In the snowy and friendly confines of Lambeau Field, the Green Bay Packers hosted the Tennessee Titans in a game between two teams locked into playoff contention races.
With Green Bay having already locked up the NFC North divisional title, only element that was still in play for them was a coveted bye, only given out to the first seed in each conference due to the playoff field expansion to seven teams. With a win this week, combined with a Los Angeles Rams victory over the Seattle Seahawks, GB would lock up that spot.
For the Titans, their hold at the top of the AFC South was strengthened with the Indianapolis Colts dropping a tough game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, that saw PIT put up 20+ points to win the game. With a win in Green Bay, the Titans would move to 11 wins on the season, one more than what the Colts had, and put them in the driver’s seat.
In a game that many thought would give GB a real test of a potential postseason foe, their defense was the unit under the microscope, tasked with holding down rushing king Derrick Henry and company. And boy did that unit show up.
Green Bay’s convincing 40-14 drubbing showed that they actually are capable of putting together a full game and not always let their opponent back into it in the second half.
Starting out with the ball, the Packers drove down the short field (after the opening kick went out of bounds) and put the first points up on the board via the tried and true connection of Aaron Rodgers to Davante Adams.
Given separation off the line, Rodgers audible to a quick throw out to Adams, who dove to the end zone after being tripped up by Malcolm Butler, who was absolutely torched all game by Adams (outside of a later interception). A missed extra point by Mason Crosby put GB in front, 6-0.
Tennessee drove down the field on their first offensive drive but decided to punt from the GB 32 after a failed third-down conversion. This decision was quite questionable, as the Brett Kern punt resulted in a touchback, only flipping the field by 12 yards.
The first of two players that scored their first career NFL touchdowns in this snowy contest went to WR Equanimeous St. Brown, who helped end the Packers’ second drive of the game with a 21-yard TD catch on a short 3rd down conversion. Rookie RB AJ Dillion got his first introduction into the game on this drive, helping spell Aaron Jones (with Jamaal Williams out with an injury).
EQ’s score was the first play of the second quarter, and even with a failed two-point conversion, the Packers still held a lead, 12-0. Rodgers’ second TD of the day was a beauty, as the man coverage on 3rd-and-1 let St. Brown work from left to right across the middle of the field, running towards the back-right pylon of the end zone.
For Tennessee, their comeback efforts were thwarted even further, as Ryan Tannehill was intercepted by safety Darnell Savage three plays into their drive, setting the Packers up at the TEn 34, yet another shorter field.
Rodgers found Adams for their second scoring connection of the night, this time on a beautiful back right corner fade – Adams angled himself towards the back pylon and Rodgers dropped it in over the DB like a raindrop in a bucket, pushing GB’s lead to 19-0.
The defense yet again stood up to the task for GB on this next drive, as Tannehill and company were forced into a loss of 17 yards on their next drive. Christian Kirksey sacked Tannehill for a seven-yard loss on 1st down, Tannehill threw incomplete on 2nd, and Za’Darius Smith brought Tannehill down behind the line for a 10-yard loss.
That sack helped earn Smith a cool $500K, as he hit yet another incentive mark for his contract this season.
GB’s next drive was a disaster that could have been a lot worse, even with how they started at the GB 45. Using both Adams and Dillon to get down to the TEN 17, Crosby’s field goal was blocked and returned back to the GB 20 – thankfully, a somewhat phantom offsides call on TEN gave GB the ball back with a 4th-and-3 to convert, but Rodgers was sacked, ruining all momentum
The final full drive of the first half saw the Titans finally put points up on the board, as Tannehill found tight end Jonnu Smith for a 12-yard TD. After a brief drive by GB that ended the half, the score stood at 19-7 Packers going into half.
Opening up the second half with the ball, the Titans put up a quick scoring drive on the legs of Tannehill, as he took a QB keeper off of a read-option look for 45 yards and the score, as the entire GB defense was drawn in by the fake.
With it now sitting at 19-14 and this team well known for its second-half collapses, GB marched down the field and scored, helped out greatly by a 59-yard run by Jones that should have been much shorter had him stepping out been noticed or challenged.
Adams hauled in his third score of the game, this time in the middle of the end zone on a bit of a scramble drill by Rodgers after he was given quite a bit of time in the pocket to survey the field. Having come clear of his defender, Adams was left wide open in the end zone, providing AR with an easy throw.
A three-and-out gave Green Bay the ball right back after their score, which led to Dillon’s first career NFL TD, a 30-yard scamper to help convert a 4th-and-one.
The Titans tried to get back into the game after going down 33-14, but a stout pass rush forced Tannehill’s second interception of the game on this drive. After getting down to the GB 35, Kirksey intercepted Tannehill on a flutter-ball, which was forced by the crashing pass-rush.
The Kirksey INT was the second play of the fourth quarter, but Rodgers turned it over four plays later, as he rolled out to his right and questionably threw across his body. Butler made his only good play of the night, jumping in front of Adams and picking off Rodgers, getting the Titans the ball back with little chance to get back in the game.
Driving down to the GB 9, the Titans were poised to put some points up on the board and potentially a bit of pressure back on Green Bay, but they failed their fourth-down conversion, as Jaire Alexander’s great night continued, as he knocked away a low throw from Tannehill to get the Packers the ball back.
For the final scoring drive of the game, Green Bay killed just over six minutes of clock, taking it down the field in nine plays, resulting in Dillon’s second rushing score of the game, this time from seven yards out.
Green Bay used the weather, a strong pass rush, and a coming-out party of a rookie RB to thrash the AFC South-leading Titans in a game that had heavy playoff implications for both sides.
Even though GB won, they were not able to sew up their 1st-overall seed yet, as the Seahawks defeated the Rams earlier in the day. So, that means that their Week 17 matchup, which is GB traveling to Soldier Field to face the Bears, means a lot.
If Green Bay wins, they lock up the top overall seed and earn a bye – but if they lose, they have to rely on both the Saints and Seahawks’ outcomes to see if they still earn that right.
For the Bears, they must win to get into the playoffs, which would make a GB victory even sweeter.
Pitting two likely postseason teams against each other in snowy Lambeau certainly showed a lot about each side, but for Green Bay’s sake, they showed that they can hang with the best of them, and that their defense certainly can adapt to opposing strengths if need be. Mike Pettine is going to be the X-factor for this team’s success moving forward, and Sunday night he showed that maybe he can be a somewhat competent DC.뿓뿓뿓
Mike Johrendt has been an avid fan of the Packers ever since he can remember. He is now a writer at PackersTalk and you can follow him on Twitter at @MJohrendt23