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With Chance To Be Hero, Rodgers Was Zero vs. Titans

Aaron Rodgers had four chances to rally the Packers in the fourth quarter against the Titans. Four times he failed in a 27-17 loss.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – Aaron Rodgers called being booed “interesting.” The portion of the 77,506 fans in attendance at Lambeau Field on Thursday night might use the same word to describe the legendary quarterback’s play.

The Green Bay Packers lost 27-17 to the Tennessee Titans, rendering null and void any Beach Boys-style good vibrations from Sunday’s victory over the Cowboys. Not coincidentally, with their 4-7 record, a sunny January Sunday on the beach seems much more likely than a January playoff game.

Rodgers was magnificent against Dallas. He was anything but against the Titans, a fact he readily admitted.

“I missed a couple throws for sure,” Rodgers said.

With the Packers trailing by 10 in the fourth quarter, Rodgers:

- Wasn’t even close to connecting with Sammy Watkins on third-and-12 with 9:29 to go following Rasul Douglas’ interception.

“I just missed the throw,” Rodgers said.

- Threw the ball through the fingertips of Allen Lazard on third-and-3 with 5:32 to go following Keisean Nixon’s punt return into Titans territory. It was a combination of a pass that was a bit high but also one that Lazard didn’t jump to catch.

“I couldn’t see exactly where the ball was,” Rodgers said. “Had some people in my face. But I feel like I probably should’ve hit that one. Couldn’t see where it finished.”

- Wasn’t on the same page with Lazard on the next play; it appeared running back Aaron Jones was open for a fourth-and-3 conversion.

By night’s end, Rodgers was 24-of-39 passing for 227 yards. Randall Cobb provided a lift off injured reserve, catching 6-of-6 targets for 73 yards. Christian Watson, who caught 4-of-6 targets, scored two more touchdowns. Passes to everyone else were akin to a blindfolded kid, having been spun in circles for 30 seconds, swinging at pinata. Some hits, some glancing blows, some wild misses.

With the season on the line last week against Dallas, Rodgers rallied the Packers from a two-touchdown deficit. With the season on the line against Tennessee, the Packers went three-and-out, three-and-out, four-and-out and turnover on downs in the fourth quarter.

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Rodgers had no explanation and wasn't about to use an injury as a crutch.

“I couldn’t point to one thing,” he said. “I’m not going to make excuses about my thumb. It’s been the same since New York. I don’t know. I’ve got to go back and look at it. I felt like fundamentally I was in a good spot. I just didn’t have the same type of consistent grip and ball coming out the same way. I threw a lot of kind of wobblers tonight. There was some wind. Just missed a few throws I should have had. Definitely the one to Sammy and the one to Allen.”

On the sideline after the 2-minute warning, Rodgers sat on the bench, a million different realities racing through his brain. Last week’s victory over Dallas didn’t turnaround anything. It was fool’s gold. A mirage. A figment of everyone’s imagination. When Rodgers is on his game, the Packers can at least compete with anyone. When Rodgers isn’t on his game, you get what happened against Tennessee. And Detroit. And so on.

“Just about what could’ve been,” Rodgers said of his thoughts as time ticked away. “The moment that could’ve been with a win tonight, frustration around a couple throws, frustration around the opportunity that was in front of us to go to 5-6, to have great momentum going into this mini-bye. That was probably it.”

For years, the Packers were perennial championship contenders because Rodgers tilted the field so heavily in their direction, no matter the other matchups. On a frosty Thursday night, Rodgers was trounced by Ryan Tannehill. For the game, Tannehill threw for 106 more yards while throwing 12 fewer passes. In the fourth quarter, when it was time to step up and be the hero by strapping on his four-time MVP cape, Rodgers went 8-of-16 for 60 yards while Tannehill went 3-of-4 for 86 yards and one touchdown.

At 4-7, the Packers aren’t mathematically eliminated. They might be realistically eliminated, though. They play at Philadelphia (8-1) next Sunday night, at Miami (7-3) on Christmas and at home against Minnesota (8-1). Given the state of the Packers, the Bears (3-7), Rams (3-6) and Lions (3-6) aren’t layups, either. Finish 6-0? The opposite seems more likely.

“If we play up to our potential, we can win our last six games. I’m confident in that,” Rodgers said. “Obviously, I’ve got to play up to my potential. Tonight wasn’t it.”

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