Report Card: Packers-Patriots

The Packers received strong marks on offense, where Matt Flynn performed well in his starting debut, but there were too many breakdowns to upset the Patriots on Sunday night.

PASSING OFFENSE: B-minus — Matt Flynn fared considerably better than many expected in his first pro start as the replacement for a concussed Aaron Rodgers. Flynn outdueled Tom Brady in some regards by managing a ball-control attack that yielded efficient throwing numbers of 24-of-37 for 251 yards, three touchdowns and a 100.2 rating. Flynn wasn't asked to chuck the deep ball more than a few times, but his 66-yard touchdown strike to James Jones (game highs of five receptions and 95 yards) in stride behind two defenders was Rodgers-like. It was one of several third-down conversions for Flynn through the air — another was a 6-yard catch-and-run to the end zone by hybrid back John Kuhn. The backfield quartet of Kuhn (three for 27), Dimitri Nance (two for 16), Quinn Johnson (two for 15) and Brandon Jackson (one for 3) combined for eight catches for 61 yards, one more reception than the combined total of top wideouts Greg Jennings and Donald Driver. The blemishes, however, added up in what would have been a colossal upset victory for the Packers. Jones stopped his inside route on Flynn's only interception, which cornerback Kyle Arrington returned 36 yards for a touchdown as he eluded and broke through four missed tackles. A second Flynn pick, on a bad throw into double coverage, was nullified by a penalty. Jackson, Driver and Jordy Nelson each had a drop. Flynn was sacked five times, including twice during the ill-fated final drive of the game, which ended on a hurried fourth-down play in the red zone with a hit of Flynn from behind for a fumble recovered by Vince Wilfork. Rookie right tackle Bryan Bulaga's missed assignment on a free blitz that resulted in a sack four plays earlier was huge in stalling the Packers' momentum toward the game-winning score.

Mayo grabs Jackson's face mask.
Winslow Townson/AP Images
RUSHING OFFENSE: B — As surprising as Flynn's mostly positive starting debut was, so was the previously run challenged Packers piling up 143 yards on the ground, their second-highest production of the season. Lead back Jackson came out of hibernation from the last two months and fell 1 yard short of reaching the century mark for just the second time this season. He averaged 4.5 yards in a career-high 22 carries and was running strong in the second half (14 rushes for 72 yards) against a worn-down New England defense with two runs of 12 yards and another of 10. The bruising Kuhn (six carries for 21 yards) converted two third downs in short yardage in the early going, but he failed to plow his way across the goal line on two straight runs after the Packers had first-and-goal at the 2 to start the fourth quarter. The second carry from the 1 went nowhere as Kuhn collided with tight end Tom Crabtree. Dimitri Nance (six carries for 11 yards), working in a rotation with Jackson and Kuhn at halfback, slipped in the backfield on one run and ran into the backside of right guard Josh Sitton on another. The run blocking was appreciably better than the previous week in the loss at the Detroit Lions.

PASS DEFENSE: C — Brady posted modest numbers of 15-of-24 for 163 yards, but the Patriots had the football for only 19-plus minutes. That was more than enough for Brady, who had two touchdown passes, to come through in typically mistake-free fashion and rally New England late for the victory. His interception-less streak reached 292 pass attempts, two short of Packers Hall of Famer Bart Starr for No. 2 on the league's all-time list. Brady can thank cornerback and former college teammate Charles Woodson for a blatant drop in the Patriots' first series, as well as nickel back Sam Shields and linebacker Erik Walden for not coming up with the football when picks could have been made. Brady smartly and successfully picked on rookie Shields, who not only was beat in coverage but missed the tackle on rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez's second touchdown reception. The tight end combo of Hernandez (four catches for 31 yards) and Rob Gronkowski (one for 25) did the most damage on a night when mostly Woodson and Tramon Williams kept wideouts Wes Welker (three for 42) and Deion Branch (two for 33) in check, respectively. The Packers rattled Brady on occasion with their pressure schemes and sacked him three times, two by nose tackle B.J. Raji.

RUSH DEFENSE: C-minus — The truncated time of possession skewed the otherwise productive numbers for the Patriots in running the football. They went to the ground only 16 times but racked up 113 yards for a robust average of 7.1 yards. BenJarvus Green-Ellis made the Packers pay for Woodson's big drop two plays earlier with a 33-yard touchdown. Linebacker A.J. Hawk and Williams, who was blasted by Branch in the open field, were taken out on blocks sandwiched around bad angles taken to the ball carrier by Woodson and safety Nick Collins. That was the extent of Green-Ellis' production, though, as he managed only 38 yards in six carries. Shifty and speedy scatback Danny Woodhead frequently hit the hole with little resistance and had nine carries for 59 yards, including explosive runs of 14 and 13 yards, but did have his bell rung on a big hit by linebacker Desmond Bishop up the middle. Hernandez ripped off a 16-yard run on an end-around.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C-minus — Having just built the lead to 17-7 late in the second quarter, the Packers let the Patriots back in the game by suffering the ignominy of allowing 313-pound guard Dan Connolly to rumble 71 yards after he picked up a short squib kick from Mason Crosby. The longest kickoff return ever by an offensive lineman, which featured a futile strip attempt by Charlie Peprah when he should have tried to tackle Connolly past midfield, gave Brady and the offense only four yards to cash in a pivotal touchdown before halftime. Connolly's unbelievable runback nearly was as much as the total yards (83) of Shields' first five kickoff returns before he redeemed himself with a 45-yard burst late in the game. Williams also was more ineffective than not on punt returns, averaging 6.5 yards in four chances. Tim Masthay had a hit-and-miss punting performance, averaging 41.3 gross yards (long of 58) and 38.5 net yards with two placed inside the 20. Collins was Johnny-on-the-spot to fall on a surprise onside kick by Mason Crosby to start the game. Crosby connected on both of his field-goal attempts from short range.

COACHING: B — A well-designed game plan by Mike McCarthy in the absence of his offensive leader, Rodgers, nearly worked to a T. The pass-run ratio was nearly 50-50 with 44 plays in pass situations (including two scrambles by Flynn) and 36 run calls as the Packers succeeded in keeping the football out of Brady's hands as much as possible by chewing up 40 minutes, 48 seconds of the clock. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers also forced the issue with a good number of blitzes that threw Brady off his superb game on occasion. Yet, what ultimately cost the Packers the game was another special-teams gaffe by Shawn Slocum's coverage unit and faulty clock management by McCarthy in trying to direct an inexperienced Flynn to the game-winning touchdown in the culminating 4-minute drive. Valuable seconds were wasted early in the series with the offense not in a hurry to move the ball down the field, and then the final play on fourth-and-1 at the Patriots' 15 was doomed because of communication disorder from the sideline to the field as the game clock went from 23 seconds to 4 seconds before the ball was snapped.

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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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