Crosby also had two kickoffs go 1 and 3 yards deep in the end zone. Rayner had just one kickoff that went to the 3-yard line.

Crosby's miss was the only hiccup by either kicker in the four preseason games, and Tennessee took advantage of the good field position. Quarterback Vince Young hit Brandon Jones for a 6-yard TD two plays after a 20-yard completion to Jones gave the Titans first-and-goal. Earlier in the drive, LenDale White converted a key fourth-and-1 with a 21-yard run.

Young then scored himself on Tennessee's next drive, scrambling to the end zone pylon from 8 yards out to put the Titans ahead 14-7. White and Chris Brown combined for 29 yards rushing, with Young hitting Eric Moulds for a 17-yard gain.

The Packers tied the game briefly in the opening moments of the third quarter. On Tennessee's first snap, Larry Birdine got around the corner to sack Young, forcing a fumble. Rookie first-round draft pick Justin Harrell plucked the fumble out of midair and returned it 18 yards for a touchdown, making it 14-14.

But that was the last bright spot for the Packers. Tennessee regained the lead with back-to-back field goals on Young's final possession and Kerry Collins' first at quarterback. Rob Bironas made kicks from 51 and 33 yards to put Tennessee ahead 20-14 late in the third.

The Titans pulled away from there, adding a 70-yard punt return for a touchdown by Chris Davis and another Bironas field goal.

The Packers struggled mightily on offense from the middle of the second quarter on. After the missed field goal, Rodgers led the offense to two three-and-outs and then two first downs in the 2-minute drive to close the half.

In four possessions with Paul Thompson at quarterback, the offense had just three first downs. One potentially promising drive stalled when Thompson was sacked on fourth-and-1 from the Tennessee 40.

Still, with the No. 1 defense as the catalyst and the No. 1 offense showing it can score points, the Packers enter their preparation for the regular-season opener with a lot of optimism, as well as anticipation to see if they can improve on last year's 8-8 mark.

"I think there are so many positive aspects of our football team that we're able to build on," McCarthy said. "The only thing you have to compare it to is last year, so we're clearly further ahead."

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