Mark Tauscher broke down Sunday's loss at Tennessee in the simplest of terms.
"It came down to a handful of plays that we didn't make," the Packers' veteran right tackle said.
When the Packers needed their big-play performers to deliver a big play to earn a big-time victory over the undefeated Titans, they came up short in a 19-16, overtime loss.
Aaron Rodgers threw for 314 yards but had two turnovers and led the offense to just one touchdown on four trips to the Titans' red zone.
"I was disappointed with how I played," Rodgers said. "I feel our defense played well enough for us to win. I just didn't make enough plays and turned the ball over twice."
Greg Jennings had three catches for 79 yards but had two drops, including on a perfectly thrown bomb by Rodgers that would have put the Packers in position to score the go-ahead field goal late in the fourth quarter. Jennings was covered well, but he's made much tougher catches this season.
Donald Driver had his biggest game of the season, with seven catches for 136 yards, but also had two drops, including one on second-and-10 from the Titans' 25-yard line. The Packers settled for a field goal to tie the score at 16.
"It came down to a handful of plays that we didn't make," Tauscher said. "You give Tennessee credit. They are a very good football team, but if we make those plays, we win the game. We came down here to win and we didn't get it done. Almosts are no good. You have to win."
It wasn't just the big names.
Brandon Jackson's lack of open-field running skills denied the Packers a chance to get into range for a go-ahead field goal late in the fourth quarter. Rookie tight end Jermichael Finley dropped a pass on fourth-and-1 in the first quarter. For a variety of reasons — including left tackle Chad Clifton being a late scratch because of a reaction to a medication — the Packers were just 2-of-7 on third-down plays in the second half.
On defense, safety Atari Bigby dropped an interception. So did Mike Montgomery, though that can be forgiven because he's a defensive lineman. Brady Poppinga's foolish unnecessary-roughness penalty kept a Titans drive alive and resulted in a field goal. Nick Barnett overran LenDale White on White's 54-yard in the second quarter, then couldn't corral Chris Johnson one play later, allowing the rookie to pick up an extra 11 yards and set up his short touchdown run.
"We had many opportunities to take the game over, and we just didn't do that today for one reason or another," linebacker A.J. Hawk said. "They made plays and they executed. I give them credit. Their defense played great and they got some big turnovers that we weren't able to come up with."
White's big run was a turning point. The Packers staggered at the start, but rallied from a 6-0 deficit to pull ahead 10-6 behind big plays by Jennings and Jordy Nelson and a touchdown catch by Driver. White's dash, however, put the Titans in position to take a 13-10 lead just 1 minute later.
"The big run they had late in the first half, I think that one of all the runs hurt the most," Woodson said. "We were up and had the momentum. Those kind of plays take the air out of you."
The Titans, on the other hand, made the type of plays you'd expect from a team that's 8-0. In a battle of young stars, Titans cornerback Cortland Finnegan won his matchup with Jennings. Jacob Ford had two of the Titans' four sacks and stripped Rodgers to set up a field goal. Titans quarterback Kerry Collins, ineffective for most of the game, drove the Titans into position to win the game at the end of regulation, then did it again in overtime. Johnson, a lightning-fast rookie who led the AFC in rushing entering the game, was kept under wraps by the Packers but had a 16-yard catch on third down and a 14-yard run on the winning drive. White's 6-yard run on third-and-4 put the Titans in position for the winning field goal.
"Well, we found another way to win," the Titans' Collins said. "I didn't play my best game, and I think a lot of guys here will say the same thing. But I think the bottom line is that we found a way to win, and I think it's a testament to the guys' character and the belief that we have. We played a good football team and they came in here and played well. They have some weapons over there. They made their plays, but our guys really came through when we needed them. That's what you have to do in this league, it's not always going to be pretty and we found a way to win today."
The Packers weren't so fortunate, and they face something of an elimination game on Sunday at Minnesota. If the Packers lose, they'd be 4-5 and in third place in the NFC North.
"We came in and played aggressive. I thought that was evident," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "The game was called offensively and we were able to hit on some. But with two turnovers and four sacks you have to give credit to the defense. They are a good football team and well coached. We didn't make enough plays when it counted to win the game and that's really the bottom line."
Bill Huber is the Lead Analyst for Packer Report and PackerReport.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.
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