The Matt LaFleur era in Green Bay began with a victory, a 28-26 triumph over the Houston Texans in Lambeau Field on a near-perfect summer evening.
The Packers created four turnovers—three in the first quarter—to highlight the win before 73,938 fans in LaFleur’s debut.
The quality of play was typical of an exhibition opener. With both teams resting the majority of starters, the coaching staffs were evaluating the rest of their roster under game conditions.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and 25 other Packers did not dress for the contest, LaFleur played backup DeShone Kizer in the first half and Tim Boyle for the majority of the second half.. Texan starter Joe Webb played the entire game.
“It’s all about the young guys,” LaFleur said. “For their first NFL game, in Lambeau, it’s a big deal.”
It was an important game for Kizer, who struggled last Friday in the team’s annual Family Night practice and started against the Texans.
Aid by the defense’s fast start and the three first-quarter turnovers, Kizer settled in after the first two series and finished with 8 of 13 completions for 102 yard and one touchdown for an impressive 111.7 quarterback rating. Boyle quitted himself well, completing three of five passes for two touchdowns and a 125.0 quarterback rating.
The two are competing for the back-up position during this training camp, and both drew praise from LaFleur, who mentioned their command in the huddle of both quarterbacks.
The Packers first touchdown of the preseason came via special teams, an area of emphasis this season after a subpar performance in 2018.
It was a typical exhibition opener, with turnovers, penalties, blown assignments and injuries dominating the first 13 minutes of the game. The final two of the first quarter were highlighted by big plays by Green Bay’s special teams unit and defense for a 7-0 lead.
Green Bay’s second drive of the game stalled at their own 40-yard line, but punter JK Scott’s booming 56-yard punt Texans punter returner KeKe Coutee slipped at the five yard line and the ball bounced off his body in the air, when a streaking St. Brown attempted to catch it as his momentum carried him into the end zone . With the football was bouncing free on the ground, St. Brown alertly reached out with one arm and pulled it into his body with players flying over him.
Webb directed a Texans 14-play, 61-yard scoring drive midway through the second quarter, capped by running back Damarea Crockett bulled into the end zone to tie the game.
Packers responded with a 10 play, 75 yard scoring drive of their own to take a 14-7 lead before Ka’imi Fairbairn’s 49-yard field as time expired in the half brought the Texans within 14-10. They would get no closer.
The Packers dominated the third quarter, with the defense setting the tone.
Cornerback Chandon Sullivan picked off Webb on Houston’s first drive and returned it to the Texans 3-yard line. Six plays later, Boyle hit J’Mon Moore in front of the pylon with a perfect pass to increase the lead to 21-10.
After the Green Bay defense held Houston on the downs, the Packers offense capitalized with a five-play, 77-yard touchdown drive. Boyle hit Allen Lazard with a perfect strike on a post route for a 27-yard score with 2:04 remaining in the third quarter for a comfortable 28-10 cushion.
The Texans and Webb made it interesting, reeling off 16 fourth-quarter points to account for the final 2-point margin of victory.
“Hey, it’s always nice to get a win in the preseason and get off on the right foot,” said safety Adrian Amos, who did not dress. “It was a great atmosphere at Lambeau Field tonight and we did some good things but have a lot of work to do too. Its all part of the training camp process and I’m excited for the possibilities with this group of guys, with this team. “
Green Bay travels to Baltimore for its second preseason game next Thursday.