Packers change their plans in Winnipeg

Head Coach Matt LaFleur
Head Coach Matt LaFleur

WINNIPEG, Man. – The game that was supposed to be the final preseason run-through for the Packers’ starters turned into anything but on Thursday night.

A problem with the conditions in the end zones at IG Field in Winnipeg forced the contest with the Raiders to be played on a modified field, and ultimately led to Packers Head Coach Matt LaFleur resting his starting lineups on both sides of the ball.

With a safety hazard in the end zones due to moving the goal posts after the field was re-lined to NFL specifications, it was decided to play the game on an 80-yard field. The 10-yard lines serving as the goal lines, and there were no kickoffs.

LaFleur didn’t say specifically that the field snafu caused his change in plans, but he suggested Oakland’s decision to rest all of its starters played into his call.

“We made the adjustments we felt were in the best interest of our football team, and we moved forward,” LaFleur said moments after the Packers lost, 22-21, on a late field goal by the Raiders.

“It was a combination of a lot of things I really don’t want to get into right now. It is what it is. They weren’t playing their guys and I just didn’t want to put our guys at risk.”

With the Packers’ regular-season opener just seven days after next Thursday’s preseason finale, it’s highly unlikely any starters will see the field in that game, either. So Green Bay could be heading to Chicago for Week 1 with the starters playing only two series of preseason football (last week at Baltimore) and quarterback Aaron Rodgers not taking a snap.

LaFleur sounded unconcerned. His mind was much more on the litany of injuries the Packers suffered in this game and what they might mean for roster decisions and lineup availability in two weeks.

“I feel confident in our preparation,” LaFleur said. “Hindsight is 20/20. I know we’re going to get second-guessed every which way, but I’m not too worried about it.

“I’m concerned about how we go about our business and our mindset in that locker room, and I think our guys are confident.”

No updates were given, but the list of players that left Thursday’s game was extensive, headed by rookie first-round pick Rashan Gary. Receiver Equanimeous St. Brown appeared to sustain a nasty ankle injury, while linebacker Curtis Bolton, defensive backs Will Redmond and Mike Tyson, receiver Allen Lazard and offensive lineman Cole Madison all exited. Defensive lineman Tyler Lancaster and defensive back Natrell Jamerson also left the game but later returned.

As for the game itself, second-year QB Tim Boyle got the start and found a rhythm in the second quarter, engineering three consecutive touchdown drives as the Packers took a 21-10 halftime lead.

The Green Bay Packers traveled to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, to take on the Oakland Raiders in a preseason game.

Playing the entire first half, Boyle was 16-of-25 for 191 yards and two touchdowns for a 113.9 passer rating. His TD throws went to Trevor Davis and Jake Kumerow, both well-placed passes toward the boundary.

“Tim played well,” LaFleur said. “We moved the ball. We had three straight drives that ended in touchdowns, and anytime you’re doing that you’re doing something right. All in all he played well and he also got support from the guys around him.”

DeShone Kizer played the second half and didn’t have the same kind of support, getting sacked three times and failing to put any points on the board. He was 4-for-7 for 24 yards and was intercepted on a final-play desperation heave after the Raiders had completed their comeback on a field goal with eight seconds left.

LaFleur said he wanted to start Boyle to get a longer, earlier look at him, and whether or not his performance has shifted the battle for the No. 2 spot behind Rodgers could become known next week.

Davis made his preseason debut after missing two weeks due to injury and shined, producing more than 100 all-purpose yards.

The fourth-year receiver returned a punt 17 yards, gained 18 on an end-around run, and caught five passes for 78 yards and a score. Kumerow’s additional TD may have solidified those two in the fourth and fifth receiver spots behind Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Geronimo Allison.

“Yeah, I was very excited for (Davis),” LaFleur said. “It seemed like every time we made a play, he was the guy making the play. It was a pretty good performance by him.”

Second-year cornerback Josh Jackson also made his preseason debut a good one with a couple of early pass breakups, and running back Tra Carson chalked up a rushing touchdown amidst his nine carries for 32 yards.

Rookie linebacker Ty Summers once again led the defense in tackles with 10 (nine solo), and the reserve units cut down on their missed tackles from the first two games.

Despite the short-notice change in plans, LaFleur disagreed with the notion the game didn’t have as much value for his team.

“Not at all,” he said. “I thought there was a lot of good quality football out there. The beauty of this is we got a chance to get evaluations on guys we might not have had the time to.”

And the starters have no choice but to be ready anyway.

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