The Tennessee Titans’ performance against the Packers on Sunday Night Football was disastrous, but it wasn’t surprising.
While it was slightly shocking that the game was as one-sided as it turned out to be, the problems that led to the Titans’ loss are the same problems that have plagued the team all season.
Despite this team’s constant talk about seeking to improve and Vrabel’s all-too-frequent use of the ear-splitting maxim “gotta play better, gotta coach better,” the Titans are still a team with a horrendous defense and a head coach who, from time to time, turns in shaky performances.
DEFENSIVE WOES, AGAIN
Vrabel: I don’t think anyone can be confident in anything we did tonight #Titans
— AtoZSports Nashville (@AtoZSports) December 28, 2020
Anyone who was surprised by the Titans’ defensive ineptitude on Sunday was likely watching their first Titans game of 2020 because anyone who’s watched this team play before knows the deal with that unit.
It’s been horrendously bad all year, and Sunday was certainly no exception.
In the run game, Packers running backs A.J. Dillon and Aaron Jones trounced the Titans. Dillon carried the ball 21 times for 124 yards and two scores. Jones notched 94 yards on 10 carries—an average of 9.4 yards per carry.
In the passing game, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers was flawless minus a fourth-quarter interception. He threw just four incompletions and the same number of touchdowns, three of which went to superstar WR Davante Adams.
Adams caught 11 passes for 142 yards in addition to his three scores.
And, though the Packers’ numbers on third down weren’t astronomical, they didn’t have very many of them. Rodgers and crew often took care of business on first and second down.
“Obviously as a defense, we didn’t give our offense, we didn’t give our team a chance,” safety Kevin Byard said.
Byard and his teammates have been so bad in 2020 that it’s gotten difficult to come up with new, creative ways to describe their ineptitude week after week.
Struggling against Rodgers is to be expected, but the Titans’ defense has been abused by virtually every quarterback it’s faced in 2020, save Mike Glennon and Nick Foles.
Unfortunately for the Titans, they won’t be facing any quarterbacks quite that bad in the postseason.
VRABEL GETTING IN THE WAY
Head coach Mike Vrabel also turned in a poor performance on Sunday night, which, as with the defense’s showing, is not terribly surprising.
Vrabel is a good coach, but he tends to, every now and then, get in the way of his team.
That happened twice on Sunday.
At the end of the Titans’ first offensive drive, Vrabel outsmarted himself and elected to have Brett Kern punt from Green Bay’s 32-yard line.
“I thought that maybe with the way the weather was, that we could get them backed up and execute,” Vrabel said.
That didn’t happen.
The punt went into the end zone for a touchback, leaving the Titans with zero points in exchange for a mere 12 yards of field position.
While it did make sense to avoid a field-goal attempt, as K Stephen Gostkowski has been shaky all season and the field was covered in snow, it didn’t make sense to take the offense off of the field.
Not only was the ball on the 32, but it was fourth-and-seven. Vrabel should’ve trusted QB Ryan Tannehill to get seven measly yards.
Instead, Vrabel got cute. He abandoned his “let’s play fast and aggressive” mantra to try getting into a field position battle with Rodgers and send his horrendous defense back onto the field.
Vrabel’s second bugaboo came when he failed to challenge a clear officiating error in the third quarter.
Aaron Jones was ruled to have taken a handoff for 59 yards, though replay showed he clearly stepped out of bounds 36 yards before that.
Vrabel, though, left the challenge flag in his back pocket.
In his defense, Rodgers and the Packers’ offense moved quickly and didn’t give him and chance to see a replay or get a verdict from his upstairs crew.
“By the time the ball was snapped, that was the first view that we got, as it was coming down,” Vrabel said.
With the way the game was going, though, Vrabel should’ve thrown it anyway.
It didn’t take a clear replay angle to see that it was, at the very least, a close call as to whether Jones stepped out of bounds well before he finished his run.
And, at that point in the game, the Titans were down by just seven points—their smallest deficit of the entire contest.
Those 36 yards could have proven crucial, especially for a deteriorating defense that would’ve welcomed any form of relief.
But Vrabel, again, went the conservative route. His reward? A Packers touchdown drive that put Green Bay right back in command.
Hopefully, for the Titans’ sakes, Vrabel has gotten all of his weirdness out of his system just in time for the playoffs.
He, admittedly, doesn’t have a whole lot of it, to begin with. Again, he’s a good coach.
What isn’t going away anytime soon, though, is the Titans’ defensive woes.
The unit has been pitiful in every imaginable way in 2020, and the problems will only be magnified as the Titans continue to face top-tier competition over the remainder of the postseason.
Cover image: Benny Sieu / USA Today