Jackie Battle scored on a 7-yard run with 5:02 remaining and the Tennessee Titans topped the Green Bay Packers 20-16 Saturday night at rain-drenched LP Field in Nashville, Tenn., in the season opener for both teams.
Much of the first half was played in torrential rain and while the elements backed off some in the second half, the rain was a fairly steady companion throughout the evening.
The Packers rested starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers, running back Eddie Lacy and wide receiver Jordy Nelson on the slick track and the Packers led much of the way, driving the ball 64 yards on eight plays on their first possession largely on the strength of James Starks, who had 49 yards on the drive, including a 20-yard scoring run that was sprung by terrific blocks from center J.C. Tretter and rookie tight end Richard Rodgers.
Green Bay had some trouble holding onto the football—fumbling five times—but the only one the Packers lost was costly.
Rookie Davante Adams started as the Packers punt returner before being replaced after dropping both punts he tried to field. The second caromed off him and was recovered by Zaviar Gooden at the Green Bay 13 with 4:27 left in the first quarter.
Tennessee wasted no time as Shonn Greene took a handoff and powered untouched 13 yards into the end zone to cut the Packer lead to 7-6. However, Maikon Bonani’s 33-yard extra point attempt—part of the NFL’s experiment with a longer point-after this preseason—missed.
The score remained 7-6 at the half before the Packers scored on their first possession after halftime.
Scott Tolzien, who took over for Matt Flynn at quarterback in the second quarter, marched the Packers 79 yards in seven plays, getting big chunks of yardage with completions of 17 and 38 yards to Chris Harper while undrafted rookie Rajion Neal ripped off runs of 15 and 8 yards before taking it the final 12 yards to the house on a powerful run that included bulling over a defensive back at the goal line.
The Packers’ two-point conversion failed on a play that featured Tolzien slightly under-throwing a wide-open Harper, who dropped the ball.
Tennessee came right back to tie the game, going 80 yards on 10 plays capped by Charlie Whitehurst’s 5-yard pass to running back Bishop Sankey.
Green Bay took the lead after the Packers intercepted rookie Zach Mettenberger. Korey Jones caught a tipped pass off Battle’s fingers and returned it eight yards to the Titans 13.
The Pack couldn’t move the ball and settled for Mason Crosby’s 32-yard field goal with 7:02 remaining.
But Mettenberger bounced back, connecting with Chase Coffman for a 26-yard completion and then hitting Brian Robiskie for 38 yards down to the Packers 9. Two plays later, Battle was in the end zone and Tennessee had its first lead.
The Packers got into Titan territory behind fourth-string quarterback Chase Rettig, an undrafted free agent out of Boston College, getting help from a 41-yard defensive pass interference penalty against Marc Anthony on a ball intended for Alex Gillett up the right seam.
Rettig connected with Justin Perillo for 10 yards and a first down at the Titans 33 and Lararius Perkins rambled nine yards around right end to the Tennessee 24.
But Perkins was stopped on two straight runs and Rettig’s fourth-and-1 pass to Kevin Dorsey fell incomplete.
Two kneeldowns ended the night.
Tolzien was solid despite the elements, completing 8-of-12 passes for 124 yards. Flynn started and was just 5-for-10 for 49 yards. Rettig went 1-for-3 for 10 yards.
Starks didn’t play after the first series and finished with 49 yards on six carries with a touchdown. Neal had 39 yards on five carries, DeJuan Harris gained 18 yards on seven attempts and Perkins had 18 yards on 10 carries.
Harper made his two catches for 55 yards on the Packers’ second-half touchdown drive, but had a drop later on that cost the Packers a third-down conversion. Dorsey caught three passes for 23 yards.
Rookie safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix had three tackles and was around the ball a lot. He also made a great recovery after Tennessee tight end Taylor Thompson beat him badly off the line of scrimmage, catching up to the play and knocking the ball loose before Thompson could secure the catch.
It was a difficult night to evaluate too much. Green Bay ran for 146 yards and threw for 148, while the defense surrendered 267 yards, 105 of them on the ground.
The Packers will be back on the road next week, visiting the St. Louis Rams for a 3 p.m. Central preseason contest at the Edward Jones Dome.