Green Bay used Sunday's rout over Tennessee to send a message to the rest of the NFL.
By PAUL IMIGFS Wisconsin
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- It was the type of dominant performance that showed just how good the
Packers can be. A 55-7 win over the
Tennessee Titans on Sunday afternoon displayed a balanced offense that couldn’t be stopped and an aggressive defense that controlled the game.
It was the most points scored by the franchise since 1983. Had it not been for a Tennessee touchdown in the final two minutes, it would have been Green Bay’s largest margin of victory ever.
And unlike last season, when a 15-1 regular season record allowed the Packers to coast easily into the playoffs (which resulted in an early postseason exit), Green Bay is starting to get hot now, when it matters most.
"It was a statement game for us," wide receiver Greg Jennings said. "I think guys wanted to come out and continue to establish momentum. We talk about going in full head of steam and you can’t let games like this creep up on you, and you have to take advantage of it."
The Titans (5-10) are not a team heading to the postseason, but the Packers used the opportunity against a lesser opponent to score three passing touchdowns and four rushing touchdowns, while also resting quarterback Aaron Rodgers for the majority of the fourth quarter.
"We’ve got to be playing like this heading into playoffs," Rodgers said. "It’s nice to get a win like this kind of going away."
Rodgers threw for 351 yards and connected on touchdown passes to Jennings, Randall Cobb and James Jones, while also running one into the endzone himself.
"Shoot, you want to score 50 every game," Jones said. "It doesn’t (usually) happen that way. We've got the people in the locker room to do that type of stuff every game. Each game presents its own challenges and it’s not going to always be like that.
"We feel like every time we take the field we should score every time we get the ball."
Green Bay’s offense has not been nearly as good this season as it was last year. In 2011, the Packers led the NFL at 35 points per game, but they’re ranked 13th this season, averaging just 24.6 points.
"It’s getting down to playoff football (and) we want to be at the peak," Jones said. "We want to be playing our best football. We wanted to go out there and try to put up as many points as we can and just get in a good rhythm getting ready for the playoffs."
Jones believes there could be one drawback to having such a successful day on offense. The Titans, unlike many of Green Bay’s opponents this season, didn’t drop two safeties deep, a defensive strategy that had been keeping the Packers’ offense in check in recent months.
"I was surprised," Jones said of Tennessee’s philosophy. "I think a lot of people might go back to cover-2 and all of that stuff on us, and get out of the one-high. We’ll see. We have to be prepared for everything."
Green Bay’s defense was just as good as its offense in this game. The Packers recorded seven sacks, two interceptions and 10 tackles for loss.
"We’ve let teams hang around on the ropes for a while now; we haven't put anyone out," linebacker Clay Matthews said. "It was nice to get that accomplished. It was good that we were able to get this type of victory."
Despite 58 minutes of the Titans barely moving the ball, Tennessee’s touchdown late in the game ruined the chance for a shutout. And that didn’t sit well with Matthews.
"We were real upset when we gave up that touchdown," Matthews said. "It still was a thorough game for us, but as a defense, we’re stingy, selfish, and we like to keep that zero on the board."
Though Green Bay’s offense hasn’t been as explosive this season compared to a year ago, the Packers’ defense has been significantly better. After finishing 27th in the NFL in sacks and 30th in yards allowed in 2011, Green Bay is ranked fifth in sacks and 14th in yards allowed.
"I’m a firm believer in being accountable on this team," Matthews said. "Not only as an individual, but as a defense. Leaders on this defense, we hold these younger guys across the field accountable, and that’s what we’re doing this year. Guys aren’t getting away with missing tackles and not doing their job and just saying, ‘We won the game, let’s move on to next week.’
"We’re holding each other accountable, and if not, we’ll find somebody who can step up and rise to that. And that’s exactly what it’s been. So, we feel good about where we’re at, the maturity, both physically and mentally. Hopefully that pays dividends in the long run."
The Packers have had only three poor defensive performances all season, and each has resulted in a loss. But after getting Matthews back last weekend from a hamstring injury that had kept him for more than a month, Green Bay’s defense looks capable of carrying the team if the offense isn’t at its best.
"I think this team is more mentally tough than last year and that we understand what we need to accomplish and we can’t just skate into the playoffs, which we did last year," Matthews said.
The Packers clinched the NFC North last weekend with their win in Chicago, but Green Bay’s playoff seed has yet to be determined. Sunday’s win over Tennessee ensured that the Packers will finish no worse than the No. 3 seed, and therefore will have at least one home postseason game. But the No. 2 seed is still within reach with a win in the regular-season finale in Minnesota, giving Green Bay good reason to play its starters in Week 17. Last season, with nothing left to play for, coach Mike McCarthy opted to rest all of his star players for that final game. Coincidentally or not, the Packers came out flat following their first-round bye and were eliminated from the postseason in the divisional round.
"It was important for us to go out and dominate the opponents late in the year," McCarthy said after the game. "We have momentum going for us, particularly what we’ve done over the last nine weeks, 10 weeks, so we wanted to take the next step as a football team and I felt we were able to accomplish that today."