NASHVILLE – This one got away from the Packers in a hurry.
The Titans scored on their first offensive play from scrimmage and on their first four drives of the game, putting the Packers in frantic catch-up mode by early in the second quarter.
Green Bay rallied but never seriously threatened and dropped its third straight game, 47-25, on Sunday at Nissan Stadium.
“Disappointing loss today, I’m stating the obvious,” Mike McCarthy said shortly after his team lost its third straight to fall to 4-5.
“We dug ourselves a huge, huge hole, and frankly it comes down to the basics of football. We weren’t nearly to the standard we expect from one another.”
A banged-up team continued to sustain more injuries, too. Two starting offensive linemen, guard T.J. Lang (ankle) and tackle David Bakhtiari (knee), left the game at different points. Inside linebacker Jake Ryan was lost to an ankle injury as the Packers punted to open the game, and his absence in the run defense was felt immediately.
Titans running back DeMarco Murray took the first handoff and raced 75 yards, practically untouched, for a touchdown that put the Packers on their heels, and the defense never really recovered.
“Their run versus our run defense, I thought it was going to be a good matchup,” McCarthy said. “We didn’t hold up our end today.”
Murray finished with 17 carries for 123 yards, but it was really second-year quarterback Marcus Mariota who was the tougher customer.
Feeding his productive tight end, Delanie Walker, from the get-go, Mariota finished 19-of-26 for 295 yards and four TDs for a sparkling 149.8 passer rating. Murray added a TD pass for the Titans in a first half that saw Tennessee jump ahead 21-0 after one quarter and 28-7 midway through the second.
Walker finished with nine catches for 124 yards and a score, one of five different Titans to catch a TD pass.
“Just a poor performance overall,” McCarthy said. “We have to go back, correct, and get healthy.”
The Packers tried to make a game of it by shifting into desperation mode on offense. After three fruitless possessions to start the game, quarterback Aaron Rodgers got going, and receivers Jordy Nelson (12 catches, 126 yards, TD) and Davante Adams (6-156) had productive games.
Running back James Starks returned to the lineup and chipped in a TD reception on a screen pass, but like last week against the Colts, it was too little, too late. Rodgers finished 31-of-51 for 371 yards with two TDs and two interceptions for a 79.8 rating.
“We were way behind today, and we didn’t really run the offense we prepared to run,” McCarthy said. “You have a game plan each and every week, and how the game goes dictates the way it goes. The second quarter we went exclusively no-huddle, and we don’t want to play that way.”
The up-tempo was working offensively, but it wasn’t protecting the defense on its roughest day of the season. The Titans had 351 yards of offense by halftime and finished with 446.
The Packers closed to within 19 points at the half, then 13 midway through the third quarter, and 16 again in the fourth. But every time they were on the verge of making the comeback seem possible, they’d commit another error.
A muffed punt by rookie Trevor Davis, a dropped pass on fourth down by tight end Richard Rodgers, a busted coverage on third down in the secondary, and multiple personal fouls on various defensive players proved way too much to overcome given the deficit.
“We had too much fight today,” McCarthy said, referring to the extracurricular fouls. “Obviously we had 12 penalties. That didn’t help us.”
The only help the Packers got was from the Vikings, who dropped their fourth straight game to fall into a first-place tie in the NFC North with the Lions at 5-4. Green Bay, despite a three-game losing streak, is just one game back with seven to play.
The division race is ancillary at this point, though, with the Packers in this kind of tailspin, losing back-to-back games to sub-.500 AFC South teams.
The Packers themselves are now below .500 this late in a season with a healthy Rodgers for the first time since 2008, which was the last time Green Bay didn’t make the playoffs.
“You have to win a game, that’s really the reality,” McCarthy said. “The big picture and drama we can discuss all you want, but it’s not something we’re going to focus on.
“We understand how poorly we performed today as a team. We’re disappointed. We have higher standards than that, and we have higher expectations of one another.
“That’s what we’ll grab onto. We’ll be real honest with one another tomorrow, like we are every day.”
The turnaround was supposed to start Sunday in Nashville, the beginning of the second half of 2016. If it’s going to happen, it has to happen soon, because time isn’t on Green Bay’s side anymore.
“We’ve been in tough spots before,” McCarthy said. “We’re 4-5. The reality is we have to get healthier, and we have to play better.
“We have to play better.”
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