Any Questions?Posted:Dec 28th, 2020 4:27 pm
This was the night we would learn whether the Packers truly were Super Bowl contenders. This was the night we would learn whether the Pack's defense could play big boy football and slow down the best running back in the game on a big stage with a lot at stake for both teams.
What we learned is that Green Bay's defense was more than up to the challenge. With Lambeau Field in full snow globe mode, it appeared the stage was set for a Derrick Henry masterpiece. But Mike Pettine's group decided they were done being the team's punching bag, the elephant in the room keeping this team from being taken seriously as an elite NFL team.
Henry never found his footing; his longest run was just ten yards and he didn't even crack 100 yards on 23 carries. It turned out he was the third best running back on the field Sunday night. More on the Pack's running game in a bit.
This defense has improved steadily since the middle of the season, withe Colts game being the only outlier. But the competition hasn't been robust--they've faced a lot of middling offenses. The Titans presented a different challenge, entering the game as the top ranked offense in the league. Clearly, the weather conditions did the passing game no favors, but it wasn't exactly impossible to move the ball through the air, as Aaron Rodgers demonstrated throughout the evening.
The defense now has ascending playmakers on every level. Last year's two #1 picks, Rashan Gary and Darnell Savage have made huge leaps in year two and were difference makers on Sunday night. Kenny Clark continues to cause problems up front and Za'Darius Smith wreaks havoc on the quarterback every week. Jaire Alexander can take a team's top receiver out of the equation, Adrian Amos has stepped in to handle dime linebacker duties and does all the right things at safety.
They held the Titans to 16 points and 260 yards and they won't face an offense that potent in the NFC playoffs. They showed us that they are ready to hold up their end of things when everything is on the line in January.
And then there's the offense. Rodgers throws four incompletions all night (the interception was the only real blemish). Davante Adams cements his status as the league's best receiver in 2020, joining Randy Moss and Cris Carter as the only WR to have 100 catches and 16+ touchdowns in a season--and he's done it in 13 games. His shoestring sideline catch with Malcolm Butler in coverage may have been his finest of the season. What a player and what a tandem. After the game Rodgers paid him the ultimate compliment, saying he Charles Woodson was the best he's ever played with, but that Davante may be joining him on that level.
The production on the ground took the Pack's offense to another level last night. With Jamaal Williams out AJ Dillon got his first extended role and showed precisely why Brian Gutekunst shocked the world by drafting him over a wider receiver or anyone else in the second round. He's built for cold weather football and will provide some serious thunder to Aaron Jones' lightning. Williams will still have his role this season, but there is no way this team does not give Dillon snaps the rest of the way.
The only real blemish on the night was seeing Ricky Wagner carted off. With Corey Linsley back at center, the Pack was back to full strength on the offensive line. Fortunately, the depth is there and Billy Turner kicked out to right tackle, where he's played well this season and Lucas Patrick stepped back in at right guard.
It was a statement performance by the Packers leading into the playoffs. The Packers are a Seahawks loss (at San Francisco--very possible) or a win over the Bears away from home field advantage in the NFC. Green Bay right now looks like the most complete team in the NFC on both sides of the ball, and if the road to the Super Bowl finally goes through Lambeau, then a spot in the Super Bowl should be our expectation. Anything less will be a supreme disappointment.
The way they played against the Titans and with the probable MVP leading the way, it's starting to feel like things are falling into place for the Pack this season. Paul Allen likes to call me the "Sultan of Smug." For the first time this season, I'm ready to welcome that moniker with open arms.