NFC North: Packers-Titans
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- We're fixin' to hop a plane home and thus will bring you our Monday posts in a slightly different order. "Black and Blue all over" will post a bit later, followed by the ever-popular "Three answers, one question." (Or is it "Three questions, one answer?" I get confused sometimes.)
Hopefully you can handle the suspense.
For now, I want to touch on one of the lost storylines of Green Bay's 19-16 loss at Tennessee: The return of cornerback Al Harris, who made his first start since lacerating his spleen on Sept. 21. Usually you judge cornerbacks based on how often their name is called during a game, and by that scale Harris played well.
Check out this analysis from Jason Paradise of ESPN Stats & Analysis. Based on his viewing, the Titans threw Harris' way only five times and did not complete a pass against him. Here is a look at the Titans' pass distribution against the Packers defense, focusing on Harris and fellow cornerback Charles Woodson:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Justice has more important priorities than the NFC North. And so there was no recourse Sunday for the Green Bay Packers, who lost their hold on the division lead even while taking the league's top team to overtime.
|Doug Benc/Getty Images|
|Aaron Rodgers' two turnovers cost the Packers.|
The Packers gave the Titans (8-0) arguably their toughest game of the season, amassing nearly 400 offensive yards and coming within 10 yards of position for a potential game-winning field goal. But when Rob Bironas' 41-yard field goal split the uprights with 9:36 left in overtime -- lifting the Titans to a 19-16 victory -- the Packers had no choice but to accept their 4-4 record and a one-game deficit in the NFC North.
(We'll save the Chicago Bears first-place status story for another day, upon further inspection of their comeback victory against Detroit.)
"We're a good team," Packers cornerback Charles Woodson said. "But the reality is we're 4-4. What you take from this game is that close ain't good enough. ... These are the type of games that test teams and let you know exactly where you are and where you aren't. We're a good team but not good enough to get over that hump right now."
Two Packers mistakes and a late spurt from Titans rookie runner Chris Johnson were the only differences between the teams Sunday. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers committed two turnovers, one an interception in the end zone and another a fumble that Tennessee recovered on the Packers' 17-yard line. The Titans converted the latter mistake into a 22-yard field goal midway through the third quarter.
"That gave them three points," Rodgers said. "And that's the margin of victory. You can't do that. That makes me very disappointed in the way I played."
The Titans didn't commit a turnover, but they also didn't take control of the game until overtime. Green Bay limited them to 57 offensive yards on their first six possessions of the second half, and it wasn't until late in the fourth quarter that Johnson found his footing.
Johnson gained 50 of his 89 rushing yards on the Titans' final two drives, putting Bironas in position for a pair of attempts. (His 47-yarder at the end of regulation hit the right upright.)
The Packers had twice battled back from six-point deficits, and more than a few Packers players were convinced the overtime coin toss decided the game.
"It might have been different if we had won the coin toss," linebacker Brandon Chillar said. "Not to make excuses, but that's how it is. ... I'd like to play them again and see what happens."
NASHVILLE, Tenn.-- Ultimately, the Green Bay Packers ran out of gas Sunday at LP Field.
They played neck-and-neck with the NFL's top team for most of the afternoon, limiting the Titans' vaunted running game and making enough big plays on offense to send the game into overtime. (Rob Bironas' missed 47-yard field goal on the final play of regulation helped as well.)
But in the end, Titans running backs Chris Johnson and LenDale White pushed through a tired Packers defense enough times in overtime for Bironas to convert a 41-yard field goal to end it. Johnson and White combined for 39 rushing yards during the only possession of overtime; Johnson also contributed a 14-yard reception.
Though haggard at times, the Packers proved they could play with the best the league has to offer. In the end, however, all they got out of it was a 4-4 record and a tie for second place in the NFC North.
We'll be back with you in a few hours.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- We're back and it's not over. Green Bay has gone to overtime in its bid to hand Tennessee its first loss of the season. This time, we'll really be back when it's over.
FYI, the Titans won the toss and will get the first possession.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Looks like we're heading toward a fun finish at LP Field, where Tennessee leads Green Bay 16-13 early in the fourth quarter. At stake for the Packers could be sole possession of first place in the NFC North.
We'll bring you a quick analysis after the game and check back a few hours later.
The sacks, by defensive tackle Ryan Pickett and defensive end Mike Montgomery, were significant because Collins had only been sacked once previously -- this season.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A few halftime observations from LP Field, where Tennessee leads Green Bay, 13-10:
- At this point, the difference in the game is a 54-yard run by, yes, Titans tailback LenDale White. The jaunt came two plays after Green Bay briefly took a 10-6 lead on Donald Driver's 5-yard touchdown reception and put momentum back on Tennessee's side. Packers safety Atari Bigby caught White from behind at the Green Bay 20-yard line, but two plays later Chris Johnson scored to re-gain the lead.
- I'm not sure I understand why Titans coach Jeff Fisher had his team line up for a 63-yard field goal on the final play of the half. Ultimately, holder Craig Hentrich caught the snap, stood up and then kneeled as the half ended. If Fisher wasn't going to kick, why not have quarterback Kerry Collins take a knee out of an offensive alignment? Doesn't that eliminate the possibility of a bad snap in a field goal formation?
- The Packers ended the half with left tackle Chad Clifton standing on the sideline. Daryn Colledge was playing left tackle, Jason Spitz was at left guard and rookie Josh Sitton was at right guard. No announcement was made during the game about any injury Clifton might have suffered. We'll check back if more information arises.
NASHVILLE -- For better or worse, Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy thus far has approached this game as if his team is a decided underdog that won't win by conventional means.
McCarthy opened the game against unbeaten Tennessee with an empty backfield -- which got Titans defensive end Jevon Kearse a free shot on quarterback Aaron Rodgers -- and also has used a wishbone-like alignment with fullbacks John Kuhn and Korey Hall. But in the early going, the Titans' defensive front has been too quick for the Packers, no matter what formation the Packers use.
I also thought McCarthy got a little too cute on a fourth-down play at the Titans' 44-yard line. Needing one yard, McCarthy employed a running formation but had quarterback Aaron Rodgers throw toward little-used rookie tight end Jermichael Finley. The pass fell incomplete as Finley tried to make a one-handed catch.
Two red-zone stands from the Packers' defense have kept the team in the game. The Titans lead 6-0 early in the second quarter.
NASHVILLE -- As the opening kickoff approaches here at LP Field, I'll be interested to see how the Green Bay Packers approach this game from an offensive perspective.
Will they try to strike quickly with their passing game to open up an early lead?
Or will they pound their running game to control time of possession and keep the ball away from Tennessee's vaunted running attack?
My gut tells me it will be the former, but after a few days of the stomach flu, I don't have much left in there.
We'll be back with you soon.
NASHVILLE -- Kyle Vanden Bosch will play Sunday for Tennessee. Jordy Nelson is active for Green Bay. But there is one mild surprise on the inactive list for this game: Packers receiver James Jones will miss his third consecutive games because of a knee injury.
Jones practiced all week and was expected to play Sunday against the Titans. The Packers had hoped to be able to use their five-receiver package at times in this game, but it won't be available. Overall, Jones has missed four of the Packers' last five games because of the injury.
NASHVILLE -- There aren't too many pregame story lines here at LP Field. The only news we're awaiting is whether Tennessee defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch (groin) and Green Bay receiver Jordy Nelson (ankle) will be active for the game.
Early whispers are that Vanden Bosch will give it a shot. We're not sure yet on Nelson.
The dots are all set to be connected. Hard-hitting safety Atari Bigby is expected to return Sunday for Green Bay. The opponent is Tennessee, a team that averages 145 rushing yards per game.
Will Bigby simply slide back into a position he vacated six weeks ago after severely straining his hamstring? Replacement Aaron Rouse is also a physical presence at 6-foot-4 and 223 pounds and has filled in well overall. Rouse, in fact, was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week earlier this month for his strong all-around performance Oct. 19 against Indianapolis.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said both players were working with the first-team defense. But it will be interesting to see whether defensive coordinator Bob Sanders can capitalize on his newly flexible personnel situation to maximize the playing time of the Packers' run-stopping safeties -- especially considering their otherwise spotty run defense this season.
Is there a way to use Bigby or Rouse as a hybrid linebacker? McCarthy didn't address that possibility but acknowledged the role of each player in run defense.
"It's great to have [Bigby] back," McCarthy said. "Aaron has played well in his absence and we have some flexibility there."
Bigby was used as a quasi-linebacker earlier in his career but cautioned against placing too many expectations on his return.
"This is football," he said, "and it's always good to have a physical guy to come out there and lay [out] some bit hits. ... [But] I'm not Superman or nothing. I'm not going to go out there and ultimate-warrior or bench-press LenDale White."
Just keeping White and teammate Chris Johnson under wraps would be fine with the Packers.