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Sunday Takeaways: Titans 20 - Packers 16

Posted Aug 10, 2014

Running backs shined, it rained a lot, and the defense stood tall as the Titans topped the Packers in the preseason opener.

NASHVILLE, Tenn – There are several positives to come out of the Titans' 20-16 preseason victory over the Packers Saturday night at LP Field.

A come-from-behind win on Jackie Battle’s late touchdown and a defensive stand on Green Bay’s final possession are positives the team will take forward.

Rain, Rain Go Away

The memories of the waterfall raining down from the Nashville skies might be the lasting impression for most at LP Field. Relentless is the word that comes to mind, as the storm encompassed nearly all 60 minutes of play.

“Today was a game of adjustments,” said head coach Ken Whisenhunt after his first preseason win with the Titans. “That is what you had to do. A lot of the things we had planned went out the window with the rain. So, for nothing else it was a good opportunity to work on that. We learned a lot about ourselves and what we have to do to prepare for that. Those aren’t any conditions you can generally replicate or practice.”

Jake Locker had similar thoughts regarding the weather.

“Yeah, that was tough,” said Locker, who played the full first quarter. “It was coming down pretty good. Like you said, it kind of dictated a little bit of what we did offensively, especially early on. I would liked to have been able to throw the ball around a little more.”

The Packers didn’t play star quarterback Aaron Rodgers, running back Eddie Lacy and top receiver Jordy Nelson, but that didn’t stop Green Bay from marching down the field on the game’s opening drive. James Starks capped off an eight-play, 64-yard drive with a 20-yard touchdown run. 

“I think you are dead on with the sloppy tackling,” said Whisenhunt. “That is something we have to correct. Whatever it was, conditions played a part of it. I think mentally, we let the rain affect us starting out, especially when they hit a couple of runs on us because that is something the defense has been better at in camp.”

The Titans defense responded nicely, forcing a three-and-out on Green Bay’s next offensive possession and holding the Packers to only nine points the rest of the way.

Situational Football

Two situations during last night’s game stood out. Trailing 7-6 with under two minutes to play in the first half, the Titans converted a 3rd-and-2 on a 23-yard pass from Charlie Whitehurst to Bishop Sankey that took the ball to the Green Bay 25-yard line. That’s the same play when Whitehurst evaded the rush, broke out of what looked to be a sure sack, rolled to his right, and found Sankey near the sideline. 

The second situation came on Green Bay’s final drive with the Titans clinging to their 20-16 lead. Green Bay had a 2nd-and-1 from Tennessee’s 24-yard line after starting the drive at their own 11. Defensive lineman Chigbo Anunoby and linebacker Patrick Bailey stuffed consecutive running plays, and cornerback Ri’Shard Anderson defended a fourth down pass to give the ball back to the Titans offense. Two Zach Mettenberger kneel downs sealed the win.

Stars of the Game: Titans Running Backs

It’s hard to single out one player as the star of the game because all three touchdowns came from members of Tennessee’s backfield. Shonn Greene showed no lingering effects of the knee injury that consumed most of his offseason. He showed burst and impressive vision on his touchdown run, making one cut to find the hole on the left side for the 13-yard score. He finished with four carries for 20 yards and the touchdown.

Dexter McCluster only carried the ball three times, but had the loudest run of the night – a 10-yard sprint up the middle in which he barreled over a defender before moving the chains. McCluster’s helmet came off as the running back gave a gladiator yell for dramatic effect.

Bishop Sankey took the lion’s share of the workload, gaining 37 hard earned yards on 13 carries. Sankey also hauled in three passes for 38 yards and the Titans second touchdown of the game. The rookie didn’t find space often, but when he did, showed his ability to earn every inch. On four out of the five final plays on his scoring drive, Sankey had a run for nine yards, a run for eight yards, a run for three yards, and the five-yard touchdown catch out of the backfield.

Jackie Battle only had two carries, but provided the Titans with the game-winning score on a toss to the right for seven yards.

Review of the 5 Things to Watch

1. First Look at Bishop Sankey

As mentioned above. It’s hard to not be impressed with the Titans rookie running back. So far, so good.

2. Crowded Competition at Wide Receiver

The rain didn’t do the receivers any favors Saturday night. With just 186 yards of passing offense, there weren’t many opportunities to be had downfield. That being said, Brian Robiskie made the catch of the game, laying out on a deep ball from Zach Mettenberger for a 38-yard gain to the Packers’ nine yard line. That big play set up Battle’s game-winning score.

3. The Kicking Battle Continues

Maikon Bonani and Travis Coons didn’t get as much action as expected. With no field goal attempts, the preseason experiment of 33-yard extra points became even more important. Bonani made one of his two attempts and Coons made his lone PAT. Both kickers showed no problem getting their kickoffs into the end zone, but none led to a touchback.

4. New 3-4 Defense

The starting defense got in two drives with drastically different results – one resulting in a Packers touchdown, the other a tidy three-and-out. Several individual players showed well, but as a unit everyone was in agreement that there is plenty to work on in the coming weeks. The Titans’ defense will be tested again next Friday against Drew Brees and the Saints.

5. A Healthy Jake Locker

Locker did make his return to action but there is not much more to take from his performance. Locker only threw the ball twice as the torrential downpour limited his chances to make plays with his arm.

Quote of the Night

“We expected to give him some work. Things got distorted a little bit. Our rotational plan changed a little bit when the conditions changed. That affected us, but I think what we wanted to see out of Bishop is a good start. This by no means answered a lot of questions, but it helped to start to answer some of them.” – Ken Whisenhunt on Bishop Sankey’s performance

Whisenhunt sums up where most of the roster competitions stand and how they were affected by the weather. No decisions were made on Saturday, but now the team has real game film to evaluate – a good start by all measures.

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