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Tolzien takes a step in preseason opener

8/10/2014

It had all the makings a quarterback's worst nightmare. A hard-driving rain soaked the playing surface at LP Stadium on Saturday night and turned the football into a wet bar of soap.

It barely seemed to bother Scott Tolzien.

In his bid to become Aaron Rodgers' backup with the Green Bay Packers, Tolzien was able to accomplish more than incumbent No. 2 Matt Flynn in the preseason opener, a 20-16 loss at the Tennessee Titans.

With Rodgers given the night off, Flynn got the start. But it was Tolzien who made the most of his playing time. Not that Flynn did much, if anything, that would have caused coach Mike McCarthy to downgrade him, but Tolzien performed better.

"It's a start, but it's nothing more than a start," Tolzien told reporters after the game. "It's up to us as a team to continue to improve. That's what this time is for is to get ready for the regular season."

Along the way, McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson have to decide on their backup quarterback.

Tolzien gave them something to think about. He completed 8 of 12 passes for 124 yards and had a passer rating of 100.7. He showed the same, if not better, arm strength than he displayed in his three appearances last season but none of the poor decision that resulted in the five interceptions he threw in those three games.

"Really, it's the first preseason game," said Tolzien, who would have had even better numbers if not for two dropped passes by receivers among his four incomplete passes. "I don't want to get too excited. It's one game. I think more than anything, it's just exciting for us to play against a different opponent rather than colliding heads with other guys. It's nice to do it against someone else."

Perhaps what impressed McCarthy most was that Tolzien followed his worst play, a fumble on a ball that slipped out of his hand while he was rolling to right, with a 38-yard looping completion to Chris Harper that helped set up a touchdown run by rookie Rajion Neal.

"To come back and hit the second-and-20 play to get us down there in the red zone," McCarthy said, "I thought Scott did a lot of good things."

Praised for his work ethic during the offseason, his first in McCarthy's system after arriving in Green Bay last September, Tolzien did not make many attention-grabbing plays during the first two weeks of training camp. So with Rodgers held out of the game, it was no surprise that McCarthy opened the preseason with Flynn, who replaced Tolzien last season and kept the Packers' season alive with a pair of wins in four starts before Rodgers returned from his broken collarbone.

Like Tolzien, Flynn led one scoring drive against the Titans. His came on the opening possession and against the Titans' defensive starters, but it was mostly the work of running back James Starks, who carried six times on the drive for 49 yards (including a 20-yard touchdown run). Tolzien played mostly against the Titans' backups.

Flynn finished 5-of-10 passing for 49 yards with a long completion of 24 yards on a short pass to tight end Brandon Bostick, who broke two tackles along the way.

"I was comfortable out there, but it was tough," Flynn said of the conditions. "It was coming down out there. Didn't feel like I handled the ball really well grip-wise making throws. There was some poor throws out there, but you take a step back and a game like this, you have to pick out the positives out of it. I thought the decision-making was good. I thought I was going to the right places with the ball. Just didn't really handle the ball really well."