RUSHING OFFENSE: B-plus — The inclusion of rookie James Starks for the first time netted one of the top running performances of the season. The Packers had 34 rushing attempts for 136 yards. Starks took care of half of those in his first game action in nearly two years with 73 yards in 18 carries, averaging 4.1 yards per rush behind an assertive offensive line that acquitted itself after a tough go the previous week. Starks didn't start the game but he had his first attempt three plays into Green Bay's initial series. Starks runs high and doesn't go down easy, thanks to a relatively long frame and powerful legs that allowed him to pick up extra yards on several runs. His longest was 16 yards. Jackson, who remains the nominal starter, had only four carries for 13 yards. Converted fullback John Kuhn matched Jackson with 13 yards but provided a spark in converting four third-and-1 runs in as many situations and also scoring a 1-yard touchdown. Rodgers excelled again as a dual threat, turning four scrambles into 39 yards.
Vernon Davis battles Charlie Peprah.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
RUSH DEFENSE: B — The 49ers went away from running the football after they had great success even without an injured Frank Gore the previous week against the Cardinals. They totaled just 97 yards, and the per-carry average was boosted to a solid 4.4 yards thanks to three bailout runs for 28 yards from Smith. Otherwise, the halfback tandem of Brian Westbrook (31 yards) and rookie Anthony Dixon (33) had little to offer in nine totes apiece. Dixon had the only significant run between those two with a 17-yard burst on a deep toss play that allowed him to peel away from the defense off the edge. Outside linebacker Clay Matthews, who didn't add to his league-leading sacks total, played strong in run support and was among the team's leaders with six tackles.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C — Kicker Mason Crosby and punter Tim Masthay had sluggish showings in the team's first subfreezing game amid a stiff wind. Because of immediate pressure up the middle, Crosby badly hooked a 29-yard field-goal attempt off the left upright early in the game — his first career miss inside of 30 yards — but he rallied with makes of 43 and 24 yards in the fourth quarter to complete the scoring. Masthay failed to produce any adequate hang time with his three punts, which averaged 43.3 yards but had a net of only 33. Crosby was effective with an assortment of short and deep kicks that kept Ted Ginn Jr. from being a game-breaker on kickoff returns — he averaged just 16.2 yards on five touches. Ginn was better on punt returns with two for an average of 15.5 yards. The Packers' Sam Shields muffed one kickoff return, though he recovered it, and averaged all of 19.7 yards, while giving way to Starks on two short kickoffs. Tramon Williams had a 20-yard punt return, but he threw away yards as he retreated on another runback.
COACHING: B-plus — Head coach/play-caller Mike McCarthy showed good faith in the new-look running game, a week after he went one-dimensional in the loss at the Falcons. Not only did McCarthy cut the effective and fresh Starks loose in his pro debut, but Kuhn resurfaced as a dependable short-yardage back after he didn't have a carry in the previous two games. The Packers wound up with perfect balance with 34 pass plays and 34 run plays. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers also changed things up by deviating from the customary nickel look with six defensive backs and showing a hefty 4-4 front from time to time to choke off the 49ers in running situations. More woes continued to plague Shawn Slocum's special-teams units.
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