QBs look sharp in real time
ST. LOUIS — All of those months of injury rehab paid off for Sam Bradford, who showed no signs of a season-ending knee injury last November.
Aaron Rodgers looked pretty polished, too.
Bradford and Rodgers each threw a touchdown pass in their preseason debuts in the Green Bay Packers’ 21-7 victory over the St. Louis Rams on Saturday.
“It felt great there,” Bradford said. “No surprises. It felt really good.”
Michael Sam played in the second half and got his first sack of the preseason, dropping Matt Flynn for a 10-yard loss in the fourth quarter to force a 49-yard field goal by Mason Crosby. Sam had a tackle earlier in that series and totaled two quarterback hits.
“I felt more comfortable, more relaxed,” Sam said. “I know the speed of the game, I know how it is and it just felt right.”
Everything went according to plan for the Rodgers and the Packers.
“We practiced up-tempo offense and to be able to come out and execute it at this stage of the game is great,” running back Eddie Lacy said. “It will be tough for opponents to keep up and be able to beat us.”
Rodgers was 11 for 13 for 128 yards and a 3-yard score to Randall Cobb. His only complaint was about officiating — the teams were whistled for a combined 22 penalties for 171 yards and two touchdowns catches were nullified.
“It’s way over the top, it’s just too much,” Rodgers said. “The game’s way too choppy if they’re going to call it like that.”
Bradford, who said weeks ago that the left knee was no longer a concern, was 9 for 12 for 101 yards and an 11-yard touchdown to Lance Kendricks.
“It was nothing new, I’ve been here before,” Bradford said. “I think for everyone else it’s probably a bigger deal for me to get back out on the field.”
Lacy had five carries for 25 yards on the Packers’ 12-play, 86-yard drive to start the game.
Sam, the seventh-round pick is the first openly gay player drafted in the NFL, is likely competing with undrafted Ethan Westbrooks for a backup spot.
Westbrooks was the second-team left defensive end behind Chris Long and had a sack with four total tackles, while Sam got work at both defensive end spots.
The Edward Jones Dome appeared about half-full, even with the benefit of hundreds of Packers fans who made the trip and let loose with a big cheer after Cobb’s TD catch. The Rams announced ticket sales of 55,072 and capacity is about 66,000.
Rodgers had plenty of time to operate and he looked sharp, going 6 for 6 for 47 yards and scrambling 14 yards on the opening drive. He ended the quarter with a 35-yard pass to Andrew Quarless to the St. Louis 12 that led to a short field goal and a 10-0 lead.
“The offense got off to a great start,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “I really liked the production that we were able to get done in the first two series.”
Scott Tolzien was 10 for 15 for 107 yards behind Rodgers and Matt Flynn, who started the opener, was effective as the third quarterback. Flynn threw a 34-yard touchdown pass to rookie Jeff Janis, a seventh-round pick, and added a 2-point conversion pass to Davante Adams that made it 18-7 late in the third.
Most of Bradford’s passes were underneath, with most of Brian Quick’s 41-yard gain coming after the catch. He just missed connecting with Kenny Britt on a 35-yarder in the first quarter and converted on fourth-and-3 from the Packers 43 with a 5-yard pass to Jared Cook.
Rams backup quarterback Shaun Hill was 1 for 4 for 14 yards. He threw two touchdown passes as the starter last week when Bradford was held out.
The Rams held out left tackle Jake Long (knee), middle linebacker James Laurinaitis (ankle) and cornerback Janoris Jenkins (hamstring). All three could play next week at Cleveland.
Jordy Nelson started for the Packers after returning from a hamstring injury this week, but had no catches in limited action.
GIANTS 27, COLTS 26
INDIANAPOLIS — Ryan Nassib led the New York Giants to two touchdowns in the final four minutes, completing a huge fourth-quarter comeback with a 27-26 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday night.
New York trailed 26-0 early in the fourth, but the Colts couldn’t hold on.
Former Indy quarterback Curtis Painter finally got New York on the board with a 3-yard TD pass to Kellen Davis. Sixteen seconds later, Spencer Adkins recovered a Colts fumble in the end zone to make it 26-14. Michael Cox then scored on a 2-yard run with 3:59 to go, and Nassib hooked up with Corey Washington on a 6-yard TD pass with 55 seconds to go.
Indy (0-2) had a chance to win it with Pat McAfee’s 64-yard field goal with 5 seconds left, but the kick went wide left.
Andrew Luck was 12 of 18 for 89 yards. Eli Manning was 1 of 6 for seven yards for New York (3-0).
TEXANS 32, FALCONS 7
HOUSTON — Jadeveon Clowney made big hits behind the line on consecutive plays and Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a touchdown pass to DeVier Posey in the Houston’s win over Atlanta.
Clowney, the top overall pick in the draft, smacked down Atlanta’s Antone Smith for a 2-yard loss and then sacked Matt Ryan on the Falcons’ second series.
Jonathan Grimes returned a blocked punt for a touchdown and Andre Hal returned an interception 64 yards for another score for the Texans (1-1), who showed significant improvement after last week’s 32-0 loss in Arizona.
Left tackle Sam Baker was carted off the field in the second quarter with a right knee injury for the Falcons (1-1). Baker, who started 16 games in 2012, played in just four games last season because of a left knee injury that required surgery in November.
STEELERS 19, BILLS 16
PITTSBURGH — Ben Roethlisberger threw two touchdown passes in less than a half of work and Pittsburgh beat Buffalo.
Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown for a 76-yard score on Pittsburgh’s second play from scrimmage and found Markus Wheaton for a 16-yard strike to help the Steelers (1-1) won a preseason game for the first time in nearly two years.
Roethlisberger finished 8 of 11 for 128 yards and the two scores. Shaun Suisham’s 20-yard field goal as time expired ended Pittsburgh’s five-game losing streak in exhibitions.
EJ Manuel completed 17 of 27 passes for 148 yards and an interception while playing the entire first half for Buffalo (1-2), but the Bills’ starting offense failed to reach the end zone for the third straight game. Bills rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins left early in the first quarter with a rib injury and did not return.
JETS 25, BENGALS 17
CINCINNATI — Andy Dalton completed all eight of his passes and led the Bengals to a pair of touchdowns and a field goal during three impressive series before New York’s reserves rallied for a preseason victory.
It was Dalton’s first game at Paul Brown Stadium since his turnover-filled 27-10 loss to San Diego in the opening round of the playoffs. Also, his first home game since he signed a six-year contract extension.
He went 8 for 8 for 144 yards, one touchdown and a perfect passer rating of 158.3. The Bengals (0-2) rolled up 173 yards while he was in the game.
The Jets (2-0) got drubbed 49-9 in Cincinnati midway through last season — Dalton threw a career-high five touchdown passes in that one. Their injury-depleted secondary made it easy for Dalton on Saturday night.
RAVENS 37, COWBOYS 30
ARLINGTON, Texas — Deonte Thompson returned a kickoff 108 yards for a score after Dallas’ Tony Romo threw a touchdown pass in his first game since back surgery last season, and Joe Flacco led three scoring drives in Baltimore’s preseason victory.
The Ravens (2-0) also got a 26-yard fumble return for a touchdown when Courtney Upshaw picked up a botched handoff from Romo and stayed on his feet while Romo tried to drag him down by his jersey.
Romo’s final play was a 31-yard touchdown pass to Dez Bryant midway through the first quarter.
Baltimore led 14-7 before Flacco took the field for the first time. He threw a 19-yard scoring pass to Torrey Smith for a 24-10 lead late in the first half.
Dallas is 0-2.
TAMPA, Fla. — Backup quarterback Matt Moore led Miami on two touchdown drives in a preseason victory over Tampa Bay.
The Dolphins took advantage of a mistake by Bucs rookie Mike Evans.
Evans, the Bucs’ first-round pick from Texas A&M, caught a short pass from Mike Glennon in the second quarter and after breaking a tackle, sprinted down the sideline toward a 42-yard touchdown which could have given the Bucs a 14-3 lead.
After a review of the original touchdown call, however, it was ruled that Miami cornerback Brent Grimes had punched the ball out of Evans’ hands just before Evans crossed the goal line. The fumble went through the end zone, giving the Dolphins (1-1) the ball.
Moore drove the Dolphins 71 yards to a touchdown in the final 1:41 of the first half, completing 6 of 8 passes including a 9-yard touchdown pass to Rishard Matthews that gave Miami a 10-7 lead over the Bucs (0-2) with 8 seconds left in the half.
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