A fast, but controlled pace.
Taking advantage of late substitutions and late adjustments by the opposition.
Keeping the chains moving.
A quarterback in total command.
If the Green Bay Packers are looking to peak in time for the playoffs, their offense complimented a dominating defense Sunday at Lambeau Field in a 55-7 thrashing of the Tennessee Titans.
"Offensively, I thought we had very good tempo," said head coach Mike McCarthy. "Play selection at the line of scrimmage, I thought Aaron (Rodgers) did a very good job. Obviously, we were productive in the point production, left a little bit on the field in the first half, but just the way we played in the third quarter was what we were looking for. Tennessee's defense challenged us and I thought Aaron did a very good job taking what was there."
The Packers put to rest any slim comeback hopes by the Titans with five straight touchdown drives to begin the second half. Even with command of the game at halftime with a 20-0 edge, they stuck with the no-huddle, per McCarthy's game plan.
"We went in here, we wanted to be in 10 series of no-huddle was the comment that I made to the offense on Wednesday morning and we hit that target," said McCarthy.
"They challenged us. They came after us with pressure. We saw a lot of three-shell coverages. They played us aggressively and I thought we did a good job of staying with the run/pass mix. And, obviously, we were very productive."
Though Tennessee came in at just 5-9, its defense had shown improvement of late. Since getting beaten badly at home by the Chicago Bears on Nov. 4, the Titans ranked third in the league in yards allowed (285.8) and fourth in points allowed (17.6). The Packers on Sunday against them put up a season-high 460 yards, 28 first downs and scored 55 points, the most in a game for the team since 1983.
Totals like 460 yards were more the norm for the Packers last season. But this season it has been more of a challenge to produce for quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the offense. With the addition of free agent center Jeff Saturday in the offseason and knowing opposing defense's would be ready for them, the Packers hoped to make the no-huddle a major part of their offense. It had only really been a minor part until Sunday.
"We're just trying to be an up-tempo team as much as we can and wanted to raise the tempo, especially at home, where we can communicate better than on the road," said Rodgers. "It's something we're going to feature at times. In multiple personnel groups, when you can have a good run-pass option there, you can be effective. Today, they played a little more one-high than maybe we expected, so we threw the ball a little bit more early in the no-huddle stuff. Missed some throws but got it going in the second half."
Rodgers completed 27-of-38 passes for 342 yards (to match a season high) and threw three touchdowns. He had a new starting center to work with in Evan Dietrich-Smith, but the offense hardly missed a beat. Saturday, who teamed with Peyton Manning many years in Indianapolis to run the no-huddle, was benched this week after starting the first 14 games of the season.
Dietrich-Smith helped play a big part in at least one of the Packers touchdowns, a 1-yard quick out to Greg Jennings in which he and Rodgers caught the Titans off-guard with a quick snap.
"It was just a situation at times where they were trying to make personnel switches and we were trying to get some tempo going," explained Rodgers. "Thankfully, we had our guys lined up. I had to kind of look out to the right twice to make sure that Greg really was standing by himself out there. I thought Evan did a good job and everybody did a good job of getting up to the line of scrimmage and snapping that quickly and making that work."
Rodgers also had a bit of an improvised 6-yard touchdown run – one of four touchdown runs for the Packers – to start the scoring. It came out of a five-receiver set and looked like a quarterback draw but was not designed that way.
"I was looking at Donald (Driver) in the slot there pre-snap," described Rodgers. "The backer to his side, I believe it was Zach Brown or Akeem Ayers, was inside of him pretty good. I was going to throw it to Donald right there and maybe he could split it for a touchdown. As I took my drop and looked that way, the backer flew and just kind of opened up in the middle. They had dropped out one of the defensive linemen. As I made my way up in there, I tried to give it a little token pump-fake that didn't work and then tried to protect myself and luckily I was able to sneak in there."
If there was anything that Rodgers regretted, it was a couple of missed opportunities for potential big-play touchdowns. The one that stuck with him the most came on a third-and-1 from the Titans' 37 when he overthrew Greg Jennings, who had beaten his man along the left sideline. That was one of few misfires on the day, however, for the leader of an offense headed in the right direction with the playoffs just one regular season game away.
"That's the way we want to look and that's the way we want to play," said McCarthy during a portion of his assessment of his team's offensive balance. "We want to have the ability to hit all the different concepts, the different play types of offense as far as the way we throw the ball, the way we run the ball, and I thought we did a good job of that today."
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Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at email@example.com