The Green Bay Packers’ preseason record slipped to 1-1 after a 24-19 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, but a possible torn ACL to Pro Bowl wide receiver Jordy Nelson has the team far more concerned than a preseason loss.
Green Bay drove deep into Pittsburgh territory on the opening drive of the game. On the Packers’ sixth play, Aaron Rodgers completed an eight-yard pass to Nelson. Nelson tried to pivot outside after making the reception, but fell to the ground. He jogged to the sideline, but initial reports are that he could miss the entire season with a torn ACL.
The Packers’ offense capped off the drive with a seven-yard touchdown run by Eddie Lacy and a two-point conversion by James Starks to take an early 8-0 lead after just five minutes.
Green Bay’s defense forced on punt on the Steelers’ first drive after offensive pass interference nullified a long touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown. The punt pinned the Packers on the one yard line, and Pittsburgh capitalized by recording a sack for a safety just three plays later.
On the ensuing Pittsburgh possession, the Steelers were hit with an injury as well. Starting center Maurkice Pouncey suffered an ankle injury that will likely require surgery. After a Green Bay three and out, Pittsburgh drove down the field and scored a touchdown to take a 9-8 lead.
With a minute and a half left in the first half, Scott Tolzien led a perfect two-minute offense that resulted in a 21-yard touchdown pass to tight end Richard Rodgers to put the Packers back on top 16-9 with 19 seconds left in the half.
Rodgers received praise from McCarthy and the coaching staff and is viewed as the team’s first string tight end. He responded by racking up three receptions for 30 yards and the touchdown.
On the first play of the second half, first-round draft pick Damarious Randall intercepted a pass from Landry Jones down the middle of the field. Mason Crosby connected on a 55-yard field goal on the following Green Bay possession to conclude the Packers’ scoring for the day.
Pittsburgh chipped away at the Packers’ 19-9 lead. The Steelers responded with a field goal in the third quarter before Landry Jones led the Steelers to two fourth quarter touchdowns and a final score of 24-19.
Jones led all passers with 170 yards and two touchdowns. Tolzien was the Packers’ leading passer, finishing the day 11/19 for 102 yards and a touchdown. Aaron Rodgers left the game after the first quarter, completing 4/5 passes for 52 yards.
The Packers forced two Pittsburgh turnovers, an interception and a fumble, without committing a turnover of their own. But Green Bay gave up six sacks in the game, gained just 200 yards of offense in the game, and converted just 2/14 third downs.
A week after once again struggling in the red zone, the Packers scored a touchdown on their only red zone trip, and their other touchdown came from just outside the red zone at the 21 yard line.
Green Bay’s biggest issues from the loss to the Steelers were third down conversions and pass protection. The defense allowed just over 300 yards and the much-maligned run defense from last year gave up just 42 rushing yards on 26 rushing attempts.
Moving forward, the Packers will be most concerned with replacing Nelson. Second-year receiver Davante Adams had high expectations coming into the season, and those expectations just got a lot higher for him.
With Rodgers at the helm, the Green Bay offense should ultimately still be fine. The Packers will have to prepare for the worst and hope that the next man up can get the job done.
Green Bay’s preseason home opener comes against the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday, and the team will likely have to use that game as an opportunity to prepare for a season without their top receiver.——————
Sean Blashe is a Packers fan who grew up in Bears territory and is currently a journalism and history major at Marquette University. Sean is a writer with PackersTalk.com and you can follow him on twitter at @SeanBlashe .