GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – About 40 minutes before kickoff on Sunday Night Football, Green Bay’s hopes to clinch the NFC’s top seed in Week 16 were put on at least a seven-day hold.
But three hours later, the Packers had solidified themselves as one of the top contenders for the Lombardi Trophy.
Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams connected for three touchdowns, rookie running back AJ Dillon ran for 124 yards and two touchdowns, and the Green Bay Packers established their place atop the NFC standings with a 40-14 rout of the Tennessee Titans on Sunday Night Football.
By virtue of Seattle’s win over the Los Angeles Rams, Green Bay’s chances to clinch a first-round bye come down to next Sunday – the Packers can take the top seed with a win over Chicago or a Seattle loss at San Francisco.
Green Bay could still be the No. 2 or even No. 3 seed with a loss to the Bears, but only with wins by both Seattle and New Orleans (at Carolina).
This Sunday night, however, was all about the Packers seeking just their second victory against a team with a winning record in 2020.
The AFC South-leading Titans, boasting a top-two offense in scoring, total yards and rushing yards, were stymied by the Green and Gold from the jump, conceding a 19-0 lead never quite catching up to the Packers’ methodical and dominant offense.
The result strengthened Rodgers’ case for his third NFL MVP award, with No. 12 throwing for four touchdowns on 21-of-25 passing for 231 yards.
It started from the very first drive, with Green Bay marching 60 yards on eight plays – four runs, four passes – and capping it with a connection all too familiar: Rodgers finding Adams (11 catches, 142 yards, three touchdowns) for a five-yard touchdown to take a 6-0 lead in the first quarter.
The Packers extended that lead on the very first play of the second quarter, with Rodgers finding Equanimeous St. Brown for his first career touchdown. The 21-yard strike opened up a two-score lead and put the Titans on their heels early, a trend the visiting team never quite got away from.
In all, Rodgers hit eight different targets through the air while helping the Pack get in front and stay in front of the NFL’s most balanced offense.
But it was Dillon stealing the show against the league’s leading rusher in Titans back Derrick Henry. The rookie eclipsed his season rushing total in the game, toting the ball 21 times and executing a successful Lambeau Leap – on his second try, that is.
The 2020 second-round pick got better as the game wore on, becoming the youngest player in Packers history with 100 rushing yards and two touchdowns in a game. His first breakout run came on the third drive of the game, a 14-yard burst into the Tennessee red zone.
From there, it seemed like the 250-pound running back was sprinting downhill the rest of the game.
Carrying more of the load after Aaron Jones’ minor first half injury, Dillon roared through the Tennessee defense on two key second half drives, scoring his first career touchdown on a 30-yard burst on fourth and inches. He scored for the second time – and executed his first successful Lambeau Leap – on a seven-yard run in the fourth quarter to ice the game.
Even more surprising than Dillon’s breakout performance, however, was the rookie outdueling the best back in the NFL.
Derrick Henry, the league’s leading rusher the past two seasons, came into Lambeau hoping to feast on a suspect run defense. Instead, he was held almost completely in check – a mere 35 yards in the first half and 98 overall, failing to break the century mark and inch much closer to the 2,000-yard mark on the season.
The Packers faced their biggest challenge against one of the NFL’s most potent offenses, and the defense stepped up in every facet, forcing two turnovers on Ryan Tannehill interceptions and keeping the margin at two scores for more than 40 minutes of game time.
Darnell Savage was the star for the back end of the Green Bay defense, breaking up three passes (a team-high with Jaire Alexander) and picking off Tannehill in the first half to set up a touchdown.
Overall, Green Bay outgained Tennessee 448-260 and held the ball for 13 more minutes, holding the Titans to just 4.7 yards per play.
With the win, the Packers improve to 12-3 on the season and retain the top seed in the NFC with the conference’s best record. Green Bay can clinch a first round bye and home field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win at Chicago next Sunday.
Kickoff from Chicago’s Soldier Field is set for 3:25 p.m. Sunday on FOX.