WINNIPEG, Man. – No, Tim Boyle never envisioned his first NFL preseason start would come on a modified 80-yard field inside a Canadian Football League stadium.
But the Packers’ second-year quarterback and the rest of the offense made the most of what they were given during Thursday’s 22-21 preseason loss to the Oakland Raiders, a game in which the 10-yard lines served as the goal lines due to safety hazards in the actual end zones at IG Field.
Green Bay scratched Aaron Rodgers and two dozen other starters as a precaution, allowing Boyle to start at quarterback and guide the offense through the entire first half.
The game started slowly with both teams getting acclimated to the unique circumstances, but a seven-play, 75-yard drive in the second quarter began a run of three consecutive touchdown-producing drives for Boyle and the offense.
“It was interesting especially when you get down to the red zone,” said Boyle, who finished 15-of-26 passing for 191 yards and two touchdowns. “You’re built to play on a normal football field. You look at the end zone and you’re thinking that’s the end zone, so you have to train yourself.
“It’s kind of a weird thing that we were able to throw two touchdowns in those vicinities today and the receivers were obviously aware of where they were, so it worked out.”
Boyle showed poise in the pocket, good downfield accuracy and command of the huddle in an extended appearance. Eight of the Packers’ 10 longest offensive plays started with Boyle throws.
He connected with Trevor Davis on what the official scorers termed a 23-yard touchdown, though in reality it was 13 due to the reconfigured end zones. Boyle then went back to Davis two more times on the next series on 13- and 20-yard completions.
He showed good touch on a 26-yard touchdown pass to Jake Kumerow before finding Darrius Shepherd for a 22-yard pickup on third-and-11 during the next drive. That completion set up Tra Carson’s 2-yard touchdown run, giving Green Bay a 21-10 halftime advantage.
“Tim was awesome, man,” said Justin McCray, who started at right guard Thursday. “All of our quarterbacks are great leaders, but Tim commanded the huddle well. Knew some things he wanted to do if certain things weren’t there. He let us know that. He was very vocal and did a great job in there.”
DeShone Kizer, the incumbent No. 2 quarterback, handled the second half for Green Bay, completing 4-of-7 passes for 24 yards with an interception off a Hail Mary as time expired.
Through three preseason games, Boyle has completed 31-of-51 passes for 338 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions (113.0 passer rating).
While he said Thursday’s game “will definitely stay with” him, Boyle downplayed the significance of his performance given the situation. Regardless, he effectively managed the chaos around him for arguably his best showing in a Packers’ uniform.
“I think physically, I have,” said Boyle when asked if he feels he’s made steady progress in the first three preseason games. “I think mentally, I need to be more efficient in the huddle. I think I can do a better job of getting in and out. Efficiency at the line of scrimmage, I think that’s definitely an area I can improve.”
Y’all must’ve forgotten: In his first preseason action of 2019, Trevor Davis looked every bit the playmaker he’d been in practice prior to suffering a stinger in a joint practice with Houston earlier this month.
The Packers’ fourth-year receiver caught a team-high five passes for 78 yards and a touchdown, recorded Green Bay’s longest rush of the night (18 yards) on an end-around in the first quarter and also returned a punt for 17 yards.
Davis returned to practice in a big way earlier this week, hauling in a long completion through double coverage in a team period of the Packers’ final public practice on Monday.
As good as those moments felt, it’s even sweeter for Davis to finally make those plays in a game setting.
“Getting out there on the practice field is good and getting your feet wet in that way,” Davis said. “But being able to go out there in the game and do what you’ve been doing in practice, feels really good.”
At the same time, Davis recognizes there can be no letup heading into next Thursday’s preseason finale against Kansas City, with all the competition he’s facing in a deep receiving corps.
“I just have to keep stacking up days,” Davis said. “I can’t get too high on what’s happened today in the game or in previous practices. Every day I just have to keep going up and keep doing the same thing consistently. Consistency is really the biggest thing.”
Shepherd, the undrafted rookie out of North Dakota State, also helped his stock with three catches for 40 yards and a 15-yard punt return. His leaping 22-yard snag in the second quarter was Green Bay’s longest completion of the game.
“He’s unbelievable,” Boyle said. “All four of us quarterbacks love him. His catch radius is unreal, as you guys see. Smart player, knows where to be. He’s really putting himself in a good spot to make the 53.”
Great Scott: Perhaps no player on the Packers’ sideline had to make a bigger adjustment Thursday night than JK Scott.
Green Bay’s second-year punter not only succeeded, but also was remarkably effective directionally punting on the 80-yard field, averaging 47.1 yards (39.7 net) on seven attempts.
While he was only credited with one punt inside the 20, Scott kept the Raiders backed deep into their own territory throughout the night. He twice forced Oakland to start within two yards of its end zone, including after a 56-yard coffin-corner punt at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
“You just have to adjust,” Scott said. “All game, I was just saying, ‘OK, if we were on the 35, all right this is the 45.’ That’s what I would kind of tell myself. It was really, really weird. It was a weird feeling playing on an 80-yard field. Never done that before.”
Summers’ showing: The Packers again turned the communication of the defense over to seventh-round pick Ty Summers with Blake Martinez sitting out and rookie Curtis Bolton exiting early with a knee injury and not returning.
Summers led the defense with 10 tackles (nine solo). Nobody else on the defense had more than four.
“Personally, I feel like I played better,” Summers said. “I had more confidence out there. There were a couple times I got out of my job assignment. My eyes were in the wrong spot but that’s what the preseason is for. You’re learning.”
Cornerback Chandon Sullivan led the secondary with four pass breakups, while Josh Jackson added two deflections in his first preseason start.
Odds and ends: Besides sliding the end zones between the goal line and 10-yard line, Green Bay and Oakland also agreed to have no kickoffs. Instead, the ball was placed at the team’s 25-yard line at the start of each half and after scoring plays.