Jason Spriggs sealed his man, Ty Mongomery exploded through the hole, shook off one would-be tackler, bounced off another and broke off a 25-yard gain.
On the next Broncos possession, Kentrell Brice picked off an errant throw from Trevor Siemian, returning it inside the five and setting up a Montgomery touchdown.
Not much went right the Green Bay Packers after that. Penalties, poor execution, missed assignments, and troubling play calls marred what was supposed to be the marquee game of their preseason. Save for a smattering of nice plays and one solid touchdown drive in the second half by Brett Hundley, there was little to be excited about as the Packers fell 20-17 to the Denver Broncos on Saturday night. Hundley tried to orchestrate a scoring drive in the last two minutes of the game, but he was sacked on the final play of the game to end the comeback attempt.
As has been the case the last few years, Mike McCarthy played his starters significantly less than Green Bay’s opponent. Aaron Rodgers only played two series and ditto went for players like Clay Matthews, though the interior defensive line and secondary played nearly the entire first half.
But critical touchstones for some of the Packers’ young players were missed. Spriggs, outside of that nice block and a few nice reps against Von Miller, also gave up a sack to Miller and once against battled inconsistency.
Kyle Murphy, starting in place of Bryan Bulaga, might have been worse, highlighted by his olé block on fourth-and-1 to go along with a handful of other terrible reps in pass protection.
And despite the Broncos playing with just two regular defensive tackles, Green Bay couldn’t get the running game on track outside of that Montgomery chunk play and one Aaron Jones 28-yard scamper. It took third and fourth-string Bronco defenders for the Packers ground game to find any semblance of success.
Sloppiness killed plays and penalties stymied drives. It’s the preseason, so that is to be expected, but even by those standards this was sub-par.
And that goes for the defense as well.
Rookie Kevin King missed at least three tackles in the first half alone, though he did have a diving pass breakup to save a touchdown. He’s simply too inconsistent to be on the field regularly at this point. The Packers are lucky for now they don’t need him assuming Davon House is ready for the season opener.
If that weren’t bad enough, Green Bay lost its best pass rusher Nick Perry to an ankle injury.
But it wasn’t all negative for the Packers. Mike Daniels lived in the Broncos backfield no matter who or how many tried to block him. Ditto for Kenny Clark. This interior defensive line should be a strength of the defense moving forward, particularly if Dean Lowry comes back healthy.
And that interior pressure eats up blockers for the guys on the edge. Saturday night was unequivocally Kyler Fackrell’s best game in a Packers uniform, beating first-round pick Garett Bolles several times to create pressure and flush Trevor Siemian. He may have had a sack at one point if Mike Daniels and Reggie Gilbert hadn’t also whipped their men en route to the quarterback.
When the defense can control the line of scrimmage, the secondary’s job becomes easier. Pressure forced a number of incompletions and a free blitzer (Blake Martinez) forced the interception.
Damarious Randall returning to 2015 form buoyed that effort. Randall came back from injury after a week off and showed the talent we saw from him as a rookie.
The third-year pro from Arizona State blanketed Demaryius Thomas on the Siemian interception, nearly had a pick-six, and made a great open-field tackle. His only glaring reception allowed was a great play where Randall fought Jordan Taylor at the catch point.
If this version of Randall is the one the Packers get in 2017, it could mitigate concerns over how this secondary bounces back from an anemic 2016.
Trevor Davis, after going out of his way to secure the catch on his first punt return, showed explosiveness and burst in a 27-yard return, another bright spot for the Packers. (He also caught three passes for 39 yards.)
The problem was that was the only punt the defense forced in the first half.
We’ve yet to see the Josh Jones coaches and reporters gushed about all camp. For some reason Dom Capers thinks his corners are allergic to press man, preferring instead to play off and give huge cushions. Considering the secondary features one of the best safety duos in football to erase mistakes on the backend, plus Brice and Jones who each run 4.4, it’s puzzling to say the least. Jones did blitz from the slot on occasion in the second half, however, closing quickly on ball-carriers in the backfield.
The starting offensive line appears solidified, but the backups are as shaky as we’ve seen from a Ted Thompson roster in a while. Yes, the Broncos have some scary pass rushers, but the Packers line couldn’t block backups and also-rans.
Between McCarthy and Rodgers, Green Bay takes the preseason less seriously than most teams, but this kind of showing has to be considered a negative. It may not ultimately bring much to bear on the 2017 regular season, but Saturday’s game was not a step forward for the Packers.