Packers-Lions Report Card

As usual, Aaron Rodgers had a strong game, especially after a key second-half change by coach Mike McCarthy. For a change of pace, the pass defense was exceptional in bagging three interceptions and slowing down Calvin Johnson.

PASSING OFFENSE: B-minus - Aaron Rodgers led three straight scoring possessions in the third quarter, amounting to 17 points and putting the Packers in firm control with a 24-0 lead, after Green Bay stagnated on offense in an ugly first half. Rodgers completed only 9-of-16 passes for 65 yards in those first 30 minutes, including an easy 3-yard touchdown pass to Greg Jennings late in the second quarter, thanks to a Detroit turnover deep in its territory. Penalties by fullback John Kuhn (hold) and Jennings (pass interference) wiped out big pass plays in drives that ended with punts. Even Green Bay's long march to open the second half was dotted by miscues - three presnap penalties, a dropped pass and a wide throw from Rodgers to Donald Driver in the end zone on third-and-goal. Yet, Lions nose tackle Ndamukong Suh prolonged the series with his flagrant stomp on fill-in right guard Evan Dietrich-Smith after the incomplete throw to Driver, setting up a touchdown from the 1 that ignited the decisive flurry of points. The rout was on when Rodgers right after another Packers takeaway delivered a pinpoint throw down the middle to James Jones (three catches, 94 yards), who beat the one-on-one coverage to the post at the Lions' 40 and ran in the clear the rest of the way for a 65-yard touchdown. Rodgers finished 22-of-33 for 307 yards and his 11th multi-touchdown performance in as many outings this season without an interception for the fourth time in the last five games. His passer rating of 116.6 came in below his season mark for the second straight game. Nine players had at least one catch, led by Jennings' five receptions for 74 yards. Red-hot Jordy Nelson, however, had only four catches for 26 yards and two of the team's five drops. Tight end Andrew Quarless and rookie receiver Randall Cobb let would-be touchdowns fall through their hands in the end zone, though neither pass was perfect. Right tackle Bryan Bulaga struggled against defensive end Cliff Avril, whose hits of Rodgers (two sacks) from behind resulted in an incomplete pass and a fumble that Bulaga recovered to mitigate the first sack he allowed this season.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D - Other than an explosive run of 12 yards from new starter James Starks on the team's second play from scrimmage, the only noteworthy run in another ragged performance was Kuhn's 1-yard plunge across the goal line in the third quarter. Nose tackle B.J. Raji, plugged in as a goal-line fullback for the second straight game, led Kuhn through the line off the right side as the Packers lined up with an offset-I formation three straight plays from the 1 (the first play never transpired because of an offside penalty on the Lions, and the second was an incomplete pass). Rodgers didn't have a rushing attempt that mattered for the first time in six games - his only official run Thursday was a kneel-down to end the game - but four other ball-carriers couldn't generate more than 54 yards in 17 runs (3.2 average). The Packers' final tally of 53 rushing yards is a season worst. Ryan Grant led the dismal way with six carries for 20 yards after being taken out of the starting lineup. Starks managed 19 yards in four carries but didn't play most of the second half after coming into the game questionable because of knee and ankle injuries sustained in the previous contest. Undrafted rookie Brandon Saine made his season debut on offense in a situational role in the second half and had two carries for 10 yards.

PASS DEFENSE: A-minus - All but 10 of Green Bay's points came off the three turnovers forced by the opportunistic defense - all on interceptions at the expense of quarterback Matthew Stafford (32-of-45, 276 yards, one touchdown, 66.5 passer rating). Defensive end Ryan Pickett put his right hand up to deflect a short throw from Stafford that linebacker Clay Matthews tracked down on a nice hustle play, setting up the Packers' second-quarter touchdown. Sparingly used linebacker Robert Francois, filling in for an injured A.J. Hawk in the second half, flashed his athleticism by jumping and snagging the football with both hands on a bad throw from Stafford over the middle. The Jones catch-and-run touchdown came after that. Two plays later, cornerback Charles Woodson again showed he may be the league's best for anticipating throws and drove hard to rip the football away from tight end Brandon Pettigrew, leading to a field goal to stretch the lead to 24-0. Green Bay's 31st-rated pass defense made amends by keeping Calvin Johnson (eight targets, four catches, 49 yards) in check. Tramon Williams was on Johnson most of the time but had over-the-top help on occasion, and Woodson also pitched in. Johnson had a 3-yard touchdown catch in the final seconds during a garbage-time drive for the Lions, and his 23-yard reception in the second quarter (Detroit's only pass play of at least 20 yards) came against dime back Jarrett Bush. Running back Maurice Morris hurt the Packers on checkdowns with nine catches for 81 yards. Green Bay's pass rush was pedestrian and produced only one sack (by Raji).

RUSH DEFENSE: C-minus - The Lions didn't have one player rush for at least 40 yards. Nevertheless, they had a good amount of success on the ground, as five players combined for 136 yards - the second-highest total against Green Bay this season. Detroit had four explosive runs of at least 12 yards, including a 22-yard scramble by Stafford up a vacated middle of the field when linebacker A.J. Hawk erred in trailing Johnson in coverage on the broken play. Another game of missed tackles reared its ugly head on a 15-yard run by Kevin Smith early in the game and a 16-yard touchdown run from Keiland Williams in the fourth quarter. The Packers caught a break when Smith (seven carries, 36 yards) suffered a game-ending leg injury early in the second quarter on his end-around handoff to Nate Burleson (11-yard gain). Morris led the Lions with seven carries for 39 yards.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B - Punter Tim Masthay was a godsend in the early going to pin the Lions deep time after time before the offense finally got on track in the scoreless tussle. Masthay had terrific hang time and placement, averaging 41.4 gross yards (long of 55) and 37.8 net yards with four of his five punts placed inside the Detroit 20. Mason Crosby rebounded from his only field-goal miss of the season in the previous game by connecting on both attempts. He also had one touchback, and the Packers were solid in coverage on kickoffs as well as punts - the Lions averaged 25.8 yards for the former, and Stefan Logan's only punt return resulted in a 2-yard loss. However, special-teams ace Pat Lee earned a game ejection by throwing a punch in retaliation as he was double-teamed at the end of a punt return by the Lions in the final seconds of the first half. Cobb was ineffective on returns, losing two yards on his only punt runback and averaging just 22.5 yards in two chances on kickoffs.

COACHING: B - Head coach Mike McCarthy and his staff have the Packers at 11-0 for the first time in the team's storied history of more than 90 years. Despite the lopsided outcome, the latest victory will stand as one of the most challenging of the season given the hyped atmosphere of playing a good Lions team in its traditional Thanksgiving game and that the Packers had to overcome a great deal of adversity with injuries throughout the contest as they played for the third time in only 11 days. McCarthy made a key halftime adjustment to light a spark under the offense, scrapping the no-huddle primarily used in the first half and enabling Rodgers to flourish with dropbacks out of conventional two-back alignments that sucked the defense in on the pass plays. Still, the offense wasn't crisp for a second straight game, and the running woes persist. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers had his hands tied with a few starters' dropping out, but his patchwork unit responded more often than not, particularly in keeping Johnson from taking over on the receiving end.



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