Insider: Big play for Cobb, but must he return kicks?

Dec. 23, 2012

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Play of the game: Green Bay Packers receiver Randall Cobb (18) makes a touchdown catch against Tennessee Titans cornerback Cody Sensabaugh (24) during the first quarter of Sunday's game at Lambeau Field. Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette Media


The Insider's take on Sunday's game between the Green Bay Packers and the Tennessee Titans at Lambeau Field. The Packers won 55-7.

The big picture

At this time of the year, there are some pitiful-looking teams in the NFL. On Sunday, the Tennessee Titans played like one of them. Playing out the string with a patchwork offensive line, the Titans couldn’t function on offense and couldn’t stop the Green Bay Packers on defense. The 55-7 beating on Sunday at Lambeau Field was about as lopsided a game as there can be in pro football.

Thumbs up

In their first 14 games, the Packers had a total of five rushing touchdowns. On Sunday against the Titans, they nearly doubled their season total with four rushing touchdowns.

On a day when it seemed like just about every eligible player scored for the Packers, quarterback Aaron Rodgers started things off with a 6-yard touchdown scramble up the middle. Though it might have looked like a called quarterback draw because it came out of an empty-backfield formation, it was actually an improvisation by Rodgers after he saw that his first read, Donald Driver in the slot to the right, was covered. It was Rodgers’ second rushing touchdown of the season. He had a 27-yarder two weeks ago against Detroit.

Former practice squad running back DuJuan Harris had his second rushing touchdown in three weeks with a 7-yard score in the third quarter. Ryan Grant, in just his third game back with the Packers since being re-signed on Dec. 5, became the first Packers player with two rushing touchdowns in a game this season. He had touchdown runs of 7 and 9 yards in the fourth quarter. Grant led the team with 80 yards on 20 carries, the most carries he’s had in a game since Dec. 13, 2009, when he also carried 20 times (for 137 yards) at Chicago. Harris added 29 yards on eight carries.

The Packers rushed for 117 yards as a team, the sixth time in the last seven games with at least 100 yards on the ground. However, they haven’t had a 100-yard game by a running back in the regular season since Week 5 of 2010.

Thumbs down

It’s easy to second-guess coach Mike McCarthy’s decision to keep receiver Randall Cobb on kickoff- and punt-return duty after Cobb sprained his right ankle on a third-quarter punt return. So let’s do just that.

Cobb’s importance to the offense — he came in with a team-leading 77 catches (26 more than second-place James Jones) — seems too great to put him at risk on a dangerous special teams play more often than necessary. The Packers led 27-0 at the time of Cobb’s injury, so McCarthy and special teams coach Shawn Slocum could have pulled Cobb off return duties at that point.

After seeing what his replacement, Jeremy Ross, did, there may be little reason to put Cobb back on punt return duties the rest of the season and into the playoffs — that is if Cobb’s even able to return from his injury. Ross nearly broke a punt return in the fourth quarter. He had a 58-yard return to the Titans’ 7-yard line.

Play of the game

It wasn’t quite the amazing touchdown catch that Atlanta Falcons receiver Julio Jones made Saturday night against the Detroit Lions, but Cobb’s 20-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter still had a high degree of difficulty.

Cobb beat Titans cornerback Coty Sensabaugh, and Rodgers threw a perfectly placed ball toward the corner of the end zone. Either Cobb was going to catch it or nobody would, and Cobb hauled it in as he drifted toward the sideline. He toe-tapped both feet inbounds for the Packers’ second touchdown of the game.

Turning point

Any chance the Titans had to get back into the game after falling behind 14-0 was wiped out when quarterback Jake Locker threw interceptions on consecutive possessions.

Cornerback Sam Shields picked off a deep pass that was underthrown in part because defensive tackle B.J. Raji pressured Locker. Though the Packers didn’t turn that into points, they picked off Locker again on the Titans’ next possession, when linebacker Erik Walden intercepted a ball that went off the hands of receiver Damian Williams.

By the numbers

7-1 — The Packers’ record at Lambeau Field this season, making it the third straight season with seven or more home victories.

80 — Touchdown passes over the last two seasons by Aaron Rodgers, who bettered Brett Favre’s team record of 77 in 1995 and 1996. Rodgers’ total is the second-most in NFL history over a two-year span behind only New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (85 touchdowns in 2011 and 2012).

2,342 — Combined net yards this season by Randall Cobb, who broke the previous team record of 2,250 yards by running back Ahman Green in 2003.

Did you notice?

♦ Tight end D.J. Williams had his first reception since Oct. 7 against Indianapolis. Williams had played in seven of nine games since without catching a pass. He finished with a career-best three catches for 20 yards. Fellow tight end Ryan Taylor had his first catch of the season, an 11-yard grab in the third quarter.

♦ With the Titans playing soft coverage in the red zone, the Packers had two second-half touchdowns on hitch routes. Rodgers hit Greg Jennings for a 1-yard score and James Jones for a 12-yarder on that same route.

♦ Dezman Moses, who has seen increased playing time in recent weeks, started in place of Walden at left outside linebacker. and follow him on Twitter @RobDemovsky.

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If you've ever answered "Who has the ball?" with "It's halftime," you might recognize The Airhead. Check out the characters in our cartoon gallery of oddball fans.

Special Reports