Report Card: Packers-Rams

A big first half by Aaron Rodgers gives the passing attack a strong grade that propelled the Green Bay Packers to a predictably easy win against the St. Louis Rams.

PASSING OFFENSE: B — Aaron Rodgers had season lows for pass attempts (28) and completions (17), but he authored another big-time performance in his storybook campaign heretofore. His first-half passer rating of 154.9 was near perfect, on the strength of 11-of-15 accuracy for 234 yards and three impressive touchdowns. All three scoring plays featured the savvy of Rodgers, starting with a 35-yard strike off a unique bootleg to the left and throw back to the middle to James Jones on a back-side post in the end zone. Rodgers followed in the three-TD second quarter by pump faking to the right and connecting with Jordy Nelson, the lone receiver in the formation, on busted Cover 2 coverage down the left side for a 93-yard catch-and-run — a career long for both Rodgers and Nelson — at the expense of ex-Packers cornerback Al Harris. Rodgers then ended a nicely executed 11-play, 67-yard drive by giving the impression he was going to run on a scramble out of the pocket to the left before stopping on the dime and flipping the football to an open Donald Driver at the goal line from 7 yards out. Seven players caught passes, led by Greg Jennings' six receptions for 82 yards, and Nelson had his first 100-yard game of the season with 104 yards in just two catches. The wideouts cost Rodgers even better numbers (final rating of 119.6), however, with three drops, the last of which was by Jennings that resulted in Rodgers' lone interception, and rookie tight end D.J. Williams didn't snag what looked to be a catchable ball in traffic for a fourth drop. The new-look starting line with Marshall Newhouse at left tackle in place of an injured Chad Clifton and Bryan Bulaga back at right tackle lost containment a few times — right guard Josh Sitton was responsible for the only sack of Rodgers, who broke out of the pocket four times for runs.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B-minus — The Packers nearly hit the 100-yard plateau for the fifth time in the first six games, but they were left with a respectable 96 yards after three kneel-downs by Rodgers to end the game took 3 yards off the total. Problem was, other than James Starks' 15-yard burst on fourth-and-1 in the second quarter that preceded the Rodgers-to-Jones TD heave, the line struggled to get the upper hand and create running lanes. Starks had team-high honors with 13 carries for 49 yards, which included a 10-yard gain but a 3-yard loss on his first attempt thanks to a missed block by center Scott Wells. Ryan Grant, who remains the starter in the two-man rotation at featured back, was mostly invisible with nine carries for 25 yards (long of 6). Hybrid fullback John Kuhn failed to convert two third-and-2 runs, getting stopped for gains of 0 and 1. Rodgers, though, picked up a first down on third-and-8 with a 9-yard scramble and ground out 18 yards in four rushes before going into "victory" mode at the end of the game.

PASS DEFENSE: C — Facing a second-year quarterback who came in completing less than 50 percent of his passes, the Packers' up-and-down defense made Sam Bradford look like a formidable passer too often. He joined New Orleans' Drew Brees and Carolina's Cam Newton as opposing quarterbacks who have thrown for more than 300 yards this season. Bradford finished with 321 yards and connected on the majority of his 44 passes with 28 completions as the Rams had to almost throw at will after falling behind 24-0 late in the first half. A nondescript pair of receivers had big days — rookie Greg Salas with eight receptions for 77 yards and 6-foot-5 playmaker Danario Alexander with six catches for 91 yards — and rookie tight end Lance Kendricks (four catches, 71 yards) in his Wisconsin homecoming had a big 45-yard catch-and-run thanks to a missed tackle by safety Morgan Burnett, who played one-handed with a big cast over his broken right hand but didn't use that as an excuse for the mistake. Nickel back Sam Shields was picked on quite a bit and gave up plenty, but he redeemed himself by picking off an underthrown pass from Bradford into the end zone for the Rams' only turnover. Shields, though, made the ill-advised decision to try to run the football out of the end zone by first running across it from the corner and was creamed before getting out, sustaining a game-ending concussion late in the third quarter. Linebackers Clay Matthews (one sack, three QB hits) and A.J. Hawk (one sack) were in Bradford's face a lot. The defensive line, however, didn't register a single pressure.

RUSH DEFENSE: C-minus — Green Bay has been vulnerable in recent weeks to giving up significant yards on the ground after being the league's stingiest defense against the run after the first three games. A healthy Steven Jackson overpowered the Packers for 96 yards in 18 carries. His robust per-carry average of 5.3 yards included nine runs of at least 6 yards, including an explosive gain of 13 yards early in the game. Burnett forced a Jackson fumble with a body shot down field in the fourth quarter, but the Rams recovered. Jackson's backup, Cadillac Williams, also had a big run of 13 yards in the early going. The only tackle for loss by Green Bay, which surrendered a season-high 125 yards, came on a stop of Jackson by safety Charlie Peprah a yard behind the line of scrimmage.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B-minus — Kicker Mason Crosby and punter Tim Masthay had a momentous day despite swirling wind gusts that occasionally exceeded 30 mph. Crosby made his only field goal from 32 yards — his first field-goal attempt of the season at Lambeau Field — and tied Chris Jacke's team record of 17 makes in a row in regular-season play. Crosby also blasted four kickoffs into the end zone, three for touchbacks. Masthay has been underwhelming this season, but perhaps a career-best boot of 67 yards will get him going. He averaged 44.4 gross yards with his five punts, but his net average was a woeful 29.2 yards. Masthay needed to tackle Austin Pettis (average of 28 yards in two runbacks) going out of bounds at the end of a 39-yard punt return that was propelled by a missed tackle from Pat Lee. Green Bay's Randall Cobb didn't have a punt return (two fair catches) and mustered just 16 yards in his only runback on a kickoff.

COACHING: B — The Packers stand alone as the league's only unbeaten team, yet their attainment of win No. 6 had a lukewarm finish with zero points scored in the second half after the dominating start in the opening 30 minutes. Execution flaws by the offense the final two quarters, particularly the dropped passes, will be on the coaching staff to get corrected in the coming days. Still, head coach/play caller Mike McCarthy continues to be on point with getting Rodgers in position to make the big pass plays to demoralize the defense. The results have been tremendous with Rodgers' breaking outside the pocket off play-action and winding up on the deep ball. The defense allowed more than 400 yards (424) for the third time this season. Yet, coordinator Dom Capers, who dialed up the blitz liberally against the young Bradford, is getting his would-be maligned charges to not break with their backs to the end zone. Green Bay hasn't allowed a touchdown in nearly the last seven full quarters. The Rams averted a shutout with only one field goal in five trips that penetrated the Packers' 35-yard line.


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