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Game Review: Preseason Ends With Wild Finish

It was a quick night for the starters, and a dramatic one for the backups. The Packers’ No. 1 offense scored on its only snap for an early lead Thursday, and then watched the reserves rally with a touchdown on the game’s final play, only to come up short when the 2-point conversion failed in a 23-21 loss to Tennessee that wrapped up the preseason. - More Packers-Titans Game Center

It was a quick night for the starters, and a dramatic one for the backups.

The Packers' No. 1 offense scored on its only snap for an early lead Thursday, and then watched the reserves rally with a touchdown on the game's final play, only to come up short when the 2-point conversion failed in a 23-21 loss to the Tennessee Titans that wrapped up the 2008 preseason in front of 69,744 fans at Lambeau Field.

Much of the night was focused on backup quarterbacks Brian Brohm and Matt Flynn, who had their struggles against Tennessee's No. 1 defense in the first half. But, trailing 23-15 in the fourth quarter, both quarterbacks put the Packers (1-3) in position for the tying score.

"I think both our young quarterbacks were in some tough spots," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "They kept battling. They did some good things. It takes time to develop young quarterbacks and that's where we are. I'm excited about their future, but we've got work to do."

With the help of a 34-yard run on an aborted punt by Jon Ryan, Brohm got the ball deep in Tennessee territory and appeared to hit receiver Jake Allen for a 27-yard TD pass on fourth down with 4:06 left. But after a replay review it was determined that Allen, who was fighting for the ball with Tennessee's Reynaldo Hill in the end zone, did not keep possession of the pass as he came to the ground.

Brohm (7-of-12, 52 yards) finished the preseason without a touchdown pass, so the replay reversal was a tough break for him. But the near-great play showed some successful improvisation, which he felt was a good sign.

"I thought I did a good job of escaping the pocket, making something happen when nothing was really there," Brohm said. "I thought he went up and made a great catch, but obviously the defender knocked it away. I thought I showed I could make a play out of the pocket, though."

Then Flynn got one last chance, and he drove the offense 85 yards in the final 2:19. A 20-yard completion to tight end Joey Haynos and a 21-yard scramble by Flynn himself set up a dramatic 22-yard TD pass to Allen as time expired. But the Packers couldn't force overtime, as wide receiver Johnny Quinn caught Flynn's fade pass on the 2-point try and was shoved out of bounds before getting both feet in, ending the game.

For Flynn, his experience in leading LSU to several late-game wins as a senior starter a year ago came in handy, and he undoubtedly would have remained just as poised had he gotten a chance to win in overtime.

"Two-minute, end of the game is controlled chaos," Flynn said. "You have to be going fast, but you have to be under control. I've had a lot of experience at it in the past. Last year at LSU, we had a lot of games in the fourth quarter, a lot of games came down to the last drive, fourth downs, everything like that."

All in all, though McCarthy didn't outright dismiss the thought of bringing in a veteran backup before the start of the regular season, he was pleased with the progress his young quarterbacks showed, particularly after getting off to a rough start early in the game.

"Walking off the field tonight, I feel that they both did a number of positive things," said McCarthy, who declined to say which quarterback had won the No. 2 job behind Rodgers. "I think there's things they can learn from. There's mistakes they made they can learn from. I think they played to the speed of the game as they did the past three games.

"But it's a process. It's not about one game, it's not about one day. It's a process to get the young quarterbacks ready to play and develop at the same time. It's a challenge."

The starters played just one series apiece, and for the offense that meant one play.

After a 29-yard return of the opening kickoff by Jordy Nelson, quarterback Aaron Rodgers hit Greg Jennings deep down the right sideline between two Tennessee defenders, and Jennings took it 68 yards for a touchdown just 16 seconds into the game.

McCarthy said he considered leaving the starters in to play longer than just the one play, particularly running back Ryan Grant, who ended the preseason without a single carry. But he opted to play it safe and keep the team's health as the top priority.

The Titans responded with a big play of their own. Vince Young connected with Justin McCareins for a 50-yard gain on Tennessee's third play, as McCareins beat safety Nick Collins with a double move. Young then scrambled for 13 yards on third-and-8, giving the Titans a first-and-goal, but the defense stiffened from there, forcing Tennessee to settle for a 22-yard field goal.

With the help of another Young scramble, for 31 yards, and a 24-yard pass interference penalty on Jarrett Bush, the Titans added another field goal to make it 7-6 early in the second quarter.

Then Tennessee's first-string defense started to have its way with Green Bay's reserves, as Brohm and Flynn alternated every couple of series.

First, Flynn fumbled while getting sacked, giving the Titans the ball in Packers' territory. Green Bay's defense held, but Tennessee faked the punt, and up-man Vincent Fuller took a direct snap, ran around right end, cut back to the middle of the field and took it the distance for a 40-yard TD.

Moments later, Brohm was reinserted at quarterback, and he fumbled while getting sacked as well. Taking over at the Green Bay 37, Tennessee picked up a first down on an 18-yard pass to tight end Alge Crumpler and kicked another field goal for a 16-7 lead.

After having a field goal deflect off the upright to close the first half, Tennessee opened the second half with an impressive scoring drive to make it 23-7.

With Kerry Collins at quarterback, the Titans marched 80 yards in 14 plays, taking 8 minutes, 1 second, off the clock and scoring on a 1-yard run by Chris Johnson. On a crucial fourth-and-3 play from the Green Bay 18, Collins found Johnson for 13 yards on a swing pass in the left flat, setting up goal-to-go.

With Brohm and Flynn still struggling - they combined to produce just one first down on their first seven possessions - the comeback started on Tennessee's next possession.

{sportsad300}Rookie defensive end Jeremy Thompson got a piece of Collins' arm from behind on a throw, and the ball floated up and wobbled into the arms of safety Tyrone Culver for an interception. Culver returned it 30 yards to the Tennessee 12-yard line, and Flynn (8-of-13, 77 yards, 2 TD) needed just two plays to score, hitting Brett Swain on a slant pass for a 6-yard touchdown.

When Kregg Lumpkin (10 carries, 27 yards; 4 receptions, 33 yards) ran in the 2-point conversion, it was 23-15, and Brohm and Flynn each got their shot at extending the game.

"I thought we kept playing, and we came back and got a shot to win the game at the end," Brohm said. "Nobody really got their heads down. We knew we had our 2's in versus their 1's, and it was a challenge for us."

A challenge either may have to face at some point in the regular season, depending on their roles, which made it valuable work on Thursday, even if it took awhile to generate some success.

"Obviously we had too many three and outs and fumble recoveries and everything like that," Flynn said. "We kind of got our defense tired, so we had to pick it up and get some longer drives, and I felt like we did that. We just didn't give up and we kept grinding, grinding, grinding, and we made some plays."

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