The era of good feelings is over in Green Bay, at least for the 2022 season. It lasted all of four days after the Packers defeated the Dallas Cowboys in an upset on Sunday, thanks to the Tennessee Titans’ 27-17 victory on Thursday Night Football at Lambeau Field.
Green Bay looked listless and outmatched from the jump, as the defense gave up a long touchdown drive to open the game then suffered death by a thousand cuts on an 18-play, ten-minute drive in the second quarter. The unit got a 4th-down stop to end that series and preserve a one-point deficit, but a quick three-and-out — one of many on the night from Aaron Rodgers and the offense — set the Titans up in good field position to extend their lead before halftime.
After the break, the defense continued to play soft coverage as they focused on containing running back Derrick Henry, but the star runner managed to make a few big plays despite being held to just 3.1 yards per carry. He was responsible for two touchdowns on the day, one rushing and one passing, but it was the Packers defense’s inability to stop Ryan Tannehill and the Titans’ passing game on third down that proved to be their downfall in the second half.
Meanwhile, the Packers got another multi-touchdown performance from Christian Watson and a productive return from Randall Cobb, but Rodgers and company couldn’t come up with big plays when they mattered most in the second half. After closing to within a field goal late in the third quarter, the offense had three straight three-and-outs in the fourth, including one despite the defense finally stepping up with an interception and a pair of stops of their own.
All of that combined to send the Packers home as losers for the sixth time in the last seven games, dropping them to 4-7 on the season. With several NFC Wild Card contenders already holding head-to-head tiebreakers over the Packers, this loss effectively ends any hopes of making the postseason in January, even if the team is not yet mathematically eliminated.
The Titans picked up a big gain on their first series of downs, as rookie receiver Treylon Burks got open deep. With no pass rush to speak of, Ryan Tannehill unloaded deep to Burks in single coverage from Keisean Nixon, picking up 44 yards on 3rd-and-7. A few plays later, Tannehill found Dontrell Hilliard out of the backfield between the Packers’ zone coverage defenders for a wide-open 14-yard touchdown.
Green Bay went three-and-out on their opening drive, seeing Aaron Jones tackled for a loss on the first play. A second-down run by Jones picked up a few yards, but Aaron Rodgers’ throw to Robert Tonyan in the flat on third down was way off the mark, forcing an early punt. The defense responded, however, holding Henry to a short gain on first down and getting a sack from Preston Smith to help force the Titans to kick away.
Jones picked up a quick first down on two carries on the next series, gaining 9 on first down and 4 yards on second down to move the chains. Randall Cobb would pick up a big 24-yard gain a few plays later to get the Packers into Titans territory. He made a huge play three snaps later, falling on the football after Jones fumbled it following a nice carry to move the chains. A 10-yard gain to Tonyan got the Packers into the red zone. where Rodgers got weird. After a run by Aaron Jones with a few seconds left in the first quarter, Rodgers got the Packers back to the line for a quick snap before time expired, drawing a 12-men flag on Tennessee. Not satisfied with the penalty, Rodgers scrambled to his left and tossed a prayer to the back of the end zone, where Christian Watson made a leaping catch for his fourth touchdown in five days. Before the end of the quarter, however, Mason Crosby’s PAT was blocked, preserving the Titans’ lead at 7-6.
Here’s a look at the touchdown:
.@AaronRodgers12 recognized the Titans had too many men on the field, snapped for a free play, and threw a jump ball for a TD ... veteran expertise. #TENvsGB on Prime Video— NFL (@NFL) November 18, 2022
Also available on NFL+ https://t.co/BPNa9Cbtld pic.twitter.com/VzvPRUGLM5
The Titans got moving again on the ensuing drive, picking up a first down with a pass interference call on Darnell Savage and seemingly picking up another first down on a 3rd-and-10 throw to Austin Hooper. Matt LaFleur challenged the spot of the ball, and Hooper was ruled to be just short of the sticks, setting up a 4th-and-inches at midfield. Henry took a direct snap and picked up just enough to move the chains, keeping the drive alive, then picked up another three first downs on the ground on five carries. Finally, after more than ten minutes, the Packers got a stop, as Quay Walker brought Henry down in the backfield on a 4th-and-inches attempt from the 5-yard line.
The Tennessee drive ate up two-thirds of the second quarter on 18 plays, but ended in no points. But it backed up the Packers deep in their own territory, and two short runs and a grounding penalty just outside the end zone set up a painfully short punt from the back of the end zone from Pat O’Donnell to give Tennessee the ball back at the Packers’ 41.
A first down reception for Robert Woods took the clock down to the two-minute warning, but with a chance to get a stop on 3rd and 8, the Packers played off coverage and gave up a first down after using their final timeouts to stop the clock. They did the same three plays later before Henry burst into the end zone for a short touchdown, extending the Tennessee lead to 14-6. Getting the ball back with roughly 30 seconds left before the half, the Packers chose to try to move the ball a bit, but had nothing down the field and went into the half after two short passes to Aaron Jones and an incomplete pass.
At the half, Tennessee had run 38 total plays to the Packers’ 21 while nearly doubling up Green Bay in time of possession. Still, the Packers were within a possession and got the ball back to start the second half.
Coming out of the break, the Packers kept committing to the run game, throwing the kitchen sink at the Titans’ defense as Jones and Dillon pushed the football to the Titans’ 30-yard line. Lazard picked up a first down on a 3rd-and-10 to get the Packers into the red zone, but the Packers had to settle for a Mason Crosby field goal attempt after failing to move the ball any further. He knocked the kick through from 39 yards to close the lead down to 14-9.
Tennessee hit on a coverage bust, as Tannehill delivered a 33-yard pass to Chig Okonkwo, then found Henry for a big screen pass despite an uncalled hold on the Titans’ center. That set up a first-and-goal and two plays later, Henry took a handoff towards the line and stopped, tossing a jump pass to tight end Austin Hooper for a touchdown. Josh Lambo drilled his PAT attempt off the right upright, leaving the score at 20-9.
Randall Cobb struck again for the Packers, who finally started throwing the ball a bit more on their next drive. Cobb picked up 29 yards with a big gain on a deep crosser, then Rodgers found Allen Lazard with a perfect over-the-shoulder throw for a 23-yard gain to the 8-yard line. Rodgers then found Christian Watson yet again, giving him his fifth touchdown in as many days on a play-action crosser. Aaron Jones took a push pass around the right end and into the end zone for a two-point conversion, bringing Green Bay back within three points as they closed the Titans’ lead to 20-17.
Here’s a look at the touchdown:
WOW @ChristianW2017 does his 5th Lambeau leap in 4 DAYS! #TENvsGB on Prime Video— NFL (@NFL) November 18, 2022
Also available on NFL+ https://t.co/BPNa9Cbtld pic.twitter.com/Wd6voKHULt
After a short kickoff by Crosby gave Tennessee the ball across the 30, the coverage busts continued for the Packers. Robert Woods got wide open for a big gain with Rasul Douglas failing to pick him up on a corner route. Tannehill hit him for a big 32-yard gain, almost instantly putting Tennessee back in field goal range. Tannehill then hit Austin Hooper with a dart between two Packers safeties in the end zone, bringing the Titans’ lead back up to two possessions at 27-17.
The Packers went 3-and-out again as the offense failed to connect on a first-down shot play to Watson. A second-down run and a pressured off-target throw to Tonyan sent the Packers’ punt unit back out on the field. The defense had a great chance to force a stop and let the offense try to get back in the game, but they allowed yet another third-and-long conversion. But just when all seemed lost, Rasul Douglas jumped a route and picked off Tannehill in the red zone, returning the football to the 34 and keeping a glimmer of hope alive in the game and for the season.
With 2022 hanging in the balance, the offense failed to move the chains. Yosh Nijman got called for a tough holding penalty, setting Green Bay up well behind the sticks. An 8-yard gain to Cobb set up a 3rd-and-12, but Rodgers horribly missed a wide-open Sammy Watkins on a crosser and the Packers had to punt once again. The Packers defense finally did their job, forcing a three-and-out of their own thanks to a big hut by Krys Barnes on Tannehill on a 3rd-and-1 scramble.
Keisean Nixon delivered a nice return, giving the Packers offense the ball in Titans territory. He bounced off a would-be tackler and reversed his field to the left, picking up 24 yards to the 44-yard line. But a 4-and-out all but finished off the Packers’ season.
Rodgers tossed short to Jones for a few yards, then handed off to Jones for a few more. He then missed high to a wide-open Allen Lazard on 3rd-and-3 before launching a deep ball off his back foot with Lazard not breaking for the football on 4th down to provide a fitting end to any viable comeback threat.
Preston Smith sacked Tannehill on third down to force a punt, but not before the Packers had to use all of their timeouts to reserve five minutes on the clock. The Packers dinked and dunked their way down the field, getting to midfield after running 90 seconds off before Rodgers took a big sack with 3:20 left. He hit Watson for 18 yards on 3rd-and-19, setting up a 4th-and-1, but Aaron Jones was stuffed by Jeffery Simmons to put an end to the drive and the final possible threat from Green Bay.
With one first down needed to end the game, Tennessee got it immediately, picking up 51 yards on a pass to Burks before the two-minute warning and kneeling out the clock after the timeout to put an end to the game and, effectively, to the Packers’ 2022 playoff hopes.
Down for the entire second half, the Packers attempted 39 passes, with Aaron Rodgers completing 24 of those for 227 yards and two touchdowns. Meanwhile, Tannehill went 22-for-27 for 333 yards, two scores, and an interception, with Henry completing two passes of his own for four yards a touchdown.
Henry finished the day 28-for-87 and a score on the ground, while Aaron Jones had 12 carries for 40 yards for the Packers. Titans rookie Treylon Burks led all players with seven catches and 111 yards, with most of the yardage coming on one big play to start the game and another to end it. Randall Cobb had six catches for 73 yards to lead the Packers, while Christian Watson scored both of the Packers’ touchdowns, totaling four receptions for 48 yards.
The Packers travel to play the Philadelphia Eagles next Sunday, while the Titans will host the Cincinnati Bengals in week 12.