The Titans just delivered arguably one of the most convincing wins in recent memory. They took on an offensively potent Packers offense at home, and dominated from the starting whistle. The final score might actually be deceptive as to Tennessee's dominance. So who are the winners and losers for this one?
Mariota was the unquestioned star of this contest. He started off 10/10 for 196 yards and 2 scores. He continued that dominance to finish with four scores through the air. In the last six games, Mariota has thrown for 17 TDs against just 3 INTs. That's good for the most TDs in the NFL over that span. I would argue that there are few players better right now. But beyond the numbers, it's important to look at where he has grown as a passer. Firstly, he has stopped pushing, forcing passes where there are none. On more than a few throws, Mariota has wisely chosen to mail the ball into the stands rather than forcing it. This growth speaks to his intelligence and his growing maturity as a passer. The second, and I would say most important development, comes in his distribution of the ball. Mariota is not reliant on any one target, spreading the passes to all skill players. This is mostly evident in the evolution of his deep ball. The former Oregon signal caller has been spectacular throwing deep over the past six or so games. His passes are on the money, and his receivers are cashing in for him. This development has stretched NFL defenses that are already having to account for his mobility, extremely thin. Knowing he can strike any area of the field has made him look like a different passer altogether.
The former offensive MVP is well on his way to comeback player of the year. He may also have almost singlehandedly delivered new GM Jon Robinson executive of the year honors for having the wisdom to add him to the roster for a bag of peanuts. Murray made his impact known from the Titans first offensive snap, taking advantage of stellar blocking to gallop 75 yards for a score. He added to the early fun with a HB pass to Delanie Walker for a score. Beyond his excellent production on the ground though, Murray has forced opposing defenses to respect all facets of the Titans game. His pass catching and blocking quite possibly might be making the bigger impact. Defenses have to respect the Titans ground game again, and that feels good.
Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan
We knew both of these outside linebackers were good. But they have played extremely well over the last half season. Orakpo (2 sacks) and Morgan (1 sack) were the leaders out there against the Packers, and were the vanguard in a pass rush that notched 5 sacks on the day. While they have not been without flaws, this Green Bay game showed that what the defense can do when they can make teams one dimensional. The Packers racked up a ton of yards through the air, but they were constantly behind and a quick scoring Titans offense led to a lot of face time. But it is well worth mentioning that Tennessee never gets in that leading position today without a fierce start from these two and the rest of the Titans front seven.
Honorable Mentions: Rishard Matthews, Tajae Sharpe, and Delanie Walker were consistent weapons today, and deserve mention. So does rookie safety Kevin Byard, who continues to impress. He's going to be a very good football player in this league.
While not necessarily a "loser", games like this do Henry no favors in getting more playing time. He has been very good when called upon this year, but he is behind a Demarco Murray that has been transcendent, and on a mission to prove 31 teams wrong about him. Henry will get his time to shine for the boys in blue, but that's not likely any time in the near future.
As has been the case a few times this year, Cox was a frequent target to be picked on by the opposing QB. While he has certainly redeemed himself some with a splash play here and there, his inability to consistently compete against #2 WRs is notable. Sliding him into the slot would be best for the future, with a more able bodied corner to man the outside. Like we have seen, he struggled to locate the ball in the air today, and Jordy Nelson and Devante Adams had big plays against him with some concerning frequency. He is a definite "loser category" candidate, well, as much as any player can be considered one after notching a 47-25 win. He needs to improve if he wants to be a regular face in Nashville again next year.
Travelling Packers Fans
You can't blame them. The Packers far base travels famously well, and they surely came to Nashville expecting to see a snack down of notable proportions. Well they saw one, but not the one they expected. The Titans dominance from the starting snap has to sting for a Packers fan base which has seen their team stagnate over the last year. Rodgers is still slinging it with the best of them, but they have some effort questions to answer after today's game. That said, you can't take the game away from the Titans. They said this was a statement game, and they got the job done convincingly.