In the week leading up to Green Bay’s game against the Tennessee Titans, head coach Matt LaFleur made mention in one of his press conferences that the game will be a good measuring stick to see where the Packers are at before the playoffs.
I, for one, was interested to see if the Packers could stop Derrick Henry, beat a playoff-bound team and play well in bad weather.
After Sunday, I’d say the Packers measured up pretty well.
Green Bay beat Tennessee 40-14 in the snow, Aaron Rodgers threw four touchdown passes and the defense held a strong Titans’ offense to only two scores.
Here’s what we learned from the dominant win.
This defense can stop the run
A question that we’ve all had since the Packers got trounced in the NFC Championship game by a run-heavy San Francisco offense last year was answered on Sunday.
The Packers have shown flashes of stopping the run this year, but there’s also been let-downs. In the loss against Minnesota, Dalvin Cook rushed for 163 yards and three touchdowns, while the Vikings controlled the time of possession for large chunks of the game.
That game made Packers’ fans nervous about whether this defense would have similar performances against similar offenses.
Green Bay answered the call on defense on Sunday.
The Packers held Derrick Henry to 23 carries for 98 yards – snapping his streak of 9 straight road games with 100-plus rushing yards.
There’s been many people throughout the course of this season that have used the hashtag #FirePettine. But if you look at this performance – and the production in the last four games (17.5 average ppg) – it seems Pettine has his guys peaking at the right time.
AJ Dillon is not a bust
This one goes out to all the haters who have been calling second-round draft pick AJ Dillon “a bust.” You guys have been awfully quiet for the past couple days, huh?
I wasn’t quite sold on the Dillon pick either, don’t get me wrong. But I was always excited about the possibility of a big, physical running back getting touches late in the season during a cold and snowy game at Lambeau.
After missing a good chunk of the season on the COVID-19 reserve list, Dillon came out and dominated in his first game getting considerable carries. He rushed for 124 yards and 2 touchdowns on 21 carries, bouncing off tacklers and punishing the Titans’ defense.
“For him to step up and be ready to go,” LaFleur said after the game. “Just run really well, violent and physical. Did well in the pass game. I think that gives everybody confidence.”
LaFleur mentioned in his Monday presser that he thinks the Packers have three running backs that could be starters on other teams with Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams and Dillon. That’s a good problem to have.
We may have seen a glimpse of the future on Sunday.
This team is capable of winning the Super Bowl
I’ve said it throughout the year that this team just has a different feel to it than teams in years past. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I’m more confident in this team than any team I’ve watched in my 22 years of living.
And now that the defense is playing well, I firmly believe this team is capable of winning the big one.
Don’t get me wrong, I could be setting myself up for heartbreak. There’s still some flaws that this team has that need to be corrected before the playoffs (special teams, I’m looking at you).
However, the Packers offense is the top scoring offense in the league, with a healthy MVP-caliber quarterback leading it. Davante Adams is maybe the best wide receiver in the league, the Packers have a trio of quality ball-carriers and the offensive line has been solid regardless of who is starting.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Packers have shown capabilities of stopping the run, second-year players have improved (Savage, Gary) and veterans are still doing veteran things (Amos, Z. Smith, Alexander).
It’s just a feeling, but I like where this team is at. Hoping our guys can keep putting it together at the right time.——————
Gunnar Davis is a lifelong Packers fan and a recent graduate of Simpson College, where he was a 3-year letterwinner on the offensive line and graduated with a degree in multimedia communications. You can follow him on Twitter at @Gunnar57Davis.