Green Bay, Wis. Don’t tell Green Bay Packers linebacker Vic So’oto the last preseason game doesn’t mean anything.
With most of the Super Bowl champions’ marquee players on the sideline, So’oto likely sealed up his roster spot in the Packers’ 20-19 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night.
So’oto, an undrafted free agent out of BYU who ended up in Green Bay after his wife chose among multiple NFL offers, returned an interception 33 yards for a touchdown. He had 1½ sacks and a forced fumble.
He went out of his way to salute fans on his way off the field — but more than likely, it won’t be his last time at Lambeau Field.
“I bet you it would feel like being drafted in the first round, I guess,” So’oto said of potentially making the team. “Being able to be a part of a team, and especially a storied tradition over here with all of the Super Bowl championships and especially last year’s Super Bowl championship. It would be great to be out here.”
The Chiefs kept many of their starters in the game into the fourth quarter, but didn’t look particularly sharp against So’oto and the rest of the Packers’ backups. Kicker Ryan Succop missed a 56-yard attempt at the end of the game for Kansas City (0-4).
Chiefs coach Todd Haley said he was trying to get his players more experience.
“That’s a tricky subject, especially in a year like this year when the name of the game is to be ready Sept. 11,” Haley said of the season-opening Sunday. “I think we did everything we could to put ourselves in a position to be ready and now we just have to get on to Buffalo and get ready to go.”
It nearly backfired in a big way.
Packers defensive lineman Howard Green, a 340-pounder, gave the Chiefs a scare when he landed directly on top of Matt Cassel. The quarterback initially appeared to hurt his arm on the play but afterward said he was fine.
“I just got the wind knocked out of me,” Cassel said. “So they were just being cautious.”
Not as cautious as the Packers, who played Aaron Rodgers just one series. Rodgers threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to tight end Tom Crabtree. Several other Packers veterans didn’t suit up, and the night belonged to So’oto.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy wasn’t ready to guarantee roster spots before Saturday’s cutdown, but did speak highly of So’oto.
“I’ll tell you, I think Vic played outstanding tonight,” McCarthy said.
So’oto, who recently said he came to the Packers after his wife choose among offers from Green Bay, Arizona and Miami, already seemed likely to make the roster with a surprising performance in training camp. Thursday’s game might have been all he needed and then some.
With the Chiefs facing third-and-6 on their first possession, So’oto shed his block and sacked Cassel. He made another big play with the Chiefs driving on their second possession, forcing a fumble by Jamaal Charles.
So’oto made his biggest play in the third quarter, dropping into coverage and picking off a pass by Tyler Palko and rumbling into the end zone to give Green Bay a 20-16 lead. So’oto then did a “Lambeau Leap” into the stands.
Meanwhile, pass protection continued to be an issue for the Packers in the preseason. Backup center Nick McDonald snapped a ball over the head of backup quarterback Matt Flynn, leading to a safety — and adding to concerns about the Packers’ offensive line depth.
“You have to look at it,” McCarthy said. “A couple times, we had some obvious mistakes.”
Although Cassel left the game after he took the hard hit from Green, Kansas City continued to play its offensive starters. Both their first-half touchdown drives came against Packers backups.
The Chiefs went out of their way to get their first-team offense one last tuneup, even trying a fake punt and onside kick in the first half. The fake punt worked, continuing a drive that ended with Cassel throwing a 10-yard touchdown to Dexter McCluster.
With time running out in the first half, Palko threw a 2-yard pass to Dwayne Bowe on 4th down. The call was upheld on a replay review.
But after a shaky and winless preseason, the Chiefs know they have to be better.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s preseason or second string, we have to stop shooting ourselves in the foot,” Palko said. “We’re our biggest enemy at times.”
Notes: Chiefs S Eric Berry was called for a personal foul on a helmet-to-helmet hit in the first half. ... Packers rookie CB Davon House injured his ankle in the second quarter. ... Bowe had eight catches for 85 yards.