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Packers Defense Proves No Match For Marcus Mariota & Titans

Mariota - NFL kevin skene via Flickr


Mariota, Titans Offense Nearly Perfect versus Packers

In a city known for it’s country music, the Packers left Nashville singing nothing but the blues on Sunday. Green Bay’s 47-25 loss to Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee Titans, in which the home team led 21-0 after one quarter, puts them under .500 after nine games for the first time since Aaron Rodgers’ first season under center in 2008.

The loss also extends the Packers current losing streak to three, with no end in sight.

The Tennessee offense scored early and often on the Green Bay defense, becoming the only team to put up a touchdown on their first four possessions of a game this season. Just like last week against the Colts, it didn’t take long for them to get started.

DeMarco Murray was able to receive a hand-off on the Titans first offensive snap, and go 75 yards to the house. For the second straight week the first time an opponent touched the ball, they put up six.

Ironically, the Packers defense came in only allowing 75.8 yards per game, meaning that in one play the Titans nearly reached the mark. Murray would finish the game with 123 yards on 17 carries, a 7.2 per carry average, and is only the second individual runner to go for 100 yards against Green Bay this season.

On his team’s eighth play of the game, Murray would again add a touchdown. Only this time via his arm.

After taking a toss in the backfield, he shuffled out to his right and looked down field to find a streaking Delanie Walker open in the back of the endzone for a successful halfback pass. The last running back in franchise history to pull this off was Earl Campbell in 1980 when they were the Houston Oilers.

Murray’s throw was one of five touchdown passes for the Titans on the day. Although the next four came from more conventional methods, Marcus Mariota’s arm.

Overall, Mariota completed 19 of 26 (73.1%) passes for 295 yards and four touchdowns against a demoralized defense. And it wasn’t just the numbers that were impressive, it was also the timing.

Whenever Aaron Rodgers attempted to stage a comeback, he was always ready to answer.

For instance, after the Titans took a 21-0 lead, Rodgers led Green Bay on a 9-play, 75 yard drive in which he completed all seven of his passes for 59 yards. He finished from one yard out to Jordy Nelson, placing the game within two scores.

If the Packers were able to get a stop and utilize their newly established momentum, the game could’ve been competitive.

Instead, just four plays later Mariota completed his second 75-yard scoring drive. This time finding Rishard Matthews on a 32-yard touchdown pass over Micah Hyde. It was a trend that would continue all afternoon.

At the start of the second half, the Packers looked to be in position once again for a comeback after a 20-yard touchdown run from Rodgers to make the score 35-22.

After crossing the goal-line, Rodgers was hit late by Perrish Cox. Receiver Davante Adams immediately took offence to the play and sprinted over to Cox to stand up for his quarterback.

During a time when Rodgers is being criticized for his leadership, it was good to see Adams do so. Adams has been a bright spot this year with not only his play, but also his attitude. After a 2015 where he took a lot of flak for being inconsistent, he’s been anything but in 2016.

The late-hit on Rodgers revitalized the Packers, if only for a moment, and it looked like the comeback might be for real. However, Mariota again had a response.

This time he took his offense on a 5-play, 55 yard drive in under two-and-a-half minutes, successfully destroying the last bit of hope Green Bay might’ve had.

Mariota found rookie Tajae Sharpe standing alone downfield after a blown assignment in the secondary, and delivered an off-balance throw to his right just past the outstretched arm of Quinten Rollins. It was the last of his four touchdowns, and ended one of the most embarrassing performances from a Packers defense in years. 

Rollins, along with most of the Green Bay secondary, couldn’t seem to find success against MariotaRollins himself allowed two touchdowns on three targets, while fellow corner Kentrell Brice allowed two catches for 49 yards with 33 yards coming after the catch.

Green Bay’s inability to do much of anything in pass coverage has become the team’s number one Achilles heel.

According to PFF,  Ladarius Gunter is the only Packers corner with an opponent passer rating lower than 122 (112.5). Damarious Randall (122.3), Micah Hyde (123.3), and Rollins (133.8) are all among the bottom of the barrel. For perspective, the league average for cornerbacks is 89.1.

For a group that came into the season thought of as a potentially top-10 ranked secondary, they have fallen flat. A stop or two in any of the last three games and Green Bay may be looking at 7-2 instead of 4-5.

Despite the loss, the Packers offense can at least say they set some positive marks.

Aaron Rodgers passed for a season-high 371 yards with three touchdowns (2 passing, 1 rushing), and his two top receivers Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams also set season and career highs.

Nelson caught a season-high 12 balls for 126 yards, while Adams caught six for a career-high 156 yards.

Unfortunately, statistics don’t win games.

Right now, no amount of offensive output seems to make up for the amount of points being put up on the defense. For possibly the 100th time in his reign as defensive coordinator, Dom Capers is on the hot seat.

In previous years, his unit’s struggles were often masked by Rodgers and the offense. With that no longer being the case, it seems inevitable that his time is running short after Tennessee put up nearly 450 yards Sunday.

Things won’t get any easier in prime-time next week, as the Packers travel to Washington to take on Kirk Cousins in what may be a deciding game for the future of Capers and Head Coach Mike McCarthy’s job status come January.