Report Card: Packers-Cowboys

The Packers head into their bye week with their best grades of the season following their 45-7 romp over the hapless Cowboys on Sunday night.

PASSING OFFENSE: A-minus — Aaron Rodgers and the passing game hadn't been so efficient in more than a year, dating to when Rodgers had a career-high and near-perfect passer rating of 155.4 in a win at the Cleveland Browns on Oct. 25, 2009. Rodgers, in front of a national TV audience Sunday night, bounced back from one of his worst statistical performances by completing 27-of-34 passes for 289 yards and a season-high-tying three touchdowns without an interception for a passer rating of 131.5. A controlled, often quick and short approach allowed Rodgers to pick apart a confused Cowboys secondary. The Donald Driver-less wideout trio of James Jones, Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson combined for 19 receptions for 245 yards and two touchdowns. Jones led the way with a career-high eight catches for 123 yards and a touchdown after he was shut out the previous week. However, Jones fumbled on his first reception, which Nelson recovered, and dropped a would-be touchdown throw before Rodgers, who was sacked only once, gave way to backup Matt Flynn in the fourth quarter. Four of Rodgers' seven incompletions were drops. Flynn was 0-for-1 in his uneventful two-series stint to complete the game.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B-plus — The Packers' second-best output of the season (138 yards) nearly had Rodgers as the top rusher. He legged out a 27-yard run — tied for Green Bay's second-longest run in 2010 — with ease on a scramble to convert a third-and-6 in the first quarter and added a 12-yard gain to finish with five rushes for 41 yards. Brandon Jackson and John Kuhn each toted the football 13 times (a career high for Kuhn), and both contributed an explosive run at the expense of a lackadaisical Cowboys defense. Still, Kuhn and Jackson weren't overly productive with the frequent touches as neither averaged 4.0 yards per carry — Kuhn totaled 50 yards and Jackson 42.


Clay Matthews
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
PASS DEFENSE: A-minus — A big blitz by linebacker A.J. Hawk and cornerback Charles Woodson and resulting tip of Jon Kitna's pass into the hands of linebacker Clay Matthews, who raced 62 yards the other way for a touchdown, put the perfect nightcap on Green Bay's ambush of the woebegone Cowboys. Matthews earlier registered a sack — he leads the league with 10.5 — one of four by the Packers against the frazzled Kitna (19-of-30, 183 yards), who also had two fumbles and was picked off twice. Rookie third cornerback Sam Shields made an outstanding one-handed grab going airborne in front of Miles Austin on a deep throw for the first interception. Shields, though, felt some growing pains matched up against imposing Dez Bryant, the highly touted rookie who led all pass catchers in the game with nine receptions for 86 yards. Bryant beat Shields on a 41-yard deep ball, and Shields had no chance to out-jump Bryant on a 2-yard fade in the end zone for the Cowboys' only points.

RUSH DEFENSE: A — Matthews also had a starring role in arguably the most scintillating play of the game by the defense, when he perfectly timed the snap to Kitna, busted through the middle of the line and slammed Marion Barber to the turf just as the running back took the handoff for a 3-yard loss on third-and-1 near midfield. The Cowboys were still in the game at the time, down 14-0 midway through the second quarter. Once the rout was on thereafter, Dallas did little running of the football, and the Packers came away with a top season performance of holding the Cowboys to just 39 yards in 14 attempts (2.8 average). Some snaps featuring a heavy front three of nose tackles B.J. Raji and Howard Green with tackle-turned-end Ryan Pickett early in the game paid dividends. A blitzing Woodson had a big stop of Barber for no gain on third-and-1 on the first possession.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B — The coverage units came up with two takeaways, including the "early Christmas gift" that Nick Collins admittedly received when he scored on a 26-yard fumble return late in the first half. The Cowboys were out of timeouts before the two-minute warning and couldn't challenge the ruling that kickoff returner Bryan McCann lost the football a strip by Jarrett Bush, although McCann's knee clearly was down before the ball popped out. Bush had a nifty recovery along the sideline of a muffed punt return by Bryant late in the game. Shields made his debut as Green Bay's kickoff returner and responded on his first chance to start the second half with a 49-yard runback out of the end zone. Tim Masthay punted well for the third game in a row, averaging 49.5 gross yards and a season-high 47.5 net yards with both kicks that landed inside the 20. On the negative side, however, Mason Crosby had a 54-yard field goal blocked in Green Bay's first series, and his kickoff out of bounds in the final minutes of the first half led to Dallas' only scoring drive. Tramon Williams averaged just 4.4 yards and dropped the ball on one of his five punt returns.

COACHING: A — The Packers delivered their best performance of the first nine games with significant contributions from all three phases, just what they needed to go into the bye week on an upswing with three straight wins against some formidable opponents. Head coach Mike McCarthy was on the money with the play calling for the offense, still finding ways to spread things out with three- and four-receiver sets despite being short-handed and establishing a steady rhythm for Rodgers and the passing attack with the high-percentage short and intermediate throws. Better yet, McCarthy was equally committed to the run, adding up to a season-high 35 rushing attempts. He even went old school for a couple plays in the second half with a three-man T-formation of Kuhn flanked by fullbacks Korey Hall and Quinn Johnson, all lined up straight across on run plays for Kuhn. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers is the envy of his fraternity to have a playmaker like few others, if any, around whom to devise the game plan with Matthews.


Agree or disagree?: Discuss hot Packers topics in our, free forums. Leave Bill a question in the subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum.


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.


Packer Report Top Stories