The opposition may not have been the most stern, but Green Bay thoroughly overwhelmed the Titans.
By PAUL IMIGFS Wisconsin
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- It was almost a shutout. It was the most points scored by the
Packers since 1983. It was nearly the largest margin of victory for the franchise ever. This was exactly what Green Bay needed with the playoffs approaching.
Handing out grades following the Packers' 55-7 win over the Titans:
Passing Offense: A
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers had good protection in the pocket and was able to do whatever he wanted in dissecting Tennessee's defense. Rodgers completed 27 of his 38 throws for 342 yards with three touchdown passes and no interceptions.
Rodgers' top target was wide receiver James Jones, who caught seven of the 10 passes thrown his way for 100 yards and one touchdown. Greg Jennings also had seven receptions, totaling 45 yards with a touchdown. Randall Cobb had three catches for 62 yards with a touchdown, but had to leave the game in the third quarter due to a right ankle injury. Tight end Jermichael Finley continued his recent string of solid performances with five receptions for 70 yards.
The new offensive line configuration played very well as a group, only allowing Rodgers to get sacked once. Rodgers had a few impressive scrambles to keep plays alive, but new starting center Evan Dietrich-Smith did well in seamlessly transitioning from Jeff Saturday.
Rushing Offense: A-
Alex Green was ruled out prior to the game after not passing the concussion protocol, leaving the Packers with none of the three main running backs that began with the team in the regular season (James Starks and Cedric Benson are also injured).
But recently signed veteran Ryan Grant, in his third game back with Green Bay, had 20 carries for 80 yards (4.0 average) with two touchdowns. Grant didn't start the game, however, with first-year running back DuJuan Harris on the field for the opening drive. Harris finished with 29 yards on eight rushing attempts (3.6 average) and one touchdown.
The combination of Grant and Harris, neither of whom were even on the Packers' active roster four weeks ago, looked like a duo capable of holding their own in the rushing game. Once Green is back, the three of them might be good enough to force opposing defenses to respect Green Bay's running attack, a thought that seemed impossible a month ago.
Rodgers added a rushing touchdown of his own. The offensive line, with Dietrich-Smith a far superior run-blocker compared to Saturday, got plenty of push upfront to help give the running backs room to run.
Rushing Defense: A
The key to stopping the Titans offense is stopping Chris Johnson. Though Johnson is no longer in the elite category of NFL running backs, he's still the focus of opposing defenses. It helped that the Packers got out to a big lead, but even when the game was within reach during the first half, Johnson was completely held in check.
Johnson finished with 28 yards on 11 carries (2.5 average). Clay Matthews and A.J. Hawk both had tackles of Johnson behind the line of scrimmage, while two other rushes resulted in no gain. It was a completely dominating performance upfront by the Packers, with B.J. Raji continuing his stretch of manhandling offensive linemen.
Had it not been for quarterback Jake Locker scrambling four times for 32 yards, Green Bay would have held the Titans below 50 yards rushing as a team.
Passing Defense: A
Locker's halftime passer rating was 0.0. It literally can't get worse than that for a quarterback. Though Locker is not a very good QB by NFL standards, to hold him to that level of performance is a tremendous accomplishment for defensive coordinator Dom Capers and his players.
Locker ended up with a 41.0 passer rating, completing 13 of 30 passes for 140 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Those two picks came at the hands of cornerback Sam Shields and linebacker Erik Walden off of a tipped pass.
The Packers also had Locker pressured throughout the entire game, sacking him seven times. Hawk had his best game of the season all around, but especially in pass rush, collecting two sacks. Matthews, Shields, Dezman Moses, Brad Jones and Mike Neal all picked up sacks on Locker as well, bringing Green Bay's total for the day to seven.
Special Teams: B
The adventures of kicker Mason Crosby had a relatively positive turn in this game. Crosby made both of his field-goal attempts (26 yards, 48 yards), but one clanked off the goalpost before going through. It's abundantly clear at this point in the season that the team has no plans to make a change at kicker, with the coaching staff hoping that Crosby can consistently start making his kicks, preferably straight through the uprights as opposed to needing the proper bounce off the goalpost.
The bigger debate this week on special teams is whether Cobb should ever return a punt or kick again this season or beyond. Cobb injured his right ankle midway through the third quarter and was unable to return to the game. Regardless of the severity of the injury, Cobb is the Packers' leading wide receiver, and it may be too much risk to have him taking big hits in the return game. After seeing Jeremy Ross' 56-yard punt return, he may have proven himself capable of handling those responsibilities moving forward this season.
The Titans (5-10) are not a good team, but the Packers absolutely dominated them in every facet of the game. Jennings called it a "statement game," and it may have been just that. Tennessee isn't up to par with any playoff team that Green Bay will face, but when Rodgers plays this well, the running game is good, the defensive blitz packages are working and the Packers' are stopping the run at this level, they look like a team who could be playing in February.
A win next weekend in Minnesota over the Vikings and Green Bay will have secured the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs, and therefore, a first-round bye.