Report Card: Packers-Vikings

Not surprisingly, the Packers were honor students by blowing out Minnesota 31-3 on Sunday. The passing game and the coaching earned rave reviews.

PASSING OFFENSE: A-minus -- Aaron Rodgers and Greg Jennings could be the most lethal quarterback-receiver tandem going right now in the league. After a shaky first quarter, the passing game took off the final two-plus quarters, as Rodgers' season-best efficiency rating of 141.3 included a career-high four touchdown throws. He was 22-of-31 passing for 301 yards and zero interceptions for the third straight game before exiting to a loud ovation from thousands of Packers fans in attendance at the Metrodome late in the fourth quarter, when Matt Flynn had some rare playing time. Jennings' torrid stretch of late was accentuated by seven catches for a season-high 152 yards and three touchdowns. James Jones atoned for a drop and a route-running mix-up with Rodgers early in the game with a one-handed grab on a fade in the back corner of the end zone for a touchdown in the final seconds of the first half that all but extinguished the Vikings with the Packers ahead 17-3. Two of the three sacks of Rodgers, who avoided a few others with his deft mobility, were by defensive end Ray Edwards, who was working against rookie right tackle Bryan Bulaga.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- The Packers averaged only 3.0 yards on the ground, but they might have discovered a catalyst for the stretch run. Undrafted rookie Dimitri Nance, whom they signed off the Falcons' practice squad after the season opener, received his most extensive playing time in the backfield and led the team with 37 yards on 12 carries. Nance displayed some decisiveness and pop in his zone runs between the tackles and had a long gain of 11 yards. Brandon Jackson, who remains the starter but will probably be in a time-share with Nance going forward, had 14 carries for only 28 yards. Converted fullback John Kuhn had several snaps at halfback but didn't run the football for the first time this season. Rodgers not only was brilliant in extending pass plays with his feet, he continued to make things happen pulling the football down with three runs for 21 yards (long of 15).

PASS DEFENSE: B-plus -- The Packers' surging defense turned future Hall of Famer Brett Favre into a lousy passer. While some of the struggles were self-inflicted with bad accuracy, Green Bay coaxed its former leader into completing only 17-of-38 throws for 208 yards and no touchdowns. Cornerback Tramon Williams had a great read and break on Favre's slant pass to Percy Harvin for a red-zone interception that the Packers quickly turned into the Rodgers-to-Jones touchdown to complete the first half. Fellow corner Charles Woodson earlier stifled another potential Vikings scoring drive by punching the football out of the hands of Toby Gerhart on a long pass-and-catch gain that would have been a first down if not for the turnover. The Packers held the explosive Harvin to just two catches for 12 yards. Linebacker Clay Matthews chased down Favre outside of the pocket for the Packers' only sack -- and league-leading No. 11.5 for Matthews. On the downside was some shaky pass coverage by rookie nickel back Sam Shields, who inexplicably dropped coverage a couple times and gave up big pass plays to Sidney Rice (20 and 18 yards) and Greg Lewis (29 yards).

RUSH DEFENSE: B-minus -- The makings of a huge day by Adrian Peterson were apparent when he broke to the outside away from a run blitz and picked up 25 yards on the Vikings' second series. The Packers, though, did a respectable job thereafter and kept Peterson from reaching 100 yards. He finished with 14 carries for 72 yards, the robust per-rush average of 5.1 yards aided by a few other double-digit runs, but 12 of his carries gained just 13 yards. Green Bay was effective in bottling up Peterson up the middle, but he prevailed as he usually does when he was able to bounce the runs off the edge. The Packers failed to pick up Harvin when he motioned into the backfield, and he scooted free for 16 yards.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Veteran Atari Bigby emerged as an unsung hero on the opening kickoff, tripping up Harvin from behind at the Vikings' 27 just as it appeared he would be in the clear for a touchdown. From then on, the Packers kept the football out of Harvin's hands as much as possible on the kick returns, resorting to some pooches from Mason Crosby. Harvin averaged only 17.3 yards in four runbacks. Punter Tim Masthay's gross average was low at 39.2 yards, but he had another winning performance with a net average of 38.2, placing two inside the 20 and forcing three fair catches. Neither Williams nor Shields did anything special with their limited punt and kickoff returns, respectively.

COACHING: A -- Coach Mike McCarthy rolled the dice at the start of the game by deferring for the first time in his tenure to the second half after the Packers won the coin toss. The gamble paid off with the Vikings going three-and-out in their first drive, but only after Bigby's touchdown-saving tackle of Harvin on the kickoff saved face for McCarthy with the bold move. Also to McCarthy's credit, the Packers didn't take any prisoners and played with a swagger, particularly on offense, to drive up the score on their bitter rivals and all but end the Vikings' season. Capers' defense continues to play takeaway with authority and isn't conceding anything, especially points (only 10 in the last three games).


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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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