It's not even Thanksgiving, and the Green Bay Packers' season is probably done.
Green Bay has played one good quarter and a half since the start of October. There were fantasies that their fourth-quarter comeback and overtime win over the Dallas Cowboys last week would spark a huge run in the second half of the season. That momentum didn't even last a week.
The Packers looked like a below-average team on Thursday night, which was fitting. That's what they've been almost all season. The Tennessee Titans, who lead the AFC South, got a big 27-17 win on Thursday night. The Titans were never in danger of losing and while they're a good team, the way they dominated was more of an indictment of the Packers.
The Packers fell to 4-7. They need to go 5-1 in their remaining games just to finish with a winning record. They still have road games left against the 8-1 Philadelphia Eagles and 7-3 Miami Dolphins, and a home game against the 8-1 Minnesota Vikings. It might take a six-game winning streak to make the playoffs. And the Packers don't look like a team that can win two in a row, much less six.
Packers come out flat in must-win game
The Packers were the No. 1 seed in the NFC each of the past two seasons. They had crushing playoff losses, but once Aaron Rodgers decided to come back for another Packers season it seemed Green Bay would be a contender again. They invested in the defense. They had two good running backs. Even though the Packers traded Davante Adams, they still had a back-to-back MVP at quarterback.
Even for those who thought the Packers might regress a bit, being all but finished with seven weeks to go in the season seemed impossible.
The Packers needed to have urgency in pretty much every remaining game, but it was Tennessee that jumped out to a 7-0 lead. They hit a long pass over the middle to rookie receiver Treylon Burks, Ryan Tannehill completed that drive with a touchdown pass to Dontrell Hilliard, and the Titans had the lead.
The Packers trailed the rest of the game. Christian Watson caught a touchdown in the first quarter but the extra point was blocked. Nothing really went right, and Rodgers couldn't save them.
Titans control game in different ways
The Packers' biggest problem on paper coming into the game was their run defense against Derrick Henry. The Packers have one of the worst run defenses in the NFL. The Titans, on a cold night, would hand it plenty to Henry.
The Packers stopped Henry on the ground. If you'd said before the game that Henry would average just 3.1 yards per carry, you'd have booked a Packers win. But everything else went wrong.
Watson scored twice but the Packers offense couldn't consistently sustain drives. With the Packers focused on moving the defense up and stopping Henry, Tannehill had a big game. He was 22-of-27 for 333 yards and two touchdowns. Henry threw a touchdown pass too, on a goal-line jump pass. Tannehill's only mistake was an ugly fourth-quarter interception that kept the Packers alive. But after the interception, the Packers couldn't get the ball past midfield. Rodgers badly missed an open Sammy Watkins over the middle on third down and Green Bay punted.
The Packers had another good opportunity later in the fourth quarter. A punt return set them up with great field position. The Packers couldn't pick up a first down, and Rodgers threw incomplete on fourth down. On Green Bay's next drive, Aaron Jones was stopped cold on a fourth-and-1 run. The Packers offense just couldn't do enough to keep them in the game.
The Packers could still make the playoffs. Their season isn't officially over. But after Thursday's loss, it seems clear they're very unlikely to start a winning streak that would get them back in the postseason mix. We'll see what happens with Green Bay in the offseason.