Well, so much for the trap game theory.
The Packers were dominant start to finish in this one, en route to their eleventh win of the season.
It would be easy to wax poetic about this game, going on about the tremendous performance by Aaron Rodgers or the spectacular day by the defense or how nice it was to see Ryan Grant get back on his feet with his best game in who knows how long. But ultimately, this game was about one thing: execution.
Yes, the Packers are clearly the better team, but the talent level between NFL squads is never hugely different. The margin in this blowout most definitely came down to execution. How many open receivers did Jake Locker miss? How often did a Packer defender get into the backfield untouched? How often did a Green Bay running back make it to the second level with nary a finger laid upon him? The answer to all these rhetorical questions is “a lot of times.”
This does nothing, though, to take away from a nearly perfect game by the Packers. This beatdown is the perfect example of what happens when a talented team plays a depleted squad and executes to perfection. What’s more, it seems Green Bay may be getting hot at just the right time. You don’t want to bring up the comparison to the 2010 Super Bowl team too often, but if the shoe fits…
Ryan Grant (20 carries, 80 yards, 2 TD; 1 catch, 34 yards) - Grant didn’t start, but he did end up being the feature back this week, touching the ball 21 times for a total of 114 all-purpose yards. Although the Titans hardly have an overwhelming defense, Grant’s performance showed that the Packers’ running backs can provide a competent attack even with Alex Green and James Starks on the bench. And how much does it warm a Packer fan’s heart to see an old friend get a couple late scores?
Sam Shields (1 tackle, 1 sack, 1 INT) - Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson have probably boxed out the rest of the competition for the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award, but Sam Shields might have designs on the Packer-centric version of that honor. He was completely underwhelming last year, but this season he’s bounced back in a big way. This Sunday was no different, as Mr. Shields notched his third interception of the season and also came up with his first career sack. A team can never have too many reliable corners, and Shields is providing tremendous depth at the position.
James Jones (7 catches, 100 yards, 1 TD) - Maybe he’s not a “true” number one receiver and maybe he does have some limitations, but when he’s on his game, James Jones is about as good as an NFL receiver can be. He consistently moved the chains and powered his way into the end zone for his league leading 13th touchdown in the fourth quarter. Jones’ consistent play this season may be the reason the Packers end up parting ways with Greg Jennings. Plus, bonus points for ending up with exactly 100 yards.
3.3 - Yards per rushing attempt by the Packers on Sunday, although it certainly felt a lot higher. Perhaps that’s the purpose of the ground game: to make the defense feel as though they have to devote resources to slowing the run. Perception may be reality when it comes to parts of football strategy.
7 - Sacks, by six different players, collected by the Packers this week. Coming into the season, the knock on the Packers defense was that they couldn’t rush the passer. Performances like this may help end that story line. To be fair, it was against a Titans offensive line starting backups at four of five positions, but with the way the Packers were coming after Jake Locker, it may not have made a difference.
95 - Green Bay’s winning percentage at home in their last 21 games. Home field advantage may be a bit overrated, but the Packers will take whatever advantage they can get. Turns out they may be taking quite a bit!
Hot Streak? - For the first time since 1967, Mason Crosby made it through a game without missing a kick. Okay, maybe it only seems that long, but we’ll take whatever we can get at this point. That 48-yarder certainly wasn’t a thing of beauty, but in the box score it doesn’t matter. Plus, he surely got plenty of positive feelings from watching the football go through the uprights on a whole bunch of extra points.
Playmakers Everywhere! - Everyone noticed Ryan Grant’s big day and Randall Cobb‘s big touchdown catch and DuJuan Harris‘ second career score. But Jeremy Ross also had a big punt return (perhaps exonerating himself for the cross field lateral debacle last week), Erik Walden and Sam Shields both caught interceptions, and even Ryan Taylor and D.J. Williams got into the act on offense. When that many people contribute in a positive way, it’s a sure sign things are going well for your football team.
Overrated No More - After briefly flashing talent in his rookie year, Mike Neal has offered nothing but quesiton marks through most of his second and third seasons. Well, he may finally be putting the “underachiever” label to rest, having now racked up thrree and a half sacks this season. It hasn’t been flashy or dominant, but it has been quietly effective, and at this point, you can’t ask for much more.
Three Absolutely Zero Bad
Honestly, what can you complain about in an absolute route like this? The Packers dominated every phase of this game from start to finish. Sure, Aaron Rodgers may have played a bit too long and it’s unfortunate that Randall Cobb got a bit beat up, but other than that, you’d be nit-picking to come up with anything.
Up Next - The Packers travel to Minnesota for the regular season finale: a noon meeting with the Vikings. The significance of this game will be determined by a number of other contests throughout the next couple weeks. Stay tuned.