Eric Goska column: Titans unable to get started against Packers' defense

Dec. 23, 2012
Packers linebacker Erik Walden celebrates his first-quarter interception.
Packers linebacker Erik Walden celebrates his first-quarter interception. / Dan Powers/Gannett Wisconsin Media
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First and Five

Teams with five first-quarter possessions against the Packers (the fifth not carrying over into the second quarter) and the fewest yards given up by Green Bay on those possessions.

12-(-8)LionsDec. 20, 1970
15-0VikingsDec. 11, 1988
13-11SaintsNov. 17, 1968
15-28TitansDec. 23, 2012
15-30ColtsNov. 2, 1958
17-40EaglesOct. 25, 1970
20-51GiantsNov. 8, 1981
13-63VikingsDec. 7, 1986


Section 114, Row 21, Seat 14 was a near-perfect spot from which to watch the Packers’ defense operate during the early going Sunday at Lambeau Field. Positioned at the 10-yard line on the west side of the stadium, one had a clear view as the unit repeatedly thwarted the Titans’ attempts to move downfield.

Five times Tennessee had the ball in the first quarter. Five times the Titans came up empty.

For the second week in a row, Green Bay held an opponent to fewer than 200 yards. Seven days after limiting the Bears to 190, the Packers got stingier and allowed the Titans but 180 in embarrassing them 55-7.

Introduced prior to kickoff, the starters on Dom Capers’ defense came ready to play. From deflecting a throw on the game’s first play to intercepting a pair of passes, the unit set the tone for the afternoon with a lockdown first-quarter performance.

Tennessee quarterback Jake Locker ran 15 plays in the opening period. Eleven times Green Bay defenders swooped in to hold the Titans to no gain or a loss.

On its first three drives, Tennessee was unable to advance past its 22-yard line. This after the team started at its 21-, 20- and 16-yard lines.

The Titans failed miserably on third down. They gave new meaning to the expression third-and-long as they needed 11, 15, 21 and 20 yards, respectively, in four first-quarter tries.

Green Bay forced a three-and-out on each of the Titans’ first three possessions. It was the first time since Oct. 7, 2007 that the Packers held an opponent without a first down on each of its opening three drives.

Nose tackle B.J. Raji initiated the first defensive shakedown by deflecting Locker’s opening pass intended for receiver Kenny Britt. A.J. Hawk dumped Chris Johnson for a 1-yard loss, and Clay Matthews cleaned up with a sack of Locker.

Tennessee then added to its woes. On its second possession, the team was hit with a delay of game penalty (accepted) and a face mask call that the Packers declined. On third down, linebacker Brad Jones tackled Michael Preston well short of a first down after the receiver made what would be the Titans’ only catch of the quarter.

The Titans fizzled for a third time a few minutes later. Defensive end Ryan Pickett held Johnson for no gain and Hawk pressured Locker into a throw that drew a flag for intentional grounding. After defensive end Mike Neal dropped Johnson on third down, Brett Kern came on to punt for the third time with 5 minutes, 29 seconds remaining in the period.

Tennessee’s next two drives ended in turnover. Cornerback Sam Shields grabbed a deep throw intended for Britt, and linebacker Erik Walden snagged a pass meant for receiver Damian Williams with 37 seconds left.

Total damage for the quarter: 28 yards, one first down (on a 22-yard scramble by Locker) and one play run in Green Bay territory. Locker’s passer rating of 0.0 (1-of-7 for 7 yards) summed up nicely Tennessee’s chances of scoring in the opening 15 minutes.

Rare is the team that gets five shots completely contained within the opening quarter against the Packers. The Titans were the 14th team to do so since 1954.

Sunday was the fourth time Green Bay held such an opponent to fewer than 30 yards in the opening period. It was its best effort since Dec. 11, 1988 when the Vikings took five shots and gained zero yards in the Packers’ 18-6 win at Lambeau Field.

Extra point

Green Bay recorded 28 first downs (9 rushing, 18 passing, 1 by penalty) to 10 for the Titans (3, 7, 0). The Packers last outgained an opponent by such a wide margin on Nov. 11, 2007, when they had 29 first downs to the Vikings’ 11 while administering a 34-0 shutout.

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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