Titans' starters beat Packers' backups

Despite a strong finish by rookie quarterback Matt Flynn, Green Bay finishes the preseason 1-3 with a 23-21 loss to Tennessee.

For more than 45 minutes, almost 70,000 fans had to be wondering why they shelled out NFL-sized prices for third-rate football.

Then, Matt Flynn resucitated what was left of the Lambeau Field throng with a thrilling rally that fell a two-point conversion short in a 23-21 loss to the Tennessee Titans in the preseason finale on Thursday night.

The Titans played keepaway for the first three quarters, with plenty of help from the Packers' backups on offense. The Titans' starters played into the second half while the Packers' starters played one series. In that context, the result hardly was surprising and will mean nothing when Green Bay (1-3) visits Tennessee (3-1) in Week 9 of the regular season.

Tennessee owned the ball for almost 20 minutes in the first half en route to a 16-7 halftime lead, then held the ball for 8 minutes coming out of intermission to make it 23-7.

The Packers got off to an electrifying start when Aaron Rodgers hit Greg Jennings for a 68-yard touchdown pass on the first play from scrimmage, but they put the Lambeau throng asleep from there with sloppy play and by simply being outmanned.

The Titans ran 48 plays in the first half to the Packers' 18. Green Bay's second possession of the second quarter ended after two plays, when former Pro Bowler Jevon Kearse ran around rookie Breno Giacomini for a sack of Flynn to force a fumble and turnover. On the first play of the next possession, Jacob Ford ran around Giacomini to sack Brian Brohm and force a fumble for another turnover.

So thorough was the domination that in the third quarter, the crowd rose to its feet but barely registered a murmur on fourth-and-3 from the Packers' 18-yard line. The Titans converted with ease on a swing pass to speedy Chris Johnson, and Johnson punched it in two plays later to make it 23-7.

The Packers made a game of it, though. It started when rookie defensive end Jeremy Thompson, invisible for most of training camp, beat his man around the corner, reached out with his left hand and hit backup quarterback Kerry Collins' throwing arm. The ball fluttered to safety Tyrone Culver, whose interception and return set up 6-yard touchdown pass from Flynn to fellow rookie Brett Swain. A two-point conversion run by Kregg Lumpkin cut the margin to 23-15 with 3 minutes, 47 seconds left in the third quarter.

When it was backups vs. backups, the Packers not surprisingly fared better. Midway through the fourth quarter, Brohm completed a fourth-and-15 touchdown pass to undrafted rookie Jake Allen, though the ruling was overturned via replay review. Allen bobbled the ball and lost the ball as he fell to the turf.

The Packers looked dead when they took over at their 15-yard line with just more than 2 minutes remaining. But Flynn completed 7-of-10 drives and scrambled for 21 yards on third-and-17, and capped the drive with a 22-yard touchdown pass to Allen as time expired.

The Packers went for two points to force overtime, but Flynn's pass to Johnny Quinn led Quinn out of bounds to end the game.

"We had five verticals to the end zone for the last play of the game," Flynn said. "I had to buy some time and saw Joey Haynos cutting across the end zone, a 6-foot-7 tight end, and Jake Allen, a big, tall receiver with long arms. So, I knew I had a good chance over there. Joey kind of cut back but I had Jake over there, so I threw it up in his vicinity and he did the rest."

Flynn outplayed Brohm for the fourth consecutive preseason game, though coach Mike McCarthy would not answer whether Flynn, Brohm or a waiver-wire pickup would be the No. 2 for the regular season.

In the final accounting, almost nothing of importance can be gleaned from the game.

The Packers allowed 153 first-half rushing yards? Well, 40 of those came on a fake punt against the Packers' No. 2 return unit and 57 more came on Vince Young scrambles, which the defense hardly game-planned for in its three practices this week.

The Packers allowed three first-half sacks? Two came against Giacomini, who will be lucky to make the final roster, and the other came when Brohm waited too long to throw.

The Packers rushed for only 37 yards in the first half? Neither starter Ryan Grant nor primary backup Brandon Jackson touched the ball, and the No. 1 line wasn't on the field for any of those 11 rushes.

Really, the most important thing was none of the Packers' key players were injured. Eight starters sat out the game.

There were some highlights, too, in case you didn't notice among the barrage of Titans' running plays in the first three quarters:

- The opening touchdown strike was a perfect note for Rodgers and Co. to enter the regular season.

"We're definitely ready," Rodgers said at halftime. "We had a good performance last week. One-and-done this week. We'll have a good week of practice. We've got 10 days until the game, and then we're ready to play Minnesota."

- Rookie Patrick Lee had a pair of good kickoff returns, the first of which he showed amazing balance on to break 35 yards.

- For the first time this summer, the Packers put together a decent pass rush, even though it was backups against starters. Daniel Muir, Michael Montgomery and Alfred Malone were among those pushing the pocket. Officially, the Packers collected four quarterback hits and a sack by Montgomery.

- Linebackers Desmond Bishop and Abdul Hodge were active. Bishop had four tackles in the first quarter alone, and Hodge had a team-high nine stops.

"I thought Desmond Bishop played well," McCarthy said. "That second defense, if we don't turn the ball over, we're hanging in there. The lack of productivity on offense wore down our defense."

In the end, though, the Titans' starters were too strong for the Packers' reserves. Two plays sum up the game before the late rally: Punter Jon Ryan averted disaster by jumping high to snare a snap, then ran around right end for 34 yards. On the next play, though, Brohm fumbled the snap.

So, bring on the Vikings for a prime-time clash on Sept. 8. Ready or not.


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