SAN DIEGO – It was a take-the-bad-with-the-good kind of night for the Packers, which is typical of a preseason opener.
The ups and downs started on the second snap of Thursday's 21-13 loss to the Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium, when first-round draft pick Nick Perry sacked San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers, only to see the flag fly for unsportsmanlike conduct, apparently due to his muscle-flexing celebration.
"I was just caught up in the moment trying to get a sack," Perry said. "Oh well."
Second-year cornerback Davon House didn't really get to celebrate his strong 2012 debut, either. He had solid coverage on Malcolm Floyd down the sideline on the first third down of the game, and then he knifed into the backfield in the second quarter to bring down running back Curtis Brinkley for a 3-yard loss.
But in the second half, House injured his shoulder as the gunner on the punt team, and his prognosis is unknown.
"I get x-rays tomorrow morning. Hopefully, it just popped out," said House, who could have the inside track on a starting job in the base and nickel defenses if he's not out for long. He dealt with injuries much of his rookie season, too.
"I haven't been flying around like that since college, so it felt good out there. That's what the coaches wanted to see, was us being physical tackling."
It was just as much of a roller coaster on offense. There were three turnovers early, left tackle Herb Taylor had a rough go of it against pass rusher Melvin Ingram on a late first-quarter series, and then when backup quarterback Graham Harrell went into the game, he went three-and-out on his first three drives.
Harrell settled down and executed a smooth two-minute drive, moving the Packers 70 yards in eight plays for a TD with 32 seconds left in the first half. He hit Randall Cobb for big gains of 28 and 23 yards. Once Harrell got his legs under him, he seemed fine.
"That was the whole thing," receiver Donald Driver said. "You have to get the rust off, and then you start playing ball. You see exactly what he can do. Right before half, he drives the ball right down there and scores. That was big for us. He has the confidence that he can play on this level, and he's proven it."
The fits and starts continued in the second half for Harrell, who played nine series in all before giving way to third-stringer B.J. Coleman for a final, last-ditch drive.
Harrell was victimized by a couple of dropped passes, by wide receiver Curenski Gilleylen and tight end DeMarco Cosby, that would have moved the chains. But working with the youngest, rawest receivers on the roster, Harrell did put together a 14-play scoring drive -- with the help of a San Diego penalty on fourth down -- that pulled the Packers within 14-13 early in the fourth quarter.
"You have to build that trust to build that confidence, and it was a bunch of young guys, but I think they trust him out there," said Driver, smiling at the notion that Harrell's second-half receivers were like 1999 Donald Drivers, at the low end of the depth chart. "I remember him telling the guys on the sideline to just relax and have fun, and they did for him."
To his credit, Harrell didn't point the finger at anyone who ran the wrong route or dropped a good ball, but he spoke of the second unit growing and improving as the preseason progresses. He shook off his rough start of throws that were ill-timed or behind his receivers, and he sounded confident others' mistakes would minimize in time as well.
"That's kind of the attitude and mentality I try to bring in every day," said Harrell, who finished 15 of 27 passing for 135 yards and a TD. His passer rating was 81.6. "Whatever just happened, whether it was great or whether it was really bad, let's play the next one and see what happens."
Fittingly, it seemed the night ended with another good-bad sequence. Trying to drive the Packers for a tying score, Coleman completed a clutch fourth-down throw to tight end D.J. Williams to keep the offense alive. But then rookie running back Marc Tyler, who had racked up 48 yards from scrimmage (32 rushing, 16 receiving) and a rushing touchdown in front of his home southern California crowd, fumbled with 19 seconds left in the game after a 6-yard reception that had gotten the Packers across midfield.
Tyler admitted after the game to being a little tired, because he hadn't normally been getting that many snaps in practice. His 13 rushes and three receptions might have equaled if not surpassed his total touches through two weeks of training camp.
But Tyler wasn't alone on this up-and-down night. Not alone at all.
"It's really just all about being more consistent," Harrell said. "If we can dot that, we can have a fun and successful preseason." Related links