While preseason scores are far from relevant, the 22-11 final in Foxboro was an indication of just how strong of an all-around effort the Packers put together on Thursday night.
Aaron Rodgers picked up right where he left off last season with a strong first quarter, highlighted by a 14-play, 78-yard drive to open the game, ironically ending with a failed fourth down conversion inside the opponent's 5-yard line. While the no-huddle offense operated smoothly, it was in the red zone once again where they could not manage to come away with six points. The sample size is obviously small, but the same hiccups are what ultimately cost Green Bay their season in 2014.
From there, backup Scott Tolzien did his best Rodgers impression and proved that he is more than capable of managing the up-tempo offense. His impressive play was highlighted by a 26-yard second quarter touchdown strike to Jeff Janis down the right sideline on fourth and one.
In a highly contested competition for the third running back spot behind Eddie Lacy and James Starks, it was Rajion Neal who got the nod with the second-team offense, while Alonzo Harris and John Crockett split backfield duties in the second half. Harris had an impressive 25-yard touchdown run early off the left side in the third quarter, thanks in large part to a huge block by fullback John Kuhn that set the edge to spring him loose. Crockett made a splash play of his own midway through the fourth by hauling in a red zone pass from rookie Brett Hundley and stretching it across the goal line.
All in all, the offense was much more dominant than the 22 points they put up. Green Bay went for it on fourth down five different times, converting two of them and twice failing from within scoring range. In his only quarter of play, Rodgers went 11/19 with 117 yards. His nineteen first quarter attempts were more than any first quarter in his career. Perhaps this is a glimpse of new play caller Tom Clements' strategy heading into the season. Tolzien finished 10/16 with 107 yards and a score. Hundley was 4/6 for 60 yards, and Matt Blanchard finished 2/2 for 11 yards.
Aaron Rodgers threw 19 passes in 1st quarter vs NE The most passes he has thrown in 1st quarter in reg season was 15 (Week 1 vs NO, 2011)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 14, 2015
While the offense looked to be in sync for the most part, it was the defense that led the way on this night. They finished with seven sacks on backup-turned-temporary starter Jimmy Garoppolo, two by Datone Jones, to go along with an interception. Aside from a 55-yard touchdown run from Jonas Gray, the biggest play they allowed was a 17-yard catch and run from former Wisconsin Badger running back James White. Undrafted rookie corner Ladarius Gunter made the biggest play on defense by ripping the ball out of a Patriots receiver's hands for an interception on the opening drive of the second half.
While not too much stock should be put into a preseason game, let alone the first one, it was a good sign to see the Packers clicking on both sides of the ball. It was a nice way to unofficially kick off the 2015 season, and they will look to build on this performance throughout the rest of the preseason.