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Baranczyk and Christl column: Titans didn't make much of an effort

Dec. 24, 2012
 
Green Bay Packers running back Ryan Grant (25) sprints through the Tennessee Titans defense for a touchdown during the fourth quarter of Sunday's game at Lambeau Field. From left are Titans linebacker Akeem Ayers (56) and safeties Al Afalava (38) and Michael Griffin (23). Dan Powers/Gannett Wisconsin Media
Green Bay Packers running back Ryan Grant (25) sprints through the Tennessee Titans defense for a touchdown during the fourth quarter of Sunday's game at Lambeau Field. From left are Titans linebacker Akeem Ayers (56) and safeties Al Afalava (38) and Michael Griffin (23). Dan Powers/Gannett Wisconsin Media

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When the Green Bay Packers suffered their worst loss in history in their disastrous 1958 season, coach Scooter McLean all but admitted that his team had quit on him. If Tennessee coach Mike Munchak would have been honest following Sunday’s game he’d have done the same.

There’s never a need to apologize for victory in the National Football League, but passing judgment on the Packers’ 55-7 cakewalk against the Titans is almost a waste of time.

After the Packers were humiliated 56-0 by the Baltimore Colts, the normally mild-mannered and nice guy McLean admitted that at least one-fifth of his players were “bad roots” with “a defeatist attitude” and that it had rubbed off on his entire roster. He confessed his players “didn’t have the desire” to put up a fight against the Colts, who had lost their starting quarterback, John Unitas, to injury in the first half.

Sunday’s 48-point victory was one of the five most lopsided in Packers history, and the Titans didn’t appear to have any more fight in them than McLean saw in his team more than 50 years ago. This was the second time in eight weeks that Tennessee has allowed more than 50 points and the sixth time this season that it has lost by three touchdowns or more.

The Titans’ quarterback and makeshift offensive line were pathetic. Their defense looked like it quit by the mid-point of the third quarter, if not earlier, although Munchak said that would be “really hard to tell or say” and refused to admit it.

The game was basically over in the first quarter. Twelve of Tennessee’s first 16 plays resulted in a turnover, a sack, a penalty, a loss or no gain. The Titans didn’t look like they wanted to play from the start. Their corners never challenged the Packers’ receivers. Their best wide receiver, Kenny Britt, didn’t even make an effort to go for the ball on Sam Shields’ interception. Chris Johnson never hit a hole with any authority.

By the second half it seemed obvious all the Titans wanted to do was get on their plane and head home. Ryan Grant scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter on runs of 7 and 9 yards when all the Packers were doing was trying to run out the clock, and he went virtually untouched on both. Defenses in the Pro Bowl put forth more effort than the Titans did on those two runs and Grant’s 34-yard reception. It was no different on the Packers’ last two touchdown passes to Greg Jennings and James Jones.

This is not how it will be for the Packers in the postseason. They are playing well and appear to be peaking at the right time, but the true measure of their players will come against good teams in big moments in big games, not against the rubbish they played against Sunday.

Offensive line

Evan Dietrich-Smith appears to be better suited to play center and appeared to be an improvement over Jeff Saturday. Then again, this was no test. There were times where Dietrich-Smith was in space and either looked unsure about whom to block or couldn’t find someone to block. Maybe that’s because Tennessee’s defense wasn’t pursuing to the ball.

Dietrich-Smith gets off the ball better than Saturday. He wasn’t on the ground as much as Saturday. His feet looked cleaner, and it looked like he had better balance. He looked stronger than Saturday.

Dietrich-Smith is limited athletically, but that can be hidden better at center. The less space there is between an offensive lineman and defensive lineman the less critical athleticism is on the offensive line. That’s why guards are usually better athletes than centers and tackles are better athletes than guards. At the snap, centers have a defensive lineman in their face. Guards face a little more space and tackles even more.

When the Packers double-teamed or combo blocked at the point of attack in their inside zone scheme and one guy released on a linebacker, they seemed to manage that block better than they did with Saturday — for whatever that was worth in a game like this.

Running backs

On DuJuan Harris’ 10-yard run in the second quarter, he ran toward the sideline until the linebacker overcommitted and then cut back through the hole. That was a run that at least raised your eyebrows. It doesn’t appear that he’s an every-down back. They don’t throw to him. But that run suggested Harris has some natural instincts or takes coaching well.

Grant ran downhill as he always does and might be a more complete back than Harris, but there was no burst or any sign that he can make people miss. On Grant’s back-to-back runs of 27 yards in the first quarter, Dietrich-Smith couldn’t find someone to block. On Grant’s two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, the Titans looked like they were playing two-hand touch.

Defense

Give the defense this much credit. It didn’t let the Titans hang around. It didn’t let down with a big lead until the end. It lined up against a bad team and whipped it like it should have.

A.J. Hawk might have played his best game of the season starting with the second play of the game. He took on fullback Quinn Johnson at the line of scrimmage and dropped Chris Johnson for a loss. Hawk attacked the blocker. He didn’t sit and wait for him. He blew him up and made the play. He also had two sacks, three tackles for losses.

Casey Hayward was much better against the run and coming off the edge. On the blitz, he has gotten in there this season, but he hasn’t finished. On Sunday, he made plays. Same in the running game — he finished.

Mike Neal gave the Packers a lot of positive reps and that’s a good sign at this point of the season. He didn’t get driven off the line of scrimmage. He had a sack. He had a big pursuit tackle on Chris Johnson.

One guy who maybe deserves extra credit for putting out in a game like this is Ryan Pickett. He’s 33 years old, 338 pounds and the sand doesn’t even look like it’s running out of his hourglass.

That said, Tennessee’s offensive line was a sieve. Some of it was physical; some of it was that it looked confused the whole game. It’s a line so decimated by injuries, it’s inept.

Jake Locker, Tennessee’s quarterback, couldn’t make routine plays much less a big play. Chris Johnson and Britt, the Titans’ two biggest playmakers, looked like the only race they were in was to be the first one on the plane.

Former Press-Gazette sports editor Cliff Christl and former football coach and player Eric Baranczyk offer their analysis of Green Bay Packers games each week.

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