Packers at Titans: 3 storylines to watch

Aaron Nagler, USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
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Here’s a preview of what to watch for when the Packers visit the Tennessee Titans for a noon kickoff Sunday.

Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) dives in for a third-quarter touchdown as San Diego Chargers free safety Dwight Lowery (20) defends at Qualcomm Stadium.

1. Can the Packers stick with something on offense?

After the second half against the Chicago Bears and last week’s game against the Atlanta Falcons, it looked like the Packers were beginning to find their way on offense. Spreading the field with their gaggle of wide receivers and letting Aaron Rodgers operate a quick-rhythm passing game seemed to be productive and undoubtedly the way forward for a team without a legit rushing attack.

Until Sunday’s game against the Colts, when coach Mike McCarthy apparently decided that he needed to junk what was working and force his team into a more traditional mode of offense. Running the ball and attempting to feature his tight ends early on, McCarthy saw the return of a disjointed mess on the offensive side of the ball against the Colts.

One might point to the two quick touchdown drives in the fourth quarter as reason for optimism, but both of those came with Rodgers operating the team’s two-minute offense against passive zones from the Colts, who were protecting a large lead.

Will McCarthy continue to force his offense away from its strengths against the Titans? Or will he allow Rodgers and the receivers to be the focus?

We’ll find out Sunday.

2. What kind of response will this team have to the emotional letdown against the Colts?

Whether it was Rodgers admonishing the team’s lack of mental toughness at the podium or Mike Daniels going on a profane tirade in the showers that was heard by everyone in the locker room, the postgame scene at Lambeau on Sunday was uneasy and a bit out of character for a group that prides itself on never getting too high after wins or too low after losses.

How will this group respond to being embarrassed the way it was against the Colts?

McCarthy seemed to indicate a business-as-usual approach when he met with the media Monday, saying that his viewing of the film revealed a team that gave plenty of effort Sunday but just didn’t finish.

But that comment seems in direct contrast to what players like Daniels, Rodgers, and Bryan Bulaga all said after the game, each one noting a lack of energy from a Packers team that looked like it had completely overlooked the Colts.

With all that said, McCarthy has a chance to regroup and reset his message to the team after two tough losses. The upcoming three-game road stretch offers an opportunity for this team to shut out the noise and focus on an “us against the world” mentality.

This team could respond in a big way or continue to fall apart. It all starts in Tennessee.

3. The Packers need to take care of business against an inferior team.

The Packers were outcoached and outplayed by one of the worst teams they’ll see this season when they lost to the Colts. It happens. The old adage “Any given Sunday” exists for a reason.

McCarthy’s tenure has been filled with low points that are followed by exemplary games when the outside world seems ready to write his team off.

The Packers need to bounce back in strong fashion against another poor AFC South squad or the unrest around this team will only grow.

Watching the Titans, you see a talented quarterback in Marcus Mariota who is deadly in the red zone, a workhorse running back in DeMarco Murray and a tough defense that is prone to mistakes.

McCarthy needs to ensure his team is crisp getting off the bus and leave no doubt which is the superior team from kickoff to final gun. These Titans got off the mat after falling behind 16-0 to the Chargers last week. It’s a physical team with a lot of fight. If they are allowed to hang around, they’ll only grow more confident and give the Packers more problems than they probably should.

These are the games the Packers should be winning. If they drop another one, then it may really be time for the folks inside 1265 Lombardi to start to panic.

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