Green Bay – In a near-perfect December setting at snowy Lambeau Field, the Green Bay offense was fueled Sunday evening by two veteran stars and the emergence of a possible future one.
Davante Adams and Aaron Rodgers put on a masterful display, overwhelming the Tennessee secondary while rookie AJ Dillon upstaged the NFL’s leading rusher, Derrick Henry, in a convincing 40-14 victory. The Packers led 19-0 early in the second quarter, withstood a Titans’ 14-point spree to end the second and start the third quarter, and pulled away in the final 19 minutes with two Dillon touchdown runs to cement the game.
The victory for the 12-3 Packers did not secure the No. 1 seed in the NFC. That can be earned Sunday afternoon in Chicago, against Green Bay’s oldest rival at Soldier Field. The NFC North Division match-up with the red-hot Bears will be televised exclusively in Western Wisconsin on Fox 25/48 at 3:25 p.m., as the NFL flexed the game from its previous 12 noon position.
“Got a lot of respect for the Tennessee Titans and what they have been able to do, but that’s the type of effort that we’re going to need moving forward,” head coach Matt LaFleur said. “And we know that this will be short-lived in terms of celebrating this win. We have a great opponent coming up that is really on a hot streak right now. Nothing matters more, or nothing matters to this point other than going down to Chicago and battling against a team that is really hot. I think they’ve scored 30-plus points in four straight games. Like I said, we’ll celebrate tonight and get on to the Bears tomorrow.”
Rodgers and Adams also etched their names in franchise history, becoming the most prolific tandem with 492 completions in seven seasons together. Adams caught three of Rodgers’ four touchdown passes, amassing 142 yards on 11 catches. But no catch was better than a 3rd-and-10 connection in the fourth quarter.
Rodgers quick-released a deep sideline dart to avoid the blitz that Adams snared with two outstretched hands at his knees for a 32-yard gain, despite tight coverage by cornerback Malcolm Butler. Following a mundane performance by Patrick Mahomes against the Falcons, Rodgers’ continued consistent play has elevated him to MVP frontrunner after an efficient 21-of-25, 231-yard performance against Tennessee in a game Green Bay never punted.
Rodgers was relaxed and all smiles in his post-game Zoom press conference.
“I think we all heard enough about us not beating enough good teams,” he said. “Not responding and playing a complete game, and this was our response. I feel good about where we’re at. It’s tough to play in the cold and it’s tough to play in Lambeau and I felt we proved that tonight.
“I thought the defense played outstanding. Offensively we had great balance. We ran the (heck) out of the ball . Guys were great up front and really good with protection and then Davante (Adams) did what Davante’s been doing.”
Dillon made the most of his opportunity with teammate Jamaal Williams was a workhorse 1-2 punch with Aaron Jones (10 carries, 94 yards), battering the Titans on 21 carries for 124 yards and scoring Green Bay’s final two touchdowns on 30- and 7-yard touchdown runs. His 30-yard burst came on 4th-and-1 against a stacked front, as once past the line of scrimmage he easily made the lone defender miss to give the Packers a commanding late third-quarter lead at 33-14.
The Green Bay defense rose to the challenge of taking on the 6-foot-3, 247-pound Henry. “He’s a beast,” said LaFleur, who previously worked with Henry when he served on the Titans staff before taking the head coaching position in Green Bay last year.
The bottom line is this: the NFL’s No. 1 scoring offense entering the game was held to just 14 points. The expected shootout at Lambeau Field never materialized. Mike Pettine’s unit gained league-wide respect with a concerted effort to limit Henry, holding the Titans’ bruising back to 98 yards in 23 carries and forcing two turnovers. The Packers were also extremely disciplined and did not incur a penalty in the game.
Linebacker Christian Kirksey and safety Darnell Savage intercepted Ryan Tannehill, who was sacked twice and under pressure throughout the contest. Kirksey also registered a sack for Green Bay, which held the potent Tennessee attack to 260 total yards and 15 first downs.
“At the end of the day we are going to have the ball about as many possessions as those guys,” Tannehill said. “We expect to go get points. Facing a good offense, you are going to have to score points. We knew that going in. We didn’t get it done.”
“It was snow weather obviously. We didn’t have that during the week. The weather was actually colder, more wind, in Nashville on Friday so we got to practice in the cold. There are no excuses, except to be better.”