Packers trying to snap skid starting road swing at Tennessee
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) A two-game skid has whittled away any margin for error the Green Bay Packers had in the NFC North, and now they hit the road for three straight games starting in Tennessee.
It's a crucial moment for a franchise that has reached the playoffs each of the past seven seasons.
''Every game from this point forward in November and December are very important games for us,'' Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. ''Tough stretch right now with three on the road back-to-back-to-back, but we've just got to take it one at a time and figure out a way to put a better performance on the field on Sunday.''
This marks Green Bay's first three-game road trip since 2012 , and the timing couldn't be worse for a franchise that has lost three of four by a combined nine points. The tight losses have stuck Green Bay (4-4) behind both Minnesota and Detroit in the NFC North after being stunned 31-26 at Lambeau Field by Indianapolis last week.
The Titans (4-5) find themselves trying to keep pace in the AFC South. They need one more win to match the victory total for the past two seasons combined and are coming off a 43-35 loss in San Diego , where Marcus Mariota outdueled Phillip Rivers by throwing for 313 yards and three touchdowns while running for another score.
The second-year quarterback also cost Tennessee 17 points off three turnovers, and Mariota knows he has to protect the ball better.
''We've continued to preach finishing some of these games, but you know what, that's part of it,'' Mariota said. ''That's part of how we have to learn, how we're going to get better. Eventually, we'll turn these around and be on the right side of these things.''
Here are some things to know about the Packers and Titans:
ENERGIZED PACK?: Coach Mike McCarthy says his Packers' energy level won't be an issue in Tennessee. Like the presidential election, ''energy'' became a buzzword immediately after last week's loss to Indianapolis after the Packers looked lethargic early. But McCarthy says it was more an issue about not being detailed and consistent enough in adverse situations. Whatever the root of the issues, Green Bay doesn't want to spend the whole game again playing catch-up.
PROTECT THE BALL: Turnovers have been the Titans' biggest issue in losses this season, something Mariota had improved on in helping Tennessee win three of four in October. Over his past three games at home, Mariota has thrown seven touchdowns with only one interception. Even with two interceptions in San Diego, Mariota ranks fourth in the NFL with a 111.8 passer rating over the past five games.
Rodgers says he's been a fan of Mariota since the fellow Pac-12 quarterback was at Oregon. ''He can do it all on the field,'' Rodgers said. ''He's extremely gifted athletically, and he's doing a good job of throwing it efficiently. I'm definitely impressed with him with the way he comes off and the way he's playing.''
TO THE QB: The Packers' pass rush has slowed down the last few games. Green Bay managed to sack Andrew Luck just twice last week despite the Colts' porous offensive line. The front seven has been missing linebacker Clay Matthews the last couple weeks because of a sore hamstring, and it's unclear when he might return.
Mariota is less experienced than Luck, though he can be just as elusive. Tennessee has allowed Mariota to be sacked only 12 times this season and not at all the past two games, a huge improvement from last year, when the Titans surrendered a league-worst 54 sacks.
RUN TEST: DeMarco Murray is second in the NFL with 807 yards rushing, and the Titans rank third in the NFL, averaging 144.2 yards per game. That will be seriously tested against Green Bay, the league's stingiest run defense. The Packers are allowing 75.8 yards per game, and Tennessee could be without Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry. Murray's backup strained his calf last week.
WATCH RODGERS: With Eddie Lacy recovering from ankle surgery and on injured reserve, Rodgers is carrying the load as Green Bay's leading rusher. The two-time MVP is averaging 5.9 yards per carry and his 199 yards rushing are second only to Lacy. But Titans coach Mike Mularkey said Green Bay has been very creative, finding ways to run with a variety of players such as Ty Montgomery.
AP Sports Writer Genaro C. Armas contributed to this report.
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