The Packers’ mirage, the hallucination that Green Bay might be a team figuring it out and preparing for a stretch run, lasted all of about four days.
If only the sweet, thrilling victory over Dallas could have lasted a little longer before a familiar foul taste brought Packers fans back to reality, reminding us Thursday that the Packers just aren’t a good team.
Thursday’s 27-17 loss to the Tennessee Titans was as Packer-y a Packers game you’ll see this season. If their 4-7 record after this loss tells you anything – no, that wasn’t and hasn’t been a good thing
The Packers aren’t the worst team in the NFL. They’ve hung around in almost all their games this year, although often never seeing a lead and finding ways to lose in crunch time. The exceptions were against Chicago and Dallas, teams Aaron Rodgers and the Packers dominate in recent history, making it hard to evaluate those games when looking at the Packers’ performance in the season as a whole.
The Packers didn’t look like an NFL bottom feeder in the loss against the Titans, but they reverted to being painfully average at best.
I knew last week was the 2022 Packers at their best, and while admitting that the great win over Dallas didn’t change the fact that Green Bay had lost five of their last six, I built just a little too much hope that what we saw in that game could be sustainable enough to keep the season on life support the rest of the way.
That was swiftly crushed Thursday. Truthfully, and frustratingly, there isn’t much to point to from this game that’s fixable. The Packers were just outcoached and pushed around all night before completely collapsing in the fourth quarter.
I like what the Packers tried to do – it just didn’t work against a team that is clearly superior to them. I like that Green Bay started the game trying to move the offense from under center; the Packers bullied Dallas up front with their under center run game earlier in the week, and had tons of success with play action dropbacks from under center mixed in with those runs.
Throw in the emergence of Christian Watson and the speed he provides to stretch the field, and I thought the Packers had maybe cooked up a recipe for offensive success. However, it seems that the Dallas game was an anomaly. Under center runs were quickly abandoned in the Titans game after Green Bay ran nine times from under center in their first six drives, picking up only 5 yards total on those runs. The Packers went heavy shotgun the rest of the way, firstly because they’ve found run success there in previous weeks, but also because of Rodgers’ injured thumb that was clearly a factor in this game.
The problem is, the Packers were never in the lead in this game, and when they needed to throw it most in the fourth quarter, it was a complete mess. The Packers have been relatively poor throwing out of the shotgun this year, a formation Rodgers openly prefers passing from. The running game didn’t get any better no matter what looks Green Bay gave Tennessee, as the Packers mustered just 56 total rushing yards for a putrid 2.9 (!!) yards per carry.
The Packers’ defense, especially the pass defense, was awful for three quarters against statistically one of the worst passing offenses in the league. Defensive coordinator Joe Barry continues to refuse to let a group of talented cornerbacks compete and play up close with receivers. Green Bay played soft, off-coverage all game, allowing future-Hall-of-Fame running back Derrick Henry more room to run, and allowing quarterback Ryan Tannehill to throw to wide open receivers down the field early and often.
Such soft coverage should at least allow for plays to be kept in front of the defense, surrendering short stuff and preventing huge chunk plays. Somehow, the Packers defense accomplished the opposite.
To their credit, the defense stepped up in the fourth quarter just like they had Sunday against Dallas. They gifted the Packers’ offense multiple opportunities to put scoring drives together and come back from the 10-point deficit. Given the number of chances they had and the fact the Packers came back from a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit just four days ago, hope was alive in Lambeau.
Disaster then struck. In the final four drives against the Titans in the fourth quarter with the game – and potentially the season – on the line, Rodgers went 8/16 for 60 yards. Rodgers missed multiple open receivers over these drives and chucked one up to no man’s land on a crucial 4th and 3 that sealed the game. Chalk it up to the thumb injury and more miscommunication – I guess.
The Packers still aren’t mathematically out of the playoffs, but they can only afford maybe one more loss. Unfortunately, another loss looks likely when the Packers play the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday Night Football in their next game. Let’s hope this game gets flexed to a 12:00 p.m. timeslot so the entire country doesn’t have to watch what could get ugly fast.
The Packers demolished the Titans 40-14 not even two years ago. Times have changed quickly in Green Bay.——————
Liam O’Donnell is a devoted Packers fan and an aspiring sportswriter from Milwaukee. He writes for PackersTalk.com and you can follow him on twitter at @liamodonnell___.
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