Report Card: Packers vs. Eagles

While Aaron Rodgers and the passing game struggled, other areas picked up the slack on Sunday. The big surprise was the strong play of the Packers' maligned special teams.

PASSING OFFENSE: C-minus — Aaron Rodgers is human, after all. The quarterback's first time out since his prolific, mistake-free preseason was a mostly forgettable performance even in being a major contributor to the season-opening victory. Rodgers' passer rating was a lowly 73.1, a drop of nearly half of his scintillating 141.2 in exhibition play. Rodgers misfired on the first three throws of the game and finished 19-of-31 for 188 yards. His two touchdown passes, including a 32-yard strike to Greg Jennings in stride behind the defender, were offset by two bad interceptions. Rodgers threw into triple coverage trying to connect with frequently harassed tight end Jermichael Finley (four catches for 47 yards) down the seam. Later, the football slipped out of Rodgers' hand with rain falling, and he overthrew intended receiver Donald Driver by 10 yards for an easy Eagles pick. The normally dependable veteran duo of right tackle Mark Tauscher and left tackle Chad Clifton didn't help Rodgers by giving up three sacks (two on Tauscher) in the first half. Jennings led the receiving group with five receptions for 82 yards, including a leaping, one-handed grab for a 16-yard gain on third-and-8 to put the Packers in position in the red zone for a go-ahead touchdown late in the first half.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B — There's no telling how productive Ryan Grant could have been by game's end on a wet track after he ripped off consecutive runs of 13, 8 and 18 yards to start the long touchdown drive that broke the 3-3 tie before halftime only to limp off with a right ankle sprain sustained on that final carry. Grant was averaging 5.6 yards (eight carries for 45 yards) when he left the game. Brandon Jackson provided a pick-me-up and showed that he might be able to carry the load successfully with Grant sidelined indefinitely. Jackson ground out 63 yards in 18 attempts, highlighted by an 18-yard run in which he busted a tackle up the middle to set up Rodgers' long touchdown pass to Jennings late in the third quarter. Fullback John Kuhn, the emergency No. 3 halfback, chipped in two carries for 15 yards and a touchdown as the Packers amassed 132 rushing yards for a 4.0 average.

PASS DEFENSE: B-minus — While the short-handed Packers weren't exploited through the air, other than rookie Sam Shields' losing track of Jeremy Maclin on a double move into the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, the damage backup quarterback Michael Vick inflicted on the ground mostly evolved out of broken pass plays. Vick took over after halftime for injured starter Kevin Kolb and nearly brought the Eagles all of the way back from a 17-point deficit in the final quarter. He scrambled, darted and juked for 103 yards in 11 rushing attempts (9.4 average). Vick also made a few plays slinging the football when he had to and had the time to do it in the face of Green Bay's relentless pressure, throwing for 175 yards on 16-of-24 accuracy with the one touchdown. Linebacker Clay Matthews was a savior for the defense in so many ways — getting two sacks, chasing an overmatched Kolb (5-of-10 for 24 yards) down for another tackle that resulted in the concussion that ultimately knocked the young QB from the game and dropping back into coverage to break up a Kolb pass that Matthews should have picked off and probably would have scored on. Cornerback Charles Woodson also had a would-be interception but made up for that by swatting the football away on a pass completion for a turnover. The combination of Woodson, Tramon Williams (three pass breakups) and Shields held playmaker DeSean Jackson to four catches for 30 yards. The Packers had five sacks, getting good push at times from end Cullen Jenkins and nose tackle B.J. Raji, who had a sack apiece.


Cullen Jenkins reaches with one hand while trying to corral Michael Vick.
Drew Hallowell/Getty Images
RUSH DEFENSE: D — Vick's singular footwork in tucking the football away and taking off with it foiled the Packers, who never planned that they would be seeing so much of the former Atlanta Falcons standout. Green Bay caught a break when the Eagles kept Vick between the tackles on a delay draw out of shotgun instead of running him to the outside on fourth-and-1 at the Packers' 42 inside the two-minute warning. Matthews shot in from the right side and shrugged off the blocks of tight end Brent Celek and running back LeSean McCoy to stuff Vick for no gain and clinch the victory. McCoy was limited to seven carries but made the most of them in averaging 5 yards and scoring from 12 yards out as he deked rookie safety Morgan Burnett at the 5-yard line. Burnett is stiff in run support.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A — Easily the biggest bright spot for a Packers team that overcame ragged efforts on offense and defense to get a well-earned road win in Week 1. The previously maligned special-teams units of the past few seasons returned from Philadelphia able to boast about two long field goals by Mason Crosby, including a franchise-record boot from 56 yards to end the first half; Jordy Nelson's unexpected big kickoff returns of 51, 40 and 28 yards in the second half and game-ending average of 31.2 yards; and Tim Masthay's doing well on three of his four punts in his NFL debut to pin the electrifying Jackson along the sideline and limit him to two returns for a pedestrian 14 yards. Williams was sure-handed in his dual role on punt returns, the majority of them fair catches on high kicks. The lone blemish was a kick out of bounds by Crosby.

COACHING: A-minus — Head coach Mike McCarthy and his assistants held the team together as it seemingly was coming undone at the seams by all kinds of adversity throughout the game, including a handful of injuries, to pick up the Packers' first win at Philadelphia in 48 years. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers made do with having only three defensive linemen the last three quarters of the game. He still went on the assault by frequently blitzing Kolb and Vick and threw the Eagles blockers for a loop by moving Matthews to both sides and also the interior. McCarthy was unfazed by losing Grant to the ankle injury and showed good faith in Jackson by running the football as the Packers protected the lead in the second half. Special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum finally was able to silence his critics with the all-around good play by his units. Getting Crosby on the field for his record-setting field goal with three seconds left in the opening half almost never happened. McCarthy inexplicably let 20 seconds evaporate before calling a timeout to stop the running clock inside of a minute with the Eagles' having to punt.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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