The Green Bay Packers ended their preseason on a high note by rallying from a 10-point halftime deficit for a 21-17 victory Thursday night over the Tennessee Titans at The Coliseum in Nashville.
Brett Favre injured his ankle and left the game in the second quarter, but backup quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Craig Nall led the comeback. The Packers also were sparked by three second-half interceptions, including one by newly acquired linebacker Corey Jenkins early in the fourth quarter that set up the go-ahead touchdown.
Cornerback Mike Hawkins denied the Titans a chance to take the lead late in the game by intercepting a pass in the end zone thrown by third-string quarterback Chris Redman with less than three minutes remaining in the game. The take-away helped the Packers seal the game and finish the preseason with a 2-2 record.
Favre sustained a slight sprain to his right ankle during an 80-yard touchdown drive that closed the Packers to 10-7. Favre left the game for a few plays during the drive, but returned to throw a four-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Javon Walker with 13:36 left in the second quarter.
The touchdown was only the third of the preseason with Favre at quarterback, but Packers coach Mike Sherman feels the offense took a step forward against the Titans.
“We did some good things tonight with the first group,” said Sherman. “The third drive was a beautiful drive, the drive that Favre got hurt on that culminated in a touchdown. But we were three-and-out, three-and-out the first two times. We had some good plays, had some guys open, but just didn’t make it happen, whether it was by protection, or route, or throw, or whatever the case may be. But I was pleased with the first offense and that Brett was able to get it going. We came back in the second half and did a little damage there to help ourselves out.”
Favre tripped over defensive tackle Rien Long while backpedaling after he threw a pass during the drive. Aaron Rodgers entered the game for Favre for a few plays before Favre returned to finish the drive.
“We saw what happened upstairs and they said (Favre) got leg-whipped,” said Sherman. “It wasn’t intentional, I believe. We kind of knew what the injury was. He swore to me on the sideline that it was fine, but it stiffened up on him as the game went along. I was glad that he was able to go in and get the team into the end zone. That was important to him and to the offense.”
Rodgers replaced Favre early in the second quarter. Rodgers’ first three series ended in punts, but the rookie bounced back and found a rhythm early in the third quarter. Rodgers led the Packers on an eight-play, 86 yard drive before connecting with tight end Ben Steele for a 12-yard touchdown as Green Bay pulled within three points, 17-14. Rodgers was 5 of 5 passing for 47 yards in his best and only touchdown drive of the preseason.
Rodgers finished the game 9 of 13 for 92 yards. He had 80 yards passing in three previous games.
“I thought Aaron did better today without a doubt,” said Sherman. “I thought he managed the game well. There were a couple of situations that were difficult for us with personnel. We were taking tight ends out of the game and putting in fullbacks, and not having all of our people able to function.”
Rodgers gave way to Craig Nall, who fired a 22-yard strike to wide receiver Sam Breeden. Two plays later, however, Nall was intercepted in the end zone by cornerback Tony Beckham on a pass intended for Steele.
Linebacker Corey Jenkins, claimed on waivers by the Packers from Miami on Wednesday, intercepted a pass thrown by Billy Volek and returned it to the the Titans’ 10 early in the fourth quarter. Two plays later, Nall found running back Walter Williams open over the middle for a touchdown as the Packers took a 21-17 lead.
The Titans (1-3) went ahead 17-7 on Billy Volek’s 20-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Drew Bennett. Volek’s 31-yard pass to Bennett and seven-yard run for a first down sparked the drive.
Titans running back Chris Brown scored on a five-yard run to highlight Tennessee’s opening drive of the game. The Titans’ Antwan Odom sacked Favre and forced him to fumble on Green Bay’s 14 yard line. The punched it into the end zone in three plays to take a 7-0 lead.
Later in the quarter, the Titans drove 59 yards to Green Bay’s 6, but the Packers defense forced Tennessee to settle for Rob Bironas’ 20-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead.
The Packers, who were flagged eight times last Friday in a 27-3 loss to the New England Patriots, had eight penalties for 87 yards enforced against them in the first half against the Titans. Three other penalties on the Packers were declined. The Packers finished the game with a preseason-high 13 penalties for 121 yards.
“Some of those guys who made those penalties may not be here, but still it’s way to many,” said Sherman. “We’ve addressed it in camp. We’ve addressed it each week. Today was a telling statement. Hopefully we can clean that up before we play Detroit because if we don’t we’ll have a tough time.”