There’s a certain number one conference seed that didn’t win a game in the playoffs despite a bye-week. The team rolled through the year with a dominating record and had many of the key ingredients for a Super Bowl run. That team is, of course, The 2021 Tennessee Titans. So, let’s remember the Titans “One and Done in 2021” by learning the lessons with a team that shared a similar fate.
Lesson #1 — No Hero Ball
The Titans have one fatal flaw to going deep into the playoffs and it is Ryan Tannehill. Specifically, Tannehill is a carbon copy of the GOAT (Tom Brady) except in crunch time he doesn’t throw checkdowns and underneath passes. Instead, he shares the desire to push the ball downfield and make a big play like Aaron Rodgers did against the stout 49ers defense in the Packers’ 2022 home playoff loss.
Remember, never do anything but the highest probably of success play as a QB. Or be judged harshly for it as a legacy stain, like red wine on white carpet, for eternity.
Lesson #2 — Turnovers, More Turnovers, and Late Turnovers
“You can’t turn the ball over and have a good chance to win in this league.” Mike McCarthy’s Pittsburgh drawl is forever ingrained in Packer fans consciousnesses from countless post-game press conferences repeating this phrase. Thing is, he was right.
The even larger sin is committing a late turnover. There’s simply no time to make up for that mistake. In the case of the Packers — despite everything else that could be said and has already been said in this article about hero ball — giving up a late special teams TD on a punt block is how you lose games in the NFL.
Lesson #3 — “Run the Damn Ball”
Here’s a little secret to the Patriots dynasty: keep the defense fresh. When your offensive drives dink-and-dunk down the field (pass or run) and your defense never has long stretches of back-to-back drives on the field — they stay fresh for late in the game!
Now, the Packers D had an incredible performance against San Francisco but needed one more stop to pull it off. That stop almost happened with Jaire Alexander missing a tackle on the inside to setup a long Lambeau field kick to end the game, but it didn’t happen. Now, Jaire only played a few snaps and maybe his shoulder wasn’t ready for that tackle — fair enough.
Still, the 49er run game was taking hold in the 4th quarter enough to sustain drives. Then, with hero ball on the other end, drives ended quickly. All of which could have been avoided by Running the Damn Ball as Aaron Nagler is famous for constantly pointing out.
Why didn’t the Packers run it? AJ Dillon got hurt playing special teams and it was a “Dillion type of game,” not an “Aaron Jones type of game” — pounding up the middle in the cold. Maybe don’t dismiss special teams as unneeded when the two most famous and celebrated head coaches in the NFL and college football of the last three decades always name three, not two, phases of the game.
Let’s remember the saddest paradoxical truth in the NFL. The most athletic performers and teams rarely have sustained success. Jerry Rice, Tom Brady, Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw, Troy Aikman, Emmit Smith — what do they all have in common?
Except for an almost overthrow (The Catch) and a spin or two (Emmit Smith) I can’t remember a “can you believe it” athletic play they ever made. Always in the right spot. Always making it look natural. Always limited (relatively) athletically but consistent, mentally tough, and never making the big mistake (except when Rice Fumbled, of course).