Cory's Corner: Titans Must Defend A Magician

Aaron Rodgers continues to pull a rabbit out of a hat when it comes to play-action. 

What's the one thing we keep hearing about heading into Sunday's Titans-Packers game? That's obvious, because Derrick Henry leads the NFL with 908 yards after contact and he has 25 broken tackles.

It's completely understandable because the 6-foot-3, 247-pound running back has turned into a legend by throwing defensive players with one arm. If you asked defensive players to answer honestly, I would bet that the majority would say that they don't want any part in tackling that runaway freight train. 

But that isn't the story. 

The story is the Tennessee defense. According to ProoFootballReference.com, the Titans are last in the league by pressuring opposing quarterbacks 16.9 percent of the time and are allowing teams to get a touchdown 71 percent of the time when they get inside the 20-yard line.

But that's not all.

The Titans are also one of the worst teams vs. play-action. Which is very weird, because Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill leads the NFL with 1,481 play-action passing yards. Either Tennessee doesn't work on defending the play-action or else Tannehill has morphed into an Obi-Wan Kenobi of the play-action. Tannehill has really surprised many folks, because he has turned from a veteran journeyman into a franchise quarterback. He turned in his first Pro Bowl season at age 31 when it became his most efficient season of his career. 

Then there's Aaron Rodgers, who is on the doorstep of his third MVP award and is doing it by mastering the play-action. Rodgers is toying with NFL defenses with his simple magic act of not handing the ball off and then throwing rockets to wide open receivers. He has made the play-action bootleg a near automatic completion as defenses shake their heads as they try to figure out where the ball is. 

The Packers will have a hard time stopping Henry, but the rest of the NFL has also had a hard time stopping him. The Packers defense has stiffened in the last few weeks and is no longer afraid of making the big play. This team has the athletic inside linebacker in Krys Barnes that it has craved since fans were belting out "Kooooonce" for George Koonce.

Rodgers will get plenty of opportunities on Sunday night, which is exactly what you don't want to do. The Titans have also been giving up 16 receptions a game to opposing wide receivers, so look for more wideouts to catch passes than Davante Adams and Allen Lazard, which is how many wide receivers caught a pass vs. Carolina a week ago. 

It's all in front of the Packers now. Green Bay has the chance to be the No. 1 seed, get a bye and force the NFC playoffs to go through Lambeau Field. Rodgers has never played a conference title game at home, so after he called the Packers offense a "stinker" in the second half vs. Carolina, he knows what he needs to do as a leader and quarterback. 

This is where Rodgers shows how much he wants it. This is where he gets to prove that he belongs on the top line of the MVP voting. This is where he can finally be home for the playoffs, which is something that Tom Brady has enjoyed by playing 24 of his career 41 postseason games at home — and nine of those were Super Bowls. 

The Tennessee defense is going to be asked to stop something that will be exponentially tougher than stopping a runaway running back. 

How do you defend a magician? 

 

 

 

 

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Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on "Clubhouse Live" and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn

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Comments (18)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
ShooterMcGee's picture

December 26, 2020 at 06:34 am

The offense should have a lot of success against a mediocre Titans defense. Baker and the boys scorched them for 40+ points a few weeks ago. While it's unfortunate Jamaal is injured it may give AJ Dillon a chance to play. I want to see what we have in our 2nd rounder. Let him get some real action to gain some experience. The play action to a beast like AJ could be even more effective, especially in short yardage situations. Release the Kraken!

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MemphoMike's picture

December 26, 2020 at 08:29 am

Excellent insight and perspective! The entire NFL hasn't stopped, or even slowed, Henry down so I expect that he will get his share vs the Pack. But #12 against this very shaky Titans D is going to be "prime time show" Sunday night! AR sees the MVP is right in front of him, he sees the bumbled 2H of the Panthers game as a small setback.....that should be all the extra motivation he needs to make his final statement, on the NFL Game of the Week....in front of a TV audience of millions, for his #3 MVP. Should be fun to watch!

Also, love the KOONCE reference too, very strong! Koonce was an undrafted FA just like KB. He worked his way to becoming a highly productive NFL starting LB on a Super Bowl winning team. He is still a much beloved player by the Packer nation! Let's hope Barnes can duplicate Koonce's success. I sure like what I've seen from him so far, let's hope it continues! Cheers and Go Pack!

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NickPerry's picture

December 26, 2020 at 08:49 am

Rodgers usually plays MVP type football following a less than stellar performance. Look at his game vs Houston after losing to TB. Or look at his performance against Chicago after the loss in Indy where he didn't play bad at all, but it was the Packers last loss. My point is Rodgers usually is on a different type of lethal when he either has a terrible game or the Packers lose. THIS is the game Rodgers not only wins his 3rd MVP, but THIS is the week the Packers look up the #1 seed.

MLF HAS to to get back to using all the motion. Put Austin in Ervins spot and motion him all over the goddamn place. Make the Titans defense defend every inch of the field. THIS offense struggles big time the moment the motions stop. Give the defense as much as possible to think about and that means throwing the ball to everybody. Get MVS and ESB involved. Lets see a touch pass or two like we saw in week one to Ervin to Austin and let him run. Austin is probably BETTER in space than Ervin, LETS friggin use him!

I'd like to see AJ Dillion at least 10 touches this week and Jones 20 to 25. IF that's happening then that's a damn good indication things are going the Packers way. THIS is the week we finally see ALL GAS NO BRAKES for 60 minutes.

Packers 47 - 23.

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Johnblood27's picture

December 26, 2020 at 09:27 am

Lets hope that the Packers are as shy-high for this game as NickPerry is!

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NickPerry's picture

December 27, 2020 at 06:54 am

HELL YEAH!!!! LOL

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rstain99's picture

December 26, 2020 at 08:50 am

Lets hope Mike Pettine finally calls a defense game that actually works, make them punt at least 3 times in the game and that should be enough. Henry is going to get his yards just the fact, Run defense first force Tannehill 3rd and 5. With win only second time they will beat team with winning record. Just saying. Cupcake schedule

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jannes bjornson's picture

December 26, 2020 at 11:00 am

Tannehill will take deep shots early off play-action. Packer safeties have to stay tuned in for the long ball to Brown and Corey Davis is turning it on. Keep constant pressure on the line of scrimmage.

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mrtundra's picture

December 26, 2020 at 09:17 am

I have been thinking that the Packers were in for a rough game with the Titans. Now, not so much. I think ARod will light it up In Lambeau, against these hosers. Our defense will find a way to slow Henry down, just enough, for the Packers Offense to get back on the field, and score, again and again. These Packers can beat any team they want to beat. It is definitely in them to play a great game against the Titans. GO PACK,GO!!!

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calabasa's picture

December 26, 2020 at 09:35 am

+1 for “hosers”, eh guy!

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13TimeChamps's picture

December 26, 2020 at 01:36 pm

"These Packers can beat any team they want to beat."

So they didn't want to beat TB, Minn, or Indy?

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Lphill's picture

December 26, 2020 at 10:02 am

The formula here is for the Packers to score early and often which will make Henry less of a concern , the Packers just can't Falk behind, as pointed out in the post Rodgers should have his way with this defense .

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SpikeHyzer's picture

December 26, 2020 at 01:12 pm

I'm pretty sure all the players on both teams are just dudes.
No wizards or warriors or any other creatures that go bump in the night.
As such, it should be a great game!

Go Pack Go!!!

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PatrickGB's picture

December 26, 2020 at 06:09 pm

If they don’t have much of a pass rush then maybe it’s better to let Lindsay sit this game. Save his start for Chicago.

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PewAuKeeFan's picture

December 26, 2020 at 11:44 pm

Lindsay? Who is this new guy? ~

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LeotisHarris's picture

December 26, 2020 at 08:06 pm

In the week's CHTV The Passing Chronicles, Dusty provided good insight into how the mighty Carolina Panther defense defended "a magician." From his text:

"This is another good example of the game plan the Panthers brought. They were able to pressure up front and played relatively soft on the back-end, but they also made a point not to bite on play action. That may have bit them in their rush defense in the first half, but it paid off with their defense against play action."

Dusty does a great job of breaking down what worked, and in his Week 15 article, what didn't. It's always good stuff presented without hype and wishful thinking.

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NickPerry's picture

December 27, 2020 at 06:59 am

I saw that too but IMO the Packers O-Line won't have another game like that and they HAVE to use pre-snap motion. Motion makes a HUGE difference in this offense.

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NickPerry's picture

December 27, 2020 at 06:59 am

I saw that too but IMO the Packers O-Line won't have another game like that and they HAVE to use pre-snap motion. Motion makes a HUGE difference in this offense.

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veteranviewer's picture

December 26, 2020 at 11:13 pm

Rodgers is the BEST player in the world.

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