Report Card: Packers-Falcons

Aaron Rodgers and the passing game score high marks in a disappointing loss at Atlanta on Sunday.

PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus — Aaron Rodgers continues to have perhaps the hottest arm going in the league, capping a prolific 26-for-35, 344-yard performance by engineering a 16-play, 90-yard drive for a score-tying touchdown with less than a minute to go. Rodgers had two clutch throws on fourth down deep in Falcons territory, culminating with a dart to Jordy Nelson along the sideline for the 10-yard touchdown. It was the only TD throw for Rodgers, but he didn't have an interception for the fourth straight game and compiled a stout passer rating of 114.5. Rodgers, however, nearly had a pass picked in each of Green Bay's two touchdown drives. The Packers' liberal use of empty backfields (18 plays) and corresponding four- and five-receiver sets worked well. Greg Jennings (five catches, 119 yards), James Jones (five catches, 44 yards) and even sparingly used Brett Swain (two catches, 40 yards) chewed up lots of yards after the catch. The Falcons rarely blitzed, so the offensive line kept Rodgers clean with only one sack. Fullback Quinn Johnson loused up what should have been a touchdown pass to tight end Andrew Quarless in the end zone in the series that ended with a turnover at the goal line two plays later.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D — That costly giveaway came on third-and-goal, when Rodgers lost the football on the second straight sneak he ran inside the Falcons' 2 in the first half. On the initial keeper, which Rodgers checked to, left guard Daryn Colledge whiffed on his block, and Rodgers was taken to the turf at the 1. The improvising Rodgers pulled the football down 11 times (12 officially with a kneel-down) and produced a season-high 51 yards to lead Green Bay in rushing. Lead back Brandon Jackson and Dimitri Nance combined for a sorry 26 yards in 11 carries. Nance's only rushing attempt went nowhere on third-and-1 at the Atlanta 4 earlier in the first half.

PASS DEFENSE: C-minus — The Packers didn't mount any significant pressure on Matt Ryan, who was sacked just twice and had all kinds of time to move Atlanta's mistake-free offense in its customary methodical fashion. Ryan was a cool 24-of-28 (14-for-15 in the second half) for 198 yards. He connected on only one throw of 20-plus yards but made the Packers pay with some short to intermediate throws that turned into big gains because of shoddy tackling. While the duo of Tramon Williams and Charles Woodson were successful in holding Roddy White, the league's top receiver, to five catches for 49 yards, veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez stood tall with six receptions for 51 yards. Gonzalez deked linebacker Desmond Bishop and froze trailing safety Nick Collins with a double move on a third-and-goal play for a wide-open 4-yard touchdown over the middle late in the first half.

RUSH DEFENSE: D — The Packers weren't gashed for a huge chunk of yards (117) on the ground, but Michael Turner made a respectable run defense look mediocre. Green Bay forgot how to tackle properly, and the powerful Turner had something to do with that. He banged away for 110 yards in 23 carries (average of 4.8 yards). Even several runs of 4 to 6 yards made out of nothing seemed like big gains. Turner had three explosive runs of 12-plus yards — none bigger than a 26-yarder off the right side sprung by missed tackles by linebacker A.J. Hawk and Collins. Turner completed that long second-half drive with a well-designed 1-yard touchdown run outside left tackle that caught a pursuing Hawk inside on the fourth-and-goal play.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D-minus — The narrow outcome was ultimately decided by a long field goal from the Falcons' Matt Bryant in the final seconds, but that may not have been possible without two special-teams gaffes by the Packers on one play. The coverage unit allowed Eric Weems to take the kickoff from Mason Crosby out of the end zone and right up a vacated middle for a 40-yard return to the Falcons' 36. Tack on a blatant face-mask penalty on Matt Wilhelm, and the Atlanta offense didn't have far to go from the Packers' 49 to kick the game-winner. Weems averaged 31 yards in three runbacks. Counterpart Sam Shields averaged only 21.8 yards in four chances, made a couple blunders in bringing the football out of the end zone and was called for a ridiculous hands-to-the-face penalty on one return. Green Bay also had another silly special-teams penalty when Jarrett Bush stepped one foot out of bounds before downing a punt. Tim Masthay wasn't impressive but was effective with his two punts (44.0 gross average) in the dome. Tramon Williams had two punt returns for all of 2 yards.

COACHING: C-minus — Head coach/play caller Mike McCarthy reaped big dividends in the passing game for leaning heavily on the "Big 5" formations of five receivers with an empty backfield. Yet, it also was an indictment of how little faith McCarthy has in a running game that, save for the willing feet of Rodgers, is almost nonexistent. McCarthy might have cost the team a victory by not challenging two calls early in the game that seemingly would have gone the Packers' way — the spot of the football on a slide by a scrambling Rodgers that was placed just short of the first-down marker on a third-down play and then a fourth-down conversion by the Falcons on a pass from Ryan to Gonzalez in their first touchdown drive when replays showed the ball hit the ground. Special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum had some explaining to do after his units relapsed into bad habits that were prevalent earlier in the season.

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

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