In what had already been a disappointing and trying year at 2016’s midpoint, the Green Bay Packers (4-5) hit a new season low in a 47-25 defeat to the Tennessee Titans (5-5).
Aaron Rodgers threw for a season-high 371 yards while wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams both had strong games, but a lackluster start and an overall poor defensive performance prevented Green Bay from ever truly being competitive in the contest.
After criticizing the lack of energy in last week’s loss to the Colts, the Packers really didn’t seem like they did anything to change that. Green Bay went three and out on its opening drive despite starting at midfield. Then on the Titans’ first play from scrimmage, DeMarco Murray ran straight through the Packers’ rush defense for a 75-yard touchdown.
Green Bay punted on each of its next two possessions, totaling just 12 yards on its first three drives, and before the first quarter was over the Titans had raced out to a 21-0 lead. The closest the Packers were able to close the gap was 13 points, though it never really felt like the visitors were ever going to threaten Tennessee’s lead.
The Packers found the end zone twice in the second quarter as the more fast-paced offense moved the ball quickly and efficiently. But each time Green Bay flashed the potential for a comeback, the Titans were able to crush out the momentum. The closest the Packers got was down 35-22, but the home team quickly responded to go back up by 19 points and snuff out any hope of a rally.
Tennessee was led by another great game from Murray and one of the best performances of young quarterback Marcus Mariota’s career. Mariota threw for 295 and four touchdowns to four different receivers for an astounding quarterback rating of 149.8. Murray racked up 166 all-purpose yards, rushed for a touchdown, and even threw for a score on his first career pass attempt.
Tight end Delanie Walker, the recipient of Murray’s touchdown pass, led the Titans with 124 receiving yards. Tajae Sharpe, Rishard Matthews, Anthony Fasano, and Kendall Wright all found the end zone for Tennessee. The 47 points surrendered by the Packers were the most since their 51-45 loss to the Cardinals in the 2009 playoffs.
Statistically, the Packers appeared to have played a good game. Rodgers hit a season high in yardage, Davante Adams racked up 156 yards, Jordy Nelson caught a career-high 12 passes for 126 yards and a touchdown, and James Starks averaged 4.7 yards per carry in his return from injury.
But the Packers committed three turnovers, including a bad muffed punt by Trevor Davis when the defense finally was able to get a stop, and could never sustain momentum long enough to claw back into the game. The offensive line, wracked by injuries as David Bakhtiari and T.J. Lang were forced to leave the game, gave up five sacks, while the Packers only got to Mariota twice. A number of key penalties—Green Bay committed 12 for 107 yards—extended some Tennessee drives when the Packers defense had the Titans reeling.
Some of the blame has to fall on the coaching staff. The Packers were at their most efficient when Rodgers was directing the quick tempo offense, and the team coming out without much energy or fire is not excusable week after week.
The good news for Green Bay is that the division is still winnable. The Vikings have lost four straight, so the Packers sit just a game out of first place. But they have also not been under .500 this late in the season since 2013 when Rodgers missed half the year. Changes have to be made if the Packers hope to even come close to the playoffs, and that starts at the very top.
Green Bay stays on the road for a primetime matchup against the Washington Redskins next Sunday night. It is the first meeting between the two teams since the Packers eliminated Washington in last year’s postseason.
The Packers will need a big road victory next week to get back on track. Something is definitely wrong in Titletown, and Green Bay cannot afford to get caught up thinking about the postseason. There’s time to right the ship, but the urgency needs to pick up quickly.——————
Sean Blashe is a Packers fan who grew up in Bears territory and is currently a journalism and history major at Marquette University. Sean is a writer with PackersTalk.com and you can follow him on twitter at @SeanBlashe .