Report Card: Packers vs. Eagles

The Packers were A students in the running game — both on offense and defense — against Philadelphia.

PASSING OFFENSE: B-minus — Aaron Rodgers methodically engineered three touchdown drives of at least 10 plays and five-plus minutes each — all ending with scoring throws by him — to stake the Packers to leads of 14-0 and 21-10 by the midpoint of the third quarter. Rodgers, who went 18-of-27 for 180 yards without an interception, also had some clutch third-down conversions in passing mode (7-for-11 success, including one first down he picked up on a scramble). A 16-yard catch-and-run touchdown by halfback Brandon Jackson on a screen pass in the third quarter was picture perfect, as Jackson waited for guards Daryn Colledge and Josh Sitton and center Scott Wells to get out in front. Yet, the momentum gained in the early going with the double-digit advantage dissipated because of four drops — none as blatant as James Jones' would-be 63-yard touchdown behind cornerback Asante Samuel late in the first half — and Rodgers' fumble deep in Eagles territory at the outset of the second half. A careless block by rookie right tackle Bryan Bulaga prompted the turnover that led to a Philadelphia touchdown. Besides that, the pass protection was solid for Rodgers, who absorbed only two sacks. Donald Driver had one of his more productive games in a down season with five catches for 56 yards, but top wideout Greg Jennings (five targets) had a season-low one reception for eight yards.

RUSHING OFFENSE: A-minus — Better late than never, an unlikely postseason star was born — at least for one game — for Green Bay's previously run-deficient offense. James Starks, in just his fourth game as a pro, set a Packers postseason rookie record with 123 yards in 23 carries (5.3 average). He accounted for all but 15 yards of Green Bay's third-best run total this season. The best individual rushing performance for Green Bay this season started with a bang as Starks ripped off a 27-yard run out of the first of 10 inverted wishbone (or "Bone") backfield sets that had the newly anointed featured back lined up behind fullbacks John Kuhn and Quinn Johnson. Starks had another explosive run (12 yards) out of the formation late in the game. The old-school look wasn't foolproof, however, as Johnson inexplicably brushed Rodgers as the quarterback turned to hand off to Starks to force a fumble that Green Bay recovered. Kuhn also fumbled on a third-and-1 play in which he still managed to pick up the first down after his heads-up reaction to take back the football from the clutches of safety Quintin Mikell on the ground. That enabled the Packers to carry on with a 12-play drive that ended with a touchdown to stretch the early lead to 14-0.

PASS DEFENSE: B — Tramon Williams picked up where he left off in the regular season as the secondary's most opportunistic playmaker, getting the inside position on rookie receiver Riley Cooper to jump up and snare Michael Vick's underthrown pass into the end zone with 33 seconds left to foil the Eagles' bid to win the game with a touchdown. Williams would have done well to take a knee in the end zone and not run out with the football hardly tucked away, but no harm was done in the victory-clinching play. It was the only turnover forced by the Packers, who still confused and hurried Vick (20-of-36, 292 yards) on a number of throws with a mix of pressure and coverage gambits. Green Bay sacked Vick three times. Williams and Sam Shields were up to the task of keeping a gimpy DeSean Jackson (two catches for 47 yards) and Jeremy Maclin (three catches for 73 yards) from getting loose on the perimeter for big plays. Vick exploited the Packers' man and zone coverages over the middle with a 44-yard catch-and-run by Maclin (against Williams) on a deep cross and a 24-yard touchdown by Jason Avant (against dime back Jarrett Bush) on a vertical route. Avant had seven catches for 93 yards. Inside linebacker Desmond Bishop's shoestring tackle of Jackson on a 28-yard catch-and-run in the middle of the field prevented deeper penetration into Packers territory in the Eagles' last-ditch possession.

RUSH DEFENSE: A — The 149 rushing yards the Eagles piled up, including 103 by Vick in only a little more than a half of action, in Green Bay's narrow Week 1 win four months earlier was a distant memory Sunday. Thanks in part to the spy tactics of cornerback Charles Woodson and outside linebacker Erik Walden, the Packers contained Vick in the pocket and limited him to 33 yards in eight rushing attempts. Nearly half of that came on a delay keeper of 14 yards up the middle on third-and-10, when inside linebacker A.J. Hawk was slow to react in space. Otherwise, Green Bay snuffed out Philadelphia's fifth-rated run offense, holding the Eagles to 82 yards (63 below their season average) and 3.9 yards per rush. LeSean McCoy had 12 carries for all of 46 yards.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B-minus — Although he averaged a woeful 36.5 gross yards and 32.8 net yards, Tim Masthay continued to be a late-season difference-maker. He greatly hung and angled a 41-yard punt after the 2-minute warning in the fourth quarter that enabled his coverage unit to corral the dangerous DeSean Jackson and draw a holding penalty in the process to start the Eagles at their 34-yard line for their final drive. It was the only return of the game for Jackson. The Packers also didn't have anything to brag about with their return guys — Williams averaged nine yards in two punt returns, and a combination of Starks, Woodson and Shields averaged an anemic 14.7 yards in three kickoff runbacks. Brandon Underwood committed a costly gaffe on an Eagles punt after their three-and-out to start the game, as the rolling football hit his left foot as Underwood was engaged in a block for a turnover. The Packers benefited from two missed field goals by Pro Bowl kicker David Akers and the Eagles' inability to convert a two-point try when they had two chances at it after cutting the deficit to 21-16 with four minutes left in the game.

COACHING: B — Defensive coordinator Dom Capers and head coach/offensive play-caller Mike McCarthy deserve top marks for brilliant game plans. Capers outwitted his counterparts at every turn by unleashing blitzes early on Vick and then backing off as the game progressed while still disrupting what the Eagles could do in trying to move the football. The occasional spy tactics did their trick in preventing Vick from breaking outside the tackles and running wild. McCarthy adjusted on the fly in pounding away with the surprisingly effective Starks, aided by the numerous heavy-backfield sets, and made the fresh-legs rookie his featured back on more than half (31) of the 61 snaps. McCarthy, however, has to take some heat for taking his foot off the gas pedal and not putting the Eagles away when he had a chance up big late in the first half. With timeouts in hand, McCarthy allowed more than a minute of game clock to run off inside the 2-minute warning before and after an Akers field goal left the Packers' lead at 14-3. An absence of a killer instinct in not going for more points before halftime with an offense that was moving the football at will almost came back to bite Green Bay at the end.

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