ReFo: Titans @ Packers, Week 16
When the Tennessee Titans visited Lambeau Field, not many gave them a shot. They were up against a Green Bay Packers team that have flown under the radar recently but are stirring into the kind of form that won them a Super Bowl two years ago.
While not many gave them a shot, not many saw this coming. A complete blowout that was so bad it stirred memories in me of what happened to Tennessee when they visited New England in Week 6 of the 2009 NFL season.
Embarrassments like that are few and far between in the NFL and can lead to us jumping to conclusions, but the manner of their defeat will leave many questioning if this franchise will decide to go in another direction in 2013 after taking a backward step this year.
Tennessee – Three Performances of Note
Line Injuries Showing Up
With the Titans losing linemen rapidly a couple of guys found themselves thrust into starting roles and with an opportunity to impress. To say they had mixed fortunes would be something of an understatement.
Mitch Petrus (-5.3) had a nightmare day before he was put out of his misery and benched after 38 snaps where he lacked the strength at the point of attack to stop B.J. Raji (and others) pushing him about. He was flagged for a penalty, gave up three hurries and was beaten on a regular basis in the run game. That was in stark contrast to Byron Stingily (+2.3) who before today had only played one NFL snap on offense. He’ll face bigger tests than Dezman Moses and Erik Walden, but he didn’t buckle where others might have. Encouraging.
Normally when I watch Jake Locker (-4.3) I come away thinking this is a guy who, while not quite ready, shows enough flashes to make you excited about what he can do in the future. Suffice to say I wasn’t feeling quite as rosy about his prospects after this game.
Showing an ability to make every catch harder than it needed to be for his receivers, the lack of accuracy Locker displayed is something of a trend. You can at times forget when he rifles in a ball that shows off his upside, but when there’s none of that his flaws can’t be ignored. He’s young and developing but completing just 22.2% of plays when under pressure (and 52.4% when not) just isn’t good enough.
It wasn’t all bad for Tennessee and once again I came away from watching the Titans impressed with the play of Derrick Morgan (+2.9). The former first rounder has drawn little attention since his rookie year was cut short by an ACL injury, but he’s turning himself into the player he was drafted to be. He was too powerful for Don Barclay, constantly getting the Packers’ right tackle moving backward and unable to anchor before shedding his block and making life uncomfortable for Aaron Rodgers. He finished the day with two quarterback hits and three hurries.
Green Bay – Three Performances of Note
I’ve been somewhat criticial of B.J. Raji (+4.9) in years gone by. A reputation built on a few splash plays here and big time games there, he’s the kind of guy who can play 60 snaps in a game and not grab your attention once despite how much he is single blocked.
Well not in this game. Smelling blood with Mitch Petrus in the lineup, Raji followed up his seasons best game against the Bears with something even better. Too quick and too powerful for Petrus and Fernando Velasco he walked away with three hurries and a defensive stop. Those numbers though don’t do justice to just how disruptive he was, constantly being responsible for Chris Johnson being unable to hit a hole as he pleased.
There were a few off-target throws from Aaron Rodgers but by and large this served as a kind of exhibition of all the weapons he has. Another big day for James Jones saw him collect 7-of-10 targets as he got the better of Jason McCourty, while the returning Greg Jennings showed what he can do in forcing two missed tackles for the second week in a row. If that’s not enough, Jermichael Finley proved what a big target he can be, and while Randall Cobb dropped a couple of balls, he demonstrated his ability to be a difference-maker. Essentially for those who have been worried about Green Bay and who Aaron Rodgers is throwing to, don’t. It’s all coming together.
It’s not often that at this stage of the season you’ll see a seasoned veteran like Jeff Saturday replaced. I understand why. He’s offered very little to the Packers’ running game and you don’t, generally speaking, have centers in the team for their pass blocking ability (though you don’t want it to be a liability). It led to him being ranked 30th in our center grades and Evan Dietrich-Smith (+0.0) coming into the team.
Well “EDS” had himself a quiet game. He got his quarterback hit to the turf when he maintained a double team too long and didn’t pick up Will Witherspoon, and didn’t get much going in the run game. But then against an active front he didn’t get beat all too often, working well in unison with his guards to help get his running backs to the next level.
Too early to tell how this plays out but early signs indicate it’s a move that won’t hurt Green Bay.
– Aaron Rodgers only completed 7-of-15 attempts (46.7%) when blitzed. He was up at 87% when not.
– He only rushed the passer 17 times, but Clay Matthews picked up a sack and two hits while also beating Deuce Lutui so bad that it meant A.J. Hawk had a free ride to the quarterback with the blocking back forced to pick him up.
– The Titans missed 14 tackles. The Packers? Three.
PFF Game Ball
No one player was essential to the Packers win. They were that dominant that they could have lost several of their better players and the outcome would have been pretty much the same. That said B.J. Raji was superb and if he can carry this form on into the playoffs then watch out.
Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled