Surging Titans attack through air to beat struggling Packers

AP photo by Morry Gash / Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill passes under pressure from Green Bay Packers linebacker Preston Smith on Thursday night. The Titans won 27-17 to hand the host Packers their sixth loss in seven games.

GREEN BAY, Wis. — For the second game in a row, the Tennessee Titans showed they don't have to rely exclusively on their bruising ground attack.

With the Green Bay Packers focusing on trying to slow down two-time NFL rushing champion Derrick Henry, veteran quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw for 333 yards and two touchdowns Thursday night as the Titans won 27-17 at Lambeau Field.

Since dropping their first two games, the Titans (7-3) have won seven of eight while rising to the top of standings in the AFC South Division, where they are the two-time reigning champions. The Titans continued their surge by posting season highs in points and offensive yards (408).

"We want to be a balanced attack," said Tannehill, who completed 22 of 27 passes and was intercepted once. "We're going to run the football. We're going to be physical and then try to take advantage of some opportunities that arise from that in passing.

"I don't think the formula's any different than it's been for the past four years. Be physical, establish the run and have our opportunities in the passing game off that."

The win came four days after Tennessee's 17-10 home win against the Denver Broncos, when Tannehill connected with Nick Westbrook-Ikhine on two touchdowns passes as Henry was held to 53 yards on 19 carries.

Tannehill looked much sharper in his second game back after missing two with an injured right ankle. His performance helped the Titans improve to 10-2 when playing on short rest under Mike Vrabel, who is in his fifth season as coach.

"It's tough mentally, it's tough physically to turn the page on the last one and then get yourself ready to go on a quick turnaround," Tannehill said. "Like I said, on Monday we came in, we set our mind to it that there's going to be no excuses. We're going to find a way to get yourself mentally and physically ready to go and come out and win."

Green Bay (4-7) has lost six of seven, the only win in that run Sunday's overtime victory against the Dallas Cowboys.

"Extremely disappointed right now to put on a performance like that," Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. "I don't even know what to say. It was nothing like a few days ago, and that's why you're only as good as your last game, and every time you step out on that field, you've got to go out and do it."

Rodgers was 24-of-39 passing for 227 yards with two touchdowns to rookie Christian Watson — a 14-yarder to close the first quarter and an 8-yarder in the third quarter. That followed Watson's three-touchdown performance in the 31-28 win against Dallas.

Watson became the first Packers rookie since Max McGee in 1954 to have multiple touchdown catches in consecutive games.

"None of that matters if we're not winning football games," Watson said. "Obviously, I've got to continue to do better and we've got to continue to do better."

The Packers limited Henry to 87 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries — a 3.1-yard average — but the Titans still did what they wanted on offense. Henry even got into the act by throwing a 3-yard jump pass to tight end Austin Hooper for a touchdown. Treylon Burks, a first-round pick in April, had his best game yet with seven catches for 111 yards.

Tannehill's touchdown passes were a 14-yarder to Dontrell Hilliard and a 16-yarder to Hooper. The latter was the Titans' first fourth-quarter touchdown of the season.

Tennessee entered the night averaging a league-low 281.7 yards per game.

"Now it's on tape," said Hooper, who scored his first two touchdowns of the year. "Other people have got to respect it. I'm happy we were able to execute and get a team win, but especially to get it done in the air a little bit to show the rest of the league we can do this."

Tennessee led 7-6 at the end of the first quarter and then dominated the second, running 27 plays to the Packers' six and outgaining Green Bay 91 yards to 17. The Titans started the quarter with an offensive series that lasted more than 10 minutes but didn't result in any points because Quay Walker stuffed Henry for a 2-yard loss on fourth-and-1 from the 4. Tennessee had the ball for 18 plays, the Titans' longest scoreless possession since at least 2000.

But the Titans then forced a punt, got the ball back on Green Bay's 41 and extended their lead to 14-6 on Henry's 4-yard run with 32 seconds left in the half. That was the first of three straight touchdown drives for the Titans.

Henry's rushing touchdown was his 10th of the season, the fifth straight season he has reached that mark. The other players to have at least 10 touchdown runs in five straight NFL seasons are Shaun Alexander, Adrian Peterson, LaDainian Tomlinson and Michael Turner.

Watson's second touchdown of the night helped the Packers narrow Tennessee's advantage to 20-17 late in the third quarter, but Green Bay's offense did nothing the rest of the game.

The Packers, the three-time reigning champs in the NFC South, have at best a narrow path back into playoff contention. Their next chance to bounce back is on Nov. 27, a Sunday night matchup on the road against the Philadelphia Eagles, who have one loss through their first nine games.

"We've got to play up to our potential," said Rodgers, who last season won his fourth NFL MVP honor. "If we play up to our potential, we can win our last six games. I'm confident in that.

"Obviously I've got to play up to my potential. Tonight wasn't it."

The Titans are home for their next game, also Nov. 27, against the Cincinnati Bengals.