Here are our selections for Player of the Game and Play of the Game from the Green Bay Packers’ victory over the New England Patriots in Thursday’s preseason opener.
Player of the Game
There is no doubt that the Packers made the right move in rewarding Scott Tolzien and moving on from Matt Flynn. Those five interceptions thrown in 2013, when he was barely two months removed from being in a 49ers uniform, are ancient history. Earlier this week, coach Mike McCarthy took some of the blame for that. “Frankly, we probably did too much with him, try not to slow the rest of the offense down, put too much on his plate.” Now, Tolzien is ready for whatever heaping portions McCarthy wants to dish up. Tolzien has the arm strength, intelligence and drive to be more than just a successful backup. He had a strong preseason last summer and is off to an excellent start to this preseason with a 10-of-16, 107-yard, one-touchdown performance against the defending Super Bowl champions.
The goal, of course, is to score points, and Tolzien’s four possessions ended with two touchdowns. And who knows what might have been if not for Don Barclay giving up a pressure and being flagged for holding on Tolzien’s first series and Myles White dropping a deep pass on his third series. On his second series, Tolzien connected with Jeff Janis for a 26-yard touchdown on fourth-and-1. On the fourth series, Tolzien benefited from Ladarius Gunter’s interception and Alonzo Harris’ 25-yard touchdown run.
“I think we were all just anxious and looking forward to it because you look back even when we started in April and it’s all building up to game day,” Tolzien said. “I think more than anything, everyone is excited to just play against a different opponent and be out there on your own without the coaches. That’s what we enjoy is putting that preparation to use in a game situation.”
Play of the Game
Harris, a 237-pound undrafted rookie, knows how to get in the end zone, as he rushed for 44 scores during his career at Louisiana-Lafayette. Still, you might have scored on what was his first touchdown run as a professional.
Left tackle Jeremy Vujnovich sealed the end and fullback John Kuhn sealed the linebacker, which allowed Harris to get to the corner. From there, receiver Ty Montgomery did his best impersonation of a bowling ball. His one block knocked down another defender, and that defender in turn knocked down another. That 3-for-1 gave Harris one of the easier touchdowns of his football life.
If the Packers keep three running backs, the battle will go down to the wire. Sure-handed Rajion Neal got the first chance and rushed four times for 15 yards and added two receptions for 5 yards. Harris had a team-high 41 yards on seven attempts and gained 7 yards on his loan catch. John Crockett, who missed the start of camp with an ankle injury, managed 26 hard-fought yards on 10 carries and turned his only catch into a 10-yard touchdown.
“I thought they all ran the ball well. No doubt about it,” McCarthy said. “I thought our backs played well, were productive. I’ll give you a better assessment once we watch the tape but I thought as a group the run game was productive.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.