Report Card: Packers-Broncos

Not surprisingly, Aaron Rodgers and the red-hot passing game earned high marks against Denver. Rodgers plundered a secondary hell-bent on taking away Jermichael Finley by throwing for a career-high 408 yards and career-high-tying four touchdowns.

PASSING OFFENSE: A — The "Aaron Rodgers for NFL MVP" campaign is well under way, as the quarterback augmented his brilliant start to the 2011 season with a memorable performance against the undermanned and overmatched Broncos secondary. Capitalizing on the absence of All-Pro cornerback Champ Bailey, Rodgers completed passes to eight players as he went 29-of-38 for 408 yards (a career high in the regular season) and matched his personal best with four touchdown throws. A late interception on a high zinger off the hands of James Jones knocked Rodgers' season-high passer rating down to a still-extraordinary 134.5. Rodgers pierced Denver's Cover-2 scheme, which succeeded in taking away tight end Jermichael Finley (three catches, 28 yards) with double teams but left itself highly vulnerable when Rodgers threaded passes through tight windows to Green Bay's five wideouts with impeccable timing on myriad posts, slants and go routes up the seam. Greg Jennings (team-high seven receptions, 103 yards, touchdown), Jordy Nelson (five receptions, 91 yards, TD), Jones (TD), Donald Driver (TD after returning from scary knee injury) and rookie Randall Cobb (two receptions, 75 yards) combined for 20 catches, 337 yards and four touchdowns. Matt Flynn, making his season debut, also threw an interception in late-game relief. Marshall Newhouse made his first pro start at right tackle for an injured Bryan Bulaga and allowed both sacks of Rodgers by speedy rookie linebacker Von Miller.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B — Until James Starks broke away for a 22-yard run in the fourth quarter against a Broncos defense undoubtedly taxed by Rodgers' passing clinic, Rodgers had a chance to lead the team in rushing yards. Starks, who had plenty of work on the receiving end as well with five catches for 38 yards, finished with a respectable 63 yards in 13 carries. He had only one other explosive run (for 16 yards), however, as he mostly struggled with indecisiveness in making the proper read and cutback in the zone-blocking calls. Safety Brian Dawkins flew in and stuffed Starks for a one-yard loss on the back's first carry of the game in a fourth-and-1 situation deep in Denver territory. With starter Ryan Grant out because of a kidney injury and fullback John Kuhn called on just once to carry the football for a three-yard gain on third-and-1, the athletic Rodgers was instrumental in the Packers' reaching the 100-yard mark for the fourth time in as many games. Rodgers took advantage of the Broncos safeties' sitting way back to defend the pass and took off on shotgun draws and scrambles for 36 yards and a career-high two touchdowns in nine attempts.

PASS DEFENSE: B-minus — The Packers produced a season-high-tying four takeaways, all the doing of a resilient pass-coverage unit that again was maligned by several big plays it allowed through the air. Three of the Denver turnovers came in the second half when Green Bay completed the rout. Linebacker Desmond Bishop no sooner gave up a big pass play to Daniel Fells than he ran down the tight end from behind and knocked the football out inside the Packers' 5-yard line, resulting in a key recovery by safety Morgan Burnett. Struggling nickel back Sam Shields later thwarted another Broncos scoring opportunity by swooping in front of Brandon Lloyd on an underthrown deep ball by Kyle Orton into the end zone for a pick and subsequent 60-yard runback. Cornerback Charles Woodson had the biggest of not many defensive stops of the game by lurking in the flat, intercepting an ill-advised pass from Orton to receiver Eric Decker and returning it 30 yards late in the first quarter for the 11th INT score in Woodson's magnificent career. Otherwise, the likes of Tramon Williams, Shields and Burnett, who was sucked in on a flea flicker and allowed Lloyd (eight receptions, 136 yards) to get way behind him for a 44-yard catch, struggled on the back end. A stationary Orton passed for 273 yards and three touchdowns, including two to Decker, and wasn't harassed much by a defense that generated only one sack.

RUSH DEFENSE: C-minus — A week after bottling up Chicago Bears featured back Matt Forte for two yards in nine carries, the NFL's top run defense regressed and had a streak of 12 straight games dating to last season without allowing a 100-yard rusher end. Willis McGahee had his way in busting through holes between and outside the tackles as he rushed for 103 yards in 15 carries. His gaudy average of 6.9 yards per attempt included four double-digit runs, topped by a 28-yard burst in the opening quarter. Denver had 119 rushing yards, more than double the average of 55 yards the Packers surrendered the first three games. No other Bronco had more than two rushing attempts, though Orton converted a third-and-3 with an eight-yard scramble. Backup quarterback Tim Tebow was dropped for a one-yard loss on his Wildcat cameo in the first quarter.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B — Mason Crosby had the luxury of kicking seven extra points in Green Bay's touchdown extravaganza, but his biggest contribution came on an onside kick. The Packers caught the Broncos' kickoff-coverage unit in a favorable alignment and went the unconventional route with the onside kick in the final minute of the first quarter after Woodson's pick-six put Green Bay ahead 14-3. Crosby pounded the football into the ground, and the resulting hop was fielded by a leaping Nelson untouched. Nothing else stood out for Green Bay's special teams. Tim Masthay's only punt wasn't hit well, but it traveled 49 yards with a convenient roll. Cobb averaged a pedestrian 29.5 yards in two kickoff returns and a meager 3.5 yards in two punt runbacks. Cobb ran out the Broncos' first kickoff from 9 yards deep on the instruction of coordintor Shawn Slocum to test a unit that hadn't had to cover a return all season. The Packers held the Broncos to an average of 29.2 yards in five kickoff returns.

COACHING: A-minus — Head coach Mike McCarthy didn't take any mercy on the Broncos as a clearly inferior opponent. Frustrated by his unbeaten team's inability to put away its first three opponents until the end, McCarthy resorted to a bully mentality in drawing up a game plan that allowed the unstoppable Rodgers to throw early and often and light up the Lambeau Field scoreboards. McCarthy took it a step further by giving special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum the green light to go with the well-rehearsed onside kick early in the game. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers is OK to give up a bundle of yards through the air as long as the team is winning and his opportunistic unit rallies with the takeaways. Still, the Packers have unresolved issues with the secondary being exposed over the top on big pass plays, and an inadequate pass rush is exacerbating matters.

Agree or disagree?: Discuss hot Packers topics in our, free forums. Leave publisher Bill Huber a question in the subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum.

Packer Report Top Stories