Matt Hasselbeck spent a year preparing for this night, and he didn't disappoint.
Hasselbeck, a second-year quarterback who spent last season on the Green Bay Packers' practice squad, threw two touchdown passes in the second half and led the Packers to a 27-16 victory over the New York Jets on Saturday night in the exhibition opener for both teams.
"Matt came in and really made some great decisions," said Green Bay coach Ray Rhodes, who won in his Packers debut. "He made a pretty good statement tonight."
"I can't even express how good it felt to actually be on the field, making a contribution to this team," he said. "My biggest job last year was making sure I didn't step on anybody's headset on the sidelines."
Packers reserves got the victory, but New York's starters outplayed Green Bay in the first half. The Green Bay offense was inconsistent under Brett Favre and Rick Mirer, while Jets quarterback Vinny Testaverde directed two razor-sharp scoring drives.
Jets coach Bill Parcells, who suffered just his second exhibition loss in three years with New York, was pleased with his top offensive unit, but little else.
"The game went about the same way on both sides," Parcells said. "They had some problems, we had some problems."
Testaverde was 11-of-13 for 147 yards, and Keyshawn Johnson caught five passes for 57 yards as the Jets' first-string offens scorched the Packers' defensive backs.
Green Bay spent its top three draft picks on cornerbacks last spring in an effort to bolster a much-maligned secondary, but Johnson and Wayne Chrebet easily caught passes against Craig Newsome, Tyrone Williams and rookie Antuan Edwards.
Tight end Eric Green made a one-handed, over-the-shoulder touchdown catch in the second quarter that gave New York a 10-7 lead. John Hall added two field goals to give New York a 16-7 advantage at halftime.
Hasselbeck is competing with Mirer and rookie Aaron Brooks for the chance to back up Favre, who hasn't missed a game since 1992. Hasselbeck was 7-of-11 for 119 yards.
Though Rhodes praised Hasselbeck and said he would play with some of the Packers' first-stringers next week against the Denver Broncos, he didn't admit to a preference between Hasselbeck and Favre.
"It's still early," Rhodes said.
Ray Lucas, a former special-teams player Parcells hopes will be his backup quarterback this season, was mostly ineffective, completing 13-of-28 passes for 140 yards and failing to get the Jets into the end zone.
The Packers took a 17-16 lead midway through the third quarter when Jahine Arnold caught a short pass from Hasselbeck in Green Bay territory and blew past the Jets secondary for a 67-yard touchdown.
Arnold, who spent most of his first three years in the league on the Pittsburgh Steelers' sideline with a variety of injuries, is fighting for the final wide receiver spot on the Packers' roster.
Hasselbeck then drove the Packers 60 yards for another score, finishing with a 22-yard TD pass to Jeff Thomason on the first play of the fourth quarter.
In his first game with the Jets, safety Steve Atwater intercepted a second-quarter pass by Mirer and returned it 28 yards, leading to a New York field goal. Hall had three field goals for the Jets.
Dorsey Levens, who held out and didn't play in any exhibition games last season, rushed for 40 yards on Green Bay's opening play from scrimmage.
But Mayes added a twist: He leaped four feet to a standing position on the railing in front of the cheering fans, instead of making the famous dive into the crowd.
"That was just something that I thought of," Mayes said. "I didn't want to get any beer on me in the preseason. I'll leap later."
A Packers drive to end the half stalled at the Jets 17 when Bill Schroeder and Thomason each dropped potential TD passes from Mirer. Longwell then missed a 35-yard field goal.
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