Packers secondary crumbles against Ryan Tannehill and Titans

Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) throws against the Green Bay Packers during their football game Thursday, November 17, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-WisconsinApc Packvstitans 1117220409djp
Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) throws against the Green Bay Packers during their football game Thursday, November 17, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-WisconsinApc Packvstitans 1117220409djp /

The Green Bay Packers secondary crumbled on Thursday night against Ryan Tannehill and the Tennessee Titans.

Stop Derrick Henry. You were thinking it. I was thinking it. And clearly, so was Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry. The good news is that Green Bay did that. However, their secondary was ripped apart by Ryan Tannehill.

Basically, the Titans’ offense this season has been Derrick Henry. Tennessee entered the game ranked 30th in pass attempts per game, and Henry leads the NFL in carries. So, in theory, if the Packers can slow Henry, they can slow the Tennessee offense.

Yet, that wasn’t the case. Henry ended up carrying the ball 28 times but averaged just 3.1 yards per rush, and his longest run was only nine yards, but the Titans would score 27 points and total over 400 yards of offense.

Rightfully so, Barry has been criticized for his lack of adjustments. However, at least against the run, where the Packers have struggled mightily this season, allowing 4.6 yards per carry prior to Thursday’s game, we saw some different looks in an effort to slow Henry.

Green Bay utilized a lot of heavy defensive fronts that included four interior defensive linemen along with two edge rushers. Linebacker Quay Walker was also lined up at edge rusher to provide more speed on the outside and to help set stronger edges. The Packers also blitzed to take away running lanes and utilized some cover-1. The players also did a fine job of swarming to Henry to secure the tackle.

Unfortunately, all of this effort to slow Henry and the Titans’ run game appeared to have left little time to game plan for the Tennessee passing game, which has underwhelmed mightily this season.

You wouldn’t know it by watching Tennessee play Green Bay, but this was a passing game that had been one of the worst in football. The Titans entered the game ranked 30th in passing yards per game with only 136. Robert Woods, the Titans leading receiver, entered Week 11 ranked 92nd in receiving yards among wide receivers. In their last three games, Tennesse ranked 29th in yards per pass attempt.

You get the idea. This hasn’t been a very good team through the air.

But against the Packers, Tannehill completed 22 of 27 passes for 333 yards with a pair of touchdowns and one interception–a gift to Green Bay that they were unable to take advantage of. Treylon Burks, who has made little impact this season, also totaled seven receptions for 111 yards.

Somehow, 11 games into the season, the Packers’ secondary is still having communication issues that resulted in some busted coverages and easy completions. Barry’s reluctance to press an aging Robert Woods and rookie Treylon Burks also led to a number of easy completions underneath, several of which moved the chains.

At the end of the day, this is Barry’s unit, and he is responsible for the outcome. With that said, there is a lot more to these defensive woes than Barry’s scheme. Regardless of how bad the game plan may be, the issues run much deeper when four Packers defenders fail to cover two Titans receivers. Darnell Savage continues to look lost, while there were times when Rasul Douglas and Jaire Alexander were simply beaten by the player they were defending.

Overall there is also a level of confusion that this group has seemingly played through for much of the season. There were several snaps against the Titans where the Packers’ secondary looked completely unprepared for what was coming.

Where is the disconnect coming from? Why is a group with this much talent blowing simple assignments? To some degree, defensive backs Jerry Gray isn’t without blame either. There is some sort of disconnect between either him, the scheme, and the players.

It also doesn’t help that Green Bay is unable to generate really any sort of pressure without Rashan Gary. More often than not, Tannehill had ample time to sit in the pocket, survey the field, and find the open receiver–also, keep in mind that the Titans’ offensive line has struggled in pass protection this season. To remedy this, Barry has dialed up the blitzes as of late as a result, but that will also hamper the passing defense, especially when the quarterback still isn’t getting pressured quickly enough.

There have been a number of instances this season where Barry has miscalculated how the opposing offense was going to attack his defense, and with that, an inability to make changes quickly enough. Barry wanted to limit the Titans’ run game, and he did that, but in the process, his secondary looked completely unprepared and outmatched by what was statistically one of the worst passing offenses in the NFL.