Report Card: Packers vs. Lions

The Packers weren't exactly honor students in struggling past the winless Lions on Sunday at Lambeau Field. The play on special teams and the coaching draw scrutiny from our experts.

PASSING OFFENSE: B-minus — A picture-perfect first half by Aaron Rodgers — he compiled the maximum passer rating of 158.3 in those first two quarters for the second time in his career by going 8-of-9 for 131 yards and three touchdowns — was dulled by a mistake-filled second half in which the offense made just a cameo appearance until running out the clock the final 6 1/2 minutes. Two of the three possessions preceding the game-clinching drive ended with bad interceptions on deep balls. Rodgers underthrew Greg Jennings on the first one, enabling Chris Houston to get inside position on Jennings. The blame, in turn, fell on and was accepted by Jennings when he allowed Alphonso Smith to be the aggressor and wrest the football away from him on a jump ball. A would-be third Rodgers pick was negated by an offside penalty. Rodgers (12-of-17 for 181 yards) redeemed himself in the run-heavy, kill-the-clock last series of 12 plays with completions of 12 and 15 yards to Donald Driver and tight end Donald Lee, respectively, and mixed in a 16-yard scramble out of shotgun on second-and-13 to midfield. Some ad-libbing also paid off on a 29-yard dart from Rodgers to Driver in the end zone on a pass intended for nearby tight end Jermichael Finley to start the scoring. Rodgers later fired lasers of 13 and 17 yards to Finley and Jennings, respectively, for touchdowns. Rodgers connected with a wide-open Driver (three catches, 89 yards) down the middle of the field for 48 yards on a free play just before the Jennings touchdown. The offensive line was generally stout, allowing only two quarterback hits — both for sacks — though one of those came when Rodgers stumbled in the pocket.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B — One series of effectively pounding the football doesn't make fans forget that Ryan Grant is out until next season, but the Packers' ability to impose their will in that decisive ball-control possession to clinch the nail-biting victory provides some encouragement going forward without a viable featured back. Converted fullback John Kuhn did most of the grunt work and did so without fail. He showed no rust in not having been called on since he was stopped a yard short on a questionable third-and-2 run call to the outside late in the first quarter. Kuhn bulled up the middle for 34 yards in seven carries in the closing minutes. Kuhn surely lacks the breakaway speed, when he couldn't peel away from safety Louis Delmas in reaching daylight at the second level to start the drive, but he capped things with an 8-yard run on the Packers' signature inside zone play on third-and-7 with less than a minute to play and the Lions out of timeouts. Fullback Korey Hall, the lead in the I-formation that was used on eight of the first 11 plays in the drive, left guard Daryn Colledge and tight end Tom Crabtree cleared the hole on Kuhn's cut in from the right side. The Packers finished with 92 rushing yards, half coming in the final series. Brandon Jackson had only 33 yards in nine carries — Kuhn led the way with 39 yards in nine rushes — but he finally showed some decisiveness in making a cut for big gains of 11 and 14 yards. Jackson had a 12-yard run wiped out by offsetting penalties in which Jermichael Finley was fingered for a highly questionable holding call. Right guard Josh Sitton fared well in neutralizing hulking rookie tackle Ndamukong Suh.


Charles Woodson makes a key pass breakup.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
PASS DEFENSE: C-minus — At 33, Charles Woodson is vulnerable in coverage to younger, faster receivers and has difficulty bringing down bigger pass catchers in space. Yet, Woodson continues to have a knack for showing up in the right place and making an impact to save the day for a Packers defense that was lit up by a journeyman quarterback, Shaun Hill, the early-season replacement for injured Matthew Stafford. Woodson's 48-yard interception return for a touchdown 26 seconds into the second half proved to be the difference on the scoreboard. Woodson preserved the lead that gradually shrunk to 28-26 with three straight positive plays, including back-to-back breakups on throws to Calvin Johnson that forced a Lions punt in Packers territory in what turned out to be Detroit's final crack on offense. Otherwise, it was a dreadful afternoon for the Green Bay defense, which was carved up for 331 yards by Hill, who went 34-of-54 with two touchdowns. His two interceptions — linebacker A.J. Hawk had the other at the Packers' 10 in Detroit's first series — were gifts because the intended receivers never got to the spot where Hill was throwing. Woodson's "pick six" and late breakups overshadowed a tough day for the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year as the primary cover man on the imposing Johnson. Woodson was partly responsible for at least three of Johnson's six catches, including a 21-yard touchdown grab on third-and-goal in the waning seconds of the first half in which safety Derrick Martin offered little help over the top. Johnson earlier had a 23-yard touchdown catch after fill-in nickel back Jarrett Bush dropped coverage to safety Morgan Burnett. Tight ends Brandon Pettigrew (eight catches, 91 yards) and Tony Scheffler (six catches, 63 yards) exposed the liabilities the Packers have in downfield coverage with their linebackers, combining to convert four sizable third-down plays with big catches. Defensive linemen B.J. Raji and Cullen Jenkins broke through for two of the three sacks of Hill.

RUSH DEFENSE: B-minus — Put a quarterback with even a modicum of mobility against the Packers, and long runs can be had. Hill was the latest signal caller to catch the defense napping in tight coverage, ripping off a 40-yard run up the vacated middle of the field for a third-down conversion. That accounted for about a third of the Lions' output of 123 yards on the ground. Hill had a team-high 53 rushing yards. Rookie standout Jahvid Best managed to play the whole game despite being iffy because of turf toe. His long gain of 10 yards early in the game beat a Packers blitz, but Green Bay was up to the challenge the rest of the way as it held Best to 50 yards in 12 carries. Rookie Mike Neal marked his NFL debut by forcing a fumble with a hit on Best in the backfield that fellow end Ryan Pickett recovered. Woodson's trifecta of big plays in the Lions' final drive started when he tripped up Best for a 1-yard gain on a potentially significant run to the outside.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D — Jordy Nelson's future as the team's kickoff returner is tenuous after he turned over the ball twice with fumbles. The first one allowed the Lions, who had just scored on the 21-yard touchdown throw from Hill to Johnson, to try a 55-yard field goal to end the first half, which was to no avail. Nelson's second blunder put the Lions at the Packers' 18 early in the fourth quarter, and they cashed in with a field goal to pare their deficit to two points. When Nelson did hold onto the ball, his seven runbacks were insignificant, as he averaged 17.7 yards. Tramon Williams' lone punt return covered 11 yards. Tim Masthay had a horrible punt of 21 yards early in the game, but he rallied with well-struck boots of 52 and 50 yards. The Lions' Stefan Logan wasn't a factor on returns, save for a 15-yard punt return.

COACHING: C-minus — Head coach/play caller Mike McCarthy went with two head-scratching play calls in third-and-short situations in back-to-back series in the first half, and they both fizzled. The first was the run of the plodding Kuhn to the outside on third-and-2, and the second was having Rodgers roll out on third-and-1 for a pass to a well-covered Nelson, the only receiver in the formation. On the run to Kuhn, offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said Rodgers should have changed the play but the offense was too slow out of the huddle. McCarthy raised eyebrows by not replacing Nelson after his two fumbles for a final kickoff return, though he's not exactly flush with options. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers was stuck with a bad hand in the secondary in trying to cover up the Lions' spread attack with nickel back Sam Shields inactive because of a calf injury and losing Burnett to a knee injury in the first half. Generating a pass rush on Hill also was hit-and-miss, as the decision to move sacks leader Clay Matthews from left outside linebacker to the right side for the majority of snaps didn't pay dividends. The coaches were able to get the players tuned in to playing clean football again on a short week for preparations, as the Packers were penalized only three times after committing a team-record 18 six days earlier.


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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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