Report Card: Packers-49ers

For a change, the Packers received high marks with both the passing attack and running game as Green Bay routed San Francisco on Sunday.

PASSING OFFENSE: A-minus — The best passing and receiving tandem in the league the second half of this season shredded another overmatched defense. Aaron Rodgers, who hasn't thrown an interception in a career-best five straight games, overcame a few unusually poor throws at the outset of the game and finished a sharp 21-of-30 for 298 yards and three touchdowns for a first-rate passer rating of 135.1. The big play was back in style for Rodgers, who had four completions of least 35 yards. Greg Jennings, the NFL's most productive receiver since Week 6, accounted for two of those — a 57-yard touchdown on a deep throw on a free play and a 48-yard snare of a Rodgers dart over the middle in double coverage. Halfback Brandon Jackson played big in the screen game, breaking free for a career-high 37-yard gain as part of a four-catch, 63-yard effort. Recently quiet Donald Driver, however, stole the thunder with his 61-yard catch-and-run touchdown, in which he broke three tackles the last 30 yards and dragged a couple defenders across the goal line shortly after halftime to ignite the rout after the Packers led only 14-13. When they weren't jumping offside, the 49ers did give Green Bay fits on occasion with their pressure and sacked Rodgers four times.

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
PASS DEFENSE: C — San Francisco quarterback Troy Smith's numbers were far from eye-popping — 10-of-25 for 194 yards, one touchdown, one interception, passer rating of 64.4. They should have been a lot better against a Packers defense, which, despite getting to the mobile Smith for four sacks (two by end Cullen Jenkins), had spurts of shoddy coverage and dodged a few bullets. Smith more than once missed an open receiver, while tight end Vernon Davis' monster game was tarnished somewhat by a big-time drop on a deep throw in Packers territory in the third quarter with Green Bay ahead 28-16. Davis was next to unstoppable over the middle with four catches for 126 yards, highlighted by a 66-yard catch-and-run touchdown late in the first half on which he sprinted way behind underneath linebacker A.J. Hawk in zone coverage and spun free from safety Nick Collins after making the catch. Receiver Michael Crabtree's would-be big day after he had three catches for 45 yards (long of 39) never materialized, as he was shut out the final three quarters. Collins had a late interception.

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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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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