In the snow, against the NFL’s top-scoring offense and most productive running back, the Green Bay Packers crafted a championship level effort on defense.
Henry’s final rushing total was mostly inconsequential. He averaged 4.3 yards per carry, didn’t have a rush longer than 10 yards, and produced most of his yards while the Packers held a two- or three-score lead. Even in favorable conditions for a big, bruising running back, Henry wasn’t a difference-maker, and he actually ended up being out-produced by Packers rookie running back A.J. Dillon (124 rushing yards, two touchdowns).
Ryan Tannehill ran 45 yards for a surprise touchdown on a read-option play to start the second half, momentarily pausing the blowout, but the Titans quarterback struggled for most of the contest. He threw two interceptions, took two sacks, and finished with just 104 net passing yards on 26 attempts. The Packers hit him five times and broke up 10 of his passes.
Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Brown finished with only 43 receiving yards, while Corey Davis didn’t have a single catch. The Titans’ longest gain in the passing game was just 19 yards, and it came in the fourth quarter with the Packers up three scores.
Overall, the Titans averaged only 4.7 yards per play, scored on two of nine possessions, and held the ball for under 24 minutes.
Coach Matt LaFleur said he sensed a different level of energy from the Packers defense. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers believed it was a Super Bowl quality performance.
It would be hard to argue with either assessment.
The Packers started fast, forcing a pair of punts and grabbing an interception over the Titans’ first three possessions. After giving up touchdowns on back-to-back drives to end the first half and start the second, the Packers delivered four more stops to end it, including another interception and a turnover on downs inside the red zone.
Henry carried 23 times, highlighting the Titans’ commitment to the run. But when the Packers established a big lead and Henry wasn’t producing chunk runs, the Titans’ highly productive play-action passing game all but disappeared.
Pressure on the quarterback was consistent and disruptive. Za’Darius Smith had a sack, Rashan Gary’s pressure helped create Darnell Savage’s interception, and Preston Smith’s pressure helped create Chrsitian Kirksey’s interception.
In the secondary, Savage and cornerback Jaire Alexander each broke up three passes. The Packers finished with two interceptions but could have had one or two more, including a potential pick-six from Savage that was dropped.
Late in the game, Alexander broke up a pass on fourth down, turning the Titans’ final comeback attempt away.
Against arguably the most talented and balanced offense on the schedule, the Packers stepped up to the challenge and delivered a smothering effort. Henry didn’t take over the game, Tannehill never got comfortable and the Titans – who came into the contest averaging over 31 points per game – managed nothing more than two scoring drives.
The Packers needed to prove they could play high-level defense against a high-level opponent in 2020. Sunday night provided the opportunity, and Pettine’s group checked the box.
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