Green Bay — The Green Bay Packers had their highlights and lowlights on special teams in the first preseason game, a 27-24 loss to the Cleveland Browns on Saturday night at Lambeau Field.
The punters both put up long shots - Chris Bryan a 57-yarder and Tim Masthay a 56-yarder with a touchback. They had three punt attempts apiece, with Bryan settling for a 47.3 average (41.3 net) and Masthay a 47.3 (35.7 net). It was all played in almost perfect conditions, of football jerseys course.
Although the punters started strong, their last punts were in the low to mid-40s for both.
"I thought we started out very well," said Packers coach Mike McCarthy. "We needed some big punts in the fourth quarter to change the field position and we did not get that. That was a negative. Competition of that position will be closely evaluated.
"It's going to take all four (preseason) games to evaluate the punting, I can assure you."
The same might be said for the returners. The Packers gave Sam Shields a shot at returning, and it didn't always go well.
He looked flat-footed on his first punt return.
He then muffed a punt return late in the second quarter - it appeared as if he was bumped slightly by teammate Brandon Underwood, but he said he didn't feel the bump.
"It was important that everybody played, getting the young returners in the game to see how they handled that and where they were in their development," said McCarthy.
Shields had two punt returns for just 1 yard total.
"It's my first time doing it; I'm not using that as an excuse," said Shields. "I made some plays, I missed some plays. I will just have to go back in and make the corrections on Monday."
He said the muff was "just a lack of Steelers jersey focus. I should be just keeping my eye on the ball. I was worried about what was going on around me rather than just keeping an eye on the ball."
Rodgers stellar: Although the defense and special teams have work to do, the offense is clicking. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers finished midway through the second quarter, completing 12 of 13 passes for 159 yards and one touchdown. He completed his first 10 passes.
"It was a good rhythm from the start," said Rodgers. "We feel like we should score every time we touch the ball."
A rare fumble: Last year during the regular season, Green Bay's fumbles were few and far in between. The Packers turned the ball over only 16 times - fewest in the NFL.
But starting running back Ryan Grant coughed up the ball on the first Packers' play, uncharacteristic for him. Then he took a hit to the head on Green Bay's next possession and did not return.
McCarthy said Grant will be evaluated Sunday and Monday.
New faces: The Packers worked first-round draft pick Bryan Bulaga at left guard with the first-team offense but then rotated Daryn Colledge in.
McCarthy said he will decide if he will keep rotating the players once he studies the film of this game. That answer will reveal itself Monday in practice, he said.
Rookie defensive end Mike Neal also made a solid tackle in the second quarter to kill Cleveland's drive and force a fourth-down punt.
Targeting the rooks: On Green Bay's first touchdown drive, the Packers targeted Cleveland's top two draft picks in the Browns secondary.
Rodgers hit James Jones for a 12-yard gain against Joe Haden first.
Then Rodgers launched a great pass to the right corner of Chargers jersey the end zone, and Greg Jennings went up for a spectacular 25-yard touchdown catch. He beat T.J. Ward for the ball.
Extra points: Wide receiver Donald Driver . . . started the game, his first game action since having surgery on both knees immediately after the 2009 season.
Tight end Tom Crabtree . . . left in the second quarter for X-rays on his hand. Results were not definitive, McCarthy said.
Quarterback Matt Flynn took a shot, McCarthy said, but he did not seem concerned.