Report Card: Packers vs. Bears

As has been the case for most of the season, Aaron Rodgers and the passing attack earned the highest marks. With Rodgers throwing five touchdown passes and coach Mike McCarthy getting the offense on track, the Packers improved to 14-1.

PASSING OFFENSE: A-minus — Aaron Rodgers had his mojo back — and then some — after the letdown the previous week against the Kansas City Chiefs. The confluence of receivers who hung onto the football (tight end Jermichael Finley had the only drop) and a reconfigured offensive line that kept its star quarterback sack-less (with only one hit) for the first time this season was vital in Rodgers throwing for a career-high five touchdowns. Three of them went for easy 2-yard slants. The degree of difficulty went significantly up on what has been a bread-and-butter play for the offense — play-action, rolling out Rodgers and having him deliver a perfect downfield strike, this time to Jordy Nelson in stride for a 55-yard touchdown to fuel the rout in the second half. Rodgers wasn't entirely sharp, but he was highly efficient in going 21-of-29 for 283 yards without an interception for a robust passer rating of 142.7. Nelson (six catches, 115 yards) and James Jones (four catches, 50 yards) each had two touchdown grabs as Rodgers wisely looked off throwing in the direction of cornerback Charles Tillman and instead exploited the duo of cornerback Zack Bowman and safety Major Wright. The Bears' only sack was of Matt Flynn after Rodgers exited in the fourth quarter. All-Pro defensive end Julius Peppers, matched up against left tackle Marshall Newhouse most of the night, is conspicuously missing from the stats sheet.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C — The return of James Starks after a two-game absence didn't make much of an impact, particularly since the team's top rusher left the game in the third quarter after his right ankle. The two-man rotation of Ryan Grant (eight carries, 44 yards) and Starks (six carries, 13 yards) mustered a little more than 4.0 yards per carry. After an insignificant first half in which he had only three runs and was stopped for no gain on a third-and-1 play, Grant broke loose for 24 yards on his first carry of the second half — the team's third-longest run this season. Rodgers had the Packers' other explosive run of the night, scrambling for 12 yards on third-and-5 and unwittingly creating a collision between linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs along the way. Green Bay finished with 81 rushing yards (3.9 average), including two kneel-downs by Flynn for minus-2 yards to end the game.

PASS DEFENSE: C-minus — The takeaways resurfaced after a one-game absence, as linebacker Clay Matthews (on a well-read screen) and safety Charlie Peprah (on a downfield overthrow) picked off passes. Yet, the Packers didn't have a sack for the second straight game as they made Josh McCown look like a polished quarterback at times in his first start in four years. McCown was 19-of-28 for 242 yards and a touchdown, but the two miscues left him with a subpar passer rating of 76.8. Cornerback Tramon Williams fell in coverage on a third-and-5 throw to Earl Bennett, who proceeded to break two tackles for a 49-yard catch-and-run. McCown had six other "explosive" throws of at least 16 yards, including three to Roy Williams (six catches, 81 yards). Green Bay's soft zone coverage in the middle of the field remains susceptible to giving up big chunks of yardage on screens and checkdowns as Kahlil Bell (four catches, 38 yards, long of 19) can attest.

RUSH DEFENSE: D-minus — The unlikely trio of third- and fourth-string running backs Bell and rookie Armando Allen and the mobile McCown ran roughshod over Green Bay's frequently nonresistant defense. The Packers apparently never paid attention to Bears coach Lovie Smith's proclamation last week that his undermanned offense would be running the football as the team got off the bus in the Lambeau Field parking lot. Chicago would have amassed 200 rushing yards if not for a McCown kneel-down to end the first half. Nevertheless, the 199 yards in 42 attempts is the second-highest run total allowed by the Packers, who had missed tackles on at least five runs. Bell had A-rate material with his hard cuts and acceleration through the hole, finishing with 23 carries for 121 yards (5.3 average). Peprah forced a fumble by Bell on a goal-line run in the third quarter, but guard Edwin Williams made the recovery in the end zone for a touchdown. McCown ran in a two-point conversion untouched on a delay draw up the middle out of shotgun formation. Inside linebacker A.J. Hawk had one of the few stops of note, breaking into the backfield to stop Allen (11 carries, 40 yards) for a loss of 4 yards on a third-and-4 play in the red zone in the second quarter.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B-plus — A gimpy Devin Hester managed to play, but Chicago's returner extraordinaire was nothing more than ordinary on a night when he had frequent opportunities to run back kicks. Unlike previous meetings the last couple seasons, Green Bay didn't shy from kicking to Hester, but it did so with careful placement of the football. Punter Tim Masthay (four punts for gross average of 44 yards and net average of 42.3 yards with three inside the 20) limited Hester to an average of only 3.5 yards in two returns. The Packers' coverage units, led by gunners Jarrett Bush and Pat Lee, also corralled Hester (five returns, 23.4 average) on Mason Crosby's deep kickoffs. Hester's counterpart, Randall Cobb, did an adequate job with limited chances. His lone kickoff return went for 34 yards, and Cobb made something out of nothing with a punt return for 8 yards across the field. Crosby didn't have a field-goal attempt for only the third time this season.

COACHING: B-minus — The Packers took care of business by bouncing back from the stunning first loss the previous week and clinching home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs while bouncing their archrivals from postseason contention. Head coach/play caller Mike McCarthy put the offense in position to hit on most cylinders again after it stumbled over itself in Kansas City. McCarthy went with the preferred no-huddle attack early and often. He then made a crucial adjustment at the outset of the second half, going with a heavy dose of I-formation to get the Bears to counter with a run-oriented scheme that opened the field for big strikes from Rodgers to Nelson, Jones, Cobb and Donald Driver. Offensive line coach James Campen had his new-look starting five prepared for the challenge of facing the Bears' stout defensive front and shutting it down. Green Bay had no penalties enforced for the first time in more than 20 years. On the downside, defensive coordinator Dom Capers and his assistants are under the gun after the short-handed Bears offense rolled up 441 yards on the heels of the Chiefs' 438. The defense is steadfastly Green Bay's Achilles' heel with the playoffs around the corner.

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