The Packers likely played their most complete game of the season against a top opponent, using a 19-0 run to start the game and a 21-0 finish to create the blowout victory over an AFC contender.
Here are the top takeaways from the Packers’ win:
Packers check championship boxes
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) passes the ball to Davante Adams in the fourth quarter during their football game Sunday, December 27, 2020, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis.
The Packers beat a 10-win team with an elite offense and running back in inclement weather on a national stage, and they both started fast and finished strong, surviving another mini-lull in between by overcoming adversity and showing some mental toughness in the middle of the contest. Despite leaving points on the field in the first half, the Packers still managed to win by 26 points, highlighting how well each side of the ball played for 60 minutes. The Packers were physical, controlled the football and decisively won the quarterback matchup. This is the kind of late-season win that can build championship confidence and momentum. The Packers faced a tough opponent with a few inherent matchup advantages and still handled their business, winning comfortably in conditions that could be possible on the road to the Super Bowl in the NFC. There aren't many questions left for this team to answer this season.
Run defense stands tall
Green Bay Packers nose tackle Kenny Clark (97), defensive end Dean Lowry (94) and inside linebacker Krys Barnes (51) tackle Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) on Sunday, December 27, 2020, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis.
The Titans rushed for 154 yards, but 45 came via Ryan Tannehill's read-option touchdown run, and Derrick Henry's 98 rushing yards were mostly inconsequential in the outcome of the contest. In fact, most of the production came after Matt LaFleur's team led by two or more scores. The Packers loaded up to stop the run and accomplished the goal consistently. The outside linebackers held the edges well, keeping Henry from breaking contain and getting into the second level with a head of steam. Kenny Clark and the defensive line were physical from start to finish, squeezing space, holding the line and keeping the linebackers mostly clean. Everyone in the secondary tackled well, maybe as well as they have all season. The NFL's leading rusher averaged just 4.3 yards per carry and had a long run of only 10 yards. The Packers didn't allow themselves to get beat by the run game.
A.J. Dillon comes alive
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Aaron Jones started and rushed for 94 yards, but Dillon stole the show, carrying 21 times for 124 yards and two scores. According to Pro Football Focus, Dillon broke nine tackles and averaged nearly five yards per carry after contact, highlighting his power and the difficulty of tackling a 247-pound running back in the cold. The Packers were widely criticized for taking a running back in the second round of the draft, including on this site, but the vision of the pick gained some clarity Sunday night. Dillon could be an important weapon over the next month, and he's set up to be a featured player for the offense in 2021. It's only one game, but Dillon could have a bright future as a bruising, workhorse running back for Matt LaFleur and the Packers.
AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps
There may not be a better or more promising cornerback-safety pair than Jaire Alexander and Darnell Savage. Alexander, a first-time Pro Bowler, has played at an elite level all season. On Sunday night, he helped pitch a shutout against Corey Davis and broke up three more passes, including a fourth-down attempt in the red zone. Savage is emerging as an elite NFL safety over the last two and a half months. He intercepted Ryan Tannehill once and should have had a second on a potential pick-six. There's not a safety in football playing at a higher level right now. Add in Adrian Amos, the steady and consistent veteran, and the Packers have to like the look of the secondary entering the postseason. Alexander and Savage provide the star power in the secondary that can fuel a championship defense.
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Not only did Rashan Gary and the Packers outside linebackers set a strong edge against the run, helping to limit Derrick Henry, but they were disruptive as pass-rushers. Gary led the way with six pressures, per Pro Football Focus. He was around the quarterback all night. Three different times, a pressure from Gary created an opportunity for a member of the secondary to make a play on a hurried throw from Ryan Tannehill, including Darnell Savage's interception. Za'Darius Smith had a sack on third down, and Preston Smith forced a second interception – by Christian Kirksey – with a quick pressure on Tannehill. The overall performance on defense took all 11 guys, but the consistency probably doesn't happen without the three-down effort from Gary and the outside linebacker group. They earned their pass-rush reps by winning against the run, and they took advantage of opportunities to force Tannehill into mistakes. This position group could make or break the Packers in January.
Run game leads the way
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The Packers have won consistently this season with an elite passing game, but the run game is coming alive and becoming a major factor at exactly the right time. Three times in the last five games, including Sunday night, the Packers have rushed for at least 180 yards. Running backs A.J. Dillon and Aaron Jones combined for 218 rushing yards on 31 designed runs against the Titans, powering the offense for much of the night. Having the ability to run the football in December and January can be vital for winning playoff games and surviving certain types of games, especially outdoors in the wintertime. The Packers appear capable of producing results on offense regardless of circumstance. Jones and Dillon could be a lethal combo come the postseason, and Jamaal Williams can do a little bit of everything.
Well-timed aggressiveness from Mike Pettine
Dec 27, 2020; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) is sacked by Green Bay Packers linebacker Za'Darius Smith (55) with help from linebacker Rashan Gary (52) in the second quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
The Packers were methodical and effective with their blitz packages. Pettine dialed up only eight blitzes against Tannehill, but nearly all of them worked. One created a third-down stop, another created a sack, and another still created an interception. Tannehill completed only two passes and averaged 2.9 yards per attempt against the blitz, per PFF. Pettine sent every member of the starting secondary on at least one blitz, creating pressures from Savage, Alexander and Chandon Sullivan. Overall, Tannehill was under pressure on 13 of his 28 dropbacks.
Good problem to have
Green Bay Packers tight end Dominique Dafney (49)leaps past Tennessee Titans cornerback Adoree' Jackson (25) during their football game Sunday, December 27, 2020, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
The Packers keep finding and building depth at the hybrid fullback/tight end spot in Matt LaFleur's offense. Josiah Deguara and John Lovett both flashed before season-ending injuries, and Dominique Dafney has looked better and better each week since being elevated from the practice squad. He played 25 effective snaps against the Titans, mostly as a run blocker. He also got into the flat and caught a pass for 12 yards. Dafney could be an important role player for this offense down the stretch.
Davante dashing through the snow
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams (17) against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, December 27, 2020, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis.
Covering Davante Adams in perfect conditions is hard enough. Covering him in the snow looked like an impossible task. Adams' golden Jordan cleats sure had no problems with the snowy surface at Lambeau Field. He still looked explosive releasing off the line and making cuts in and out of breaks and after the catch. And what about his grab in the fourth quarter? The sprawling catch with late hands on the deep ball was an elite play against a good cornerback. Adams finished with 11 catches and three scores. It goes without saying, but Adams is having an unforgettable and historic season. He might make life very difficult for a few NFC teams at Lambeau Field next month.