Report Card: Packers vs. Raiders

Two of the Packers' season-long weaknesses, the run game and the pass defense, earned high marks in a 46-16 thumping of the Raiders.

PASSING OFFENSE: B-minus — The Green Bay Packers' 30-point blowout victory over the Oakland Raiders was misleading. Even MVP-in-the-waiting Aaron Rodgers is prone to an "off" day, in relation to the lofty standards he has created for himself this season. Rodgers' incredible streak with a passer rating in the 100s ended at 13 games, going back to Super Bowl XLV, as he managed just a 96.7 efficiency mark. He completed 17-of-30 passes for 281 yards and two touchdowns (to tie Brett Favre's single-season team record of 39) with only his sixth interception before being pulled from the game late in the third quarter. The pick was on tight end Jermichael Finley, who allowed safety Mike Mitchell to pilfer the football from his grasp on a fade pass from Rodgers into the end zone — one of three first-half drops by Green Bay pass-catchers. The Raiders broke through Green Bay's unsettled offensive line and some further shoddy blocking from halfback Ryan Grant to get several hits on Rodgers, who was sacked three times. Backup Matt Flynn also took a sack for a safety in his lethargic performance (0-for-2). Donald Driver (four catches, 75 yards) and Jordy Nelson (three receptions, 81 yards, 37-yard touchdown when Oakland had 12 players on the field) were the big contributors on the receiving end in a game in which the Packers lost top wideout Greg Jennings to a severe knee injury in the third quarter.

RUSHING OFFENSE: A-minus — Maybe the Packers have a run game, after all. Green Bay came into the game ranked 29th in the 32-team league for rushing. Despite not having leading rusher James Starks because of a lingering ankle injury and then losing promising rookie Brandon Saine to a concussion in the second quarter, the Packers equaled their season-high with 136 yards on the ground. Grant seemingly was in the witness protection program the previous two months, gaining all of 159 yards in the previous eight games, before he broke free for a 47-yard touchdown on Green Bay's first official play from scrimmage and finished with 85 yards in 10 carries, his second-best effort of the season. The left side of the line — tackle Marshall Newhouse, guard T.J. Lang and center Scott Wells — sprung Grant out that way, and he slipped a tackle on the second level and displayed explosiveness in outrunning the defensive backs the last 35 yards that was vintage 2009 for the veteran. Grant added a 6-yard scoring run in the second quarter, his first two touchdowns this season. Fullback John Kuhn picked up the slack after Saine left and ran hard with 10 carries for 46 yards. Grant and Kuhn combined for four big-play runs of at least 12 yards. However, additional rushing yards went by the wayside. Grant had two negative runs, one for a loss of 4 yards on a missed block by rookie Derek Sherrod, who had his first extended playing time of the season at his natural spot of left tackle as he jumped in for Newhouse.

PASS DEFENSE: A-minus — The pick parade continued for the league's most opportunistic defense. Green Bay kept veteran Carson Palmer in silver-and-black character since his midseason arrival with the Raiders as a mistake-prone quarterback. The Packers made a season-high four interceptions, giving them 10 in the last four games and 27 for the season. Outside linebacker Clay Matthews' near sack on the sixth play of the game forced a scrambling Palmer to throw an ill-advised pass in the flat to rookie inside linebacker D.J. Smith, setting up Grant's long touchdown run. Robert Francois, another fill-in starter at inside linebacker, dropped into coverage to make an end-zone interception of another bad throw from Palmer. Francois later forced a fumble on a tackle of fullback Marcel Reece, and outside linebacker Erik Walden made the recovery and carried the football another 5 yards for a third-quarter touchdown. Cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Sam Shields had the other picks. The five takeaways and catching a break on a horrendous overthrow by punter Shane Lechler to open running back Rock Cartwright on a first-half fake notwithstanding, Green Bay's 31st-rated pass defense still was susceptible to giving up big pass plays. Cornerback Tramon Williams struggled against Darrius Heyward-Bey (five catches, 78 yards). The Packers sacked a mostly immobile Palmer only once.

RUSH DEFENSE: B — Although the Raiders were in catch-up mode for most of the game as they fell behind by double-figures a little more than 10 minutes into play, they stuck with a steady diet of run plays. Green Bay allowed 117 rushing yards, the fifth straight game an opponent has reached the century mark. Other than giving up a pair of 10-yard runs (one on a Palmer scramble and the other on a reverse by receiver Louis Murphy), however, the short-handed defense did a respectable job against the run. Bruising featured back Michael Bush ended Green Bay's shutout bid with a 2-yard touchdown run in the third quarter but averaged a measly 3.4 yards per carry with 78 yards in 23 attempts a long run of nine.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B-plus — Not that the lopsided state of the game hinged at all on special teams, but the Packers clearly had the upper hand on Oakland's highly regarded units. Lechler, the league's best punter, mishit two of his five punts but made up for an 18-yard shank in the third quarter with a booming 71-yard kick over the head of returner Randall Cobb in the final quarter. Lechler's surging counterpart, Tim Masthay, was needed only once and hit his punt 40 yards into the wind without a return. Kicker Mason Crosby tied a career high by making all four of his field-goal attempts with a long of 49 yards, but his first extra-point miss in two seasons came on a block after the Walden touchdown. Thanks in large part to Crosby's career-best seven touchbacks, the Raiders were a nonfactor on kickoff returns and averaged only 10.3 yards. Cobb averaged 13 yards in two punt returns and had a questionable 50-yard run-back on a kickoff stand because of a malfunctioning replay system to start the second half. The Packers were guilty of having 12 men on the field on a Raiders extra-point kick.

COACHING: B — The Packers checked off another item on their things-to-do list for the latter part of the regular season when they clinched a bye in the first round of the playoffs while becoming only the eighth team in league history to have a 13-0 record. Green Bay's latest win came with the ease like so many of the others, as head coach/play caller Mike McCarthy stayed aggressive with the offense and was rewarded for keeping the faith in the previously stagnant run game with Grant's touchdown burst right off the bat. Dom Capers' defense had a bounce-back effort from the multitude of letdowns the previous week in the last-second win at the New York Giants. McCarthy is living up to the "Pittsburgh macho" reputation that was appealing when general manager Ted Thompson hired him to be coach in 2006 by not letting up in the pursuit of the perfect season. However, the knee injury that knocked Jennings out of the game early in the second half and likely will keep him out until the start of the playoffs can be a lesson that McCarthy may have waited too long to pull key starters from the game since the Packers were in command with a 31-0 halftime lead.


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