Chances are that as most Packers fans are eating breakfast and forgetting all about the Green Bay's 30-14 loss to the Titans at LP Field, Thompson and McCarthy will be pouring over game tape of many reserves who are on the bubble of making the team. The Packers will have to reduce their roster by 22 players to the mandatory limit of 53 by 3 p.m. (CDT) Saturday afternoon.
As the Packers, who finished 2-2 in the preseason, used the game to evaluate a number of backup players at various positions, Tennessee went with most of its starters through the first half and into the third quarter. Tennessee (3-1) had its first winning preseason since 2002. Coach Jeff Fisher used the game as his dress rehearsal for the Titans' season opener at Jacksonville. Last year, the Titans were 1-3 in the preseason before an 0-5 start in the regular season.
As a result, the Packers struggled to move the ball and stop the Titans after their first-team offense and defensive units were pulled from the game in the first quarter.
Despite losing, McCarthy said afterward that it was a productive evening for his team simply because many of the reserves were going against the Titans' regular starters.
"That's what we talked about this week," said McCarthy, who chose not to play a handful of starters on offense and defense. "They were not only going to have an opportunity to play a lot of snaps, but had to do double duty because the offense and defensive players played special teams. You could see that they were gassed, but that was part of the evaluation, too – to watch certain individuals push through that and to play against their ones. I thought it was a great opportunity. I thought we took full advantage of it as a football team, and we'll have great film to evaluate in the morning."
McCarthy, who normally calls the plays on offense, allowed offensive coordinator Joe Philbin to take over so he could watch some players a little more closely rather than focus on which plays to call.
"It was a good opportunity for me to do that, but more importantly it was a good opportunity for Joe Philbin to call the game," McCarthy said.
The Packers played without three starters on offense and two starters on defense. Running back Brandon Jackson was held out of the game after sustaining a concussion last Sunday in practice. Guard Jason Spitz (calf) and wide receiver Donald Driver (ankle) also did not suit up. On defense, cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Al Harris did not make the trip to Nashville, allowing Patrick Dendy and Jarrett Bush to start.
The Titans broke away from a tie game early in the third quarter and took a 27-14 lead on Chris Davis' 70-yard punt return for a touchdown with 53 seconds left in the quarter. Prior to Davis' punt return, kicker Rob Bironas converted on 51- and 33-yard field goals as Vince Young and the Titans' first-team offense played early in the third quarter before giving way to backup Kerry Collins and the second-team offense. Bironas added a 46-yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter to push Tennessee's lead to 30-14.
The Packers, behind third-string quarterback Paul Thompson and second- and third-team players was unable to generate any points the rest of the way, but McCarthy wasn't all that discouraged.
I was very pleased with the number of reps that we got and the situation that we put our players in," McCarthy said. "I'm not very happy about the final score obviously, but the evaluation part of it I thought we got a ton of information to draw from."
Brett Favre and the first-team offense were sharp in the second series of the game, a 69-yard scoring drive highlighted by Favre's six-yard touchdown pass to running back Noah Herron. Favre completed four straight passes in the drive, including two to Bubba Franks for 9 and 20 yards, another to James Jones for 8 yards, and one to Greg Jennings on a slant for 23 yards – to set up goal-to-go from the 9.
Favre finished the game by completeing 8 of 10 passes for 82 yards.
One play after rookie DeShawn Wynn, one of the players that McCarthy observed closely, dropped a pass from Favre in the flat, Herron caught one over the middle at the 2, then broke through two tacklers and dived over the goal line for the touchdown.
Wynn had 54 yards on 21 carries, but 25 of his yards came later in the game against the Titans' second- and third-team defenses. Wynn also dropped two passes and was pushed into Aaron Rodgers by a blitzing linebacker on a sack.
After rookie Mason Crosby was wide left on a 52-yard field goal attempt late in the first quarter, Tennessee bounced back to tie the game at 7-7 on Vince Young's 6-yard pass to wide receiver Brandon Jones. Running back LenDale White converted a fourth-and-1 with a 21-yard run after breaking through the left side of Green Bay's defensive line key the drive. Young followed by connecting with Jones for 20 yards to make it first-and-goal at the Packers 7.
The Packers' second-team offense, behind backup Aaron Rodgers, was forced to punt the ball away after three plays. The Titans proceeded to take a 14-7 lead on Young's eight-yard run with 5:27 left in the second quarter. White had two carries for 15 yards, Young hit Eric Moulds for 17 yards, and Chris Brown carried three straight times for 14 more yards. Young scored on a scramble to the right pylon on third-and-goal for the score.
Defensive lineman Justin Harrell made the biggest play of his preseason by catching Young's fumble in the third quarter and running 15 yards for a touchdown to tie the game at 14-14 just 15 seconds into the third quarter. Defensive end Larry Birdine caused Young to fumble, and Harrell was in the right place at the right time to catch the ball in mid-air, then rumble toward end zone before diving across the goal line.
The Packers open the regular season Sept. 9 at home against the Philadelphia Eagles.
"I can only speak for the defense, but we feel like we know where we're going and we need to get a fast start against Philly," said linebacker A.J. Hawk.
"We've had enough of the preseason, and we're glad it's over. We're ready to move on to the regular season."