NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Titans (10-5) did the unthinkable Sunday night at Lambeau Field. Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers (12-3) absolutely embarrassed them at their own game for all the world to see 40-14.
Please, save your officiating gripes for another day.
Tennessee’s efforts in Green Bay rank as their worst performance of the year. Pass protection struggled and caused quarterback Ryan Tannehill to make uncharacteristic mistakes. Rashaan Evans bizarre year of erratic behavior with ill-timed penalties continues. An offense that came into Week 16 tops in the NFL was summarily neutered by the Packers in the snow.
Forget Your MVPs
Derrick Henry’s MVP candidacy came to a screeching halt, though not because of anything he did or did not do.
Rodgers scorched them for four passing touchdowns, 231 yards through the air while completing 84% of his passes to solidify his case. It was the futility of the Titans offense, largely focused around all things Henry that laid the evidence bare. Before Tennessee’s back-ups were inserted with 2:19 remaining in the game, the Titans starters amassed eight offensive drives and 20 first downs. Henry carried the ball on 11 of those 1st-and-10s for a total of 32 yards.
2.9 yards per attempt in those situations does not bode well for an offense’s efficiency or effectiveness. The inability to find overwhelming success on the ground as the conditions demanded also cost Henry a chance at tying Barry Sanders in the history books.
The reigning rushing champ finished with 98 yards on 23 carries, two shy of securing a 10th straight 100-yard road performance.
The best thing about Henry is that there are times when everyone in the world knows he’s getting the football and there’s nothing the opposition can do to slow him. It’s a remarkable feature that had him in the running for the league’s Most Valuable Player in the first place. But, on those rare occasions when a defense has a counter for the one they call King, adversity necessitates adaptation.
Tennessee took too long to adapt.
The Titans protection stunk against the Packers.
Tannehill was sacked twice on the evening but the pressure remained a constant. Per NextGen Stats, Green Bay generated a 35.7% team pressure rate, their third-highest in a game this season. Za’Darius Smith, Rashan Gary, & Preston Smith all forced a Tennessee turnover by bringing the heat.
Even then, there were sparks.
“Give (Green Bay) credit, but I think we came back a little bit (in the first half),” coach Mike Vrabel said. “At a glance, at the end of the first half was just, kind of the idea of how we wanted to play the game. Just a brief glimpse of that, unfortunately. We’ll have to do a better job of protecting (Tannehill). I think that’s what it comes down to.”
The Titans orchestrated a 10-play, 71-yard touchdown drive that culminated in a Jonnu Smith score. It brought the score to 19-7 with under a minute to play in the first half. They looked more like the offense media and fans have come to expect. The first down Henry runs were also damn near justified when Tannehill kept the ball on 3rd-and-1 from the Packers 45 to take it to the house.
Defenders followed Henry and freed up Tannehill. Then, Tennessee’s defense betrayed itself.
How many different ways can it be written that the Titans have a historically horrid defense?
Even on a night where they finally got another sack (15 total) on the year, what killed them was getting thoroughly gashed on the ground. Tennessee averaged 114.5 rushing yards allowed per game coming into Sunday night. Green Bay slaughtered them with 234 on 37 attempts for an average of 6.3 per carry. Rodgers’ quick strikes got the Packers an early lead, the defense pressured and caused turnovers and the ground game succinctly choked the life out of Tennessee’s division title hopes on Sunday night.
Green Bay smacked them around using their own formula.
Tennessee finds themselves, inexplicably, in another Week 17 win-and-in playoff scenario and a division title still well within reach. The Titans continue to show us, however, just how quickly they can be humbled by the NFL’s elite.
But, hey, 10 wins amirite??
Featured Image: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports.