Report Card: Packers vs. Lions

Not surprisingly, Matt Flynn's record-setting performance against Detroit drew the only 'A' grade from Sunday's 45-41 victory. The run defense was improved but the only saving grace from the pass defense was the three forced turnovers.

PASSING OFFENSE: A — Aaron Rodgers holds the single-season NFL record for passing efficiency and figures to be named league MVP, but he can't hold a candle to what his top backup pulled off Sunday. With Rodgers held out of the meaningless regular-season finale, Matt Flynn produced a remarkable audition tape with free agency on the horizon. Only his second pro start yielded single-game team records for passing yards (480) and touchdown passes (six), punctuated by a four-yard dart to tight end Jermichael Finley in the end zone with 70 seconds left to lift the Packers to the 45-41 win. A poised Flynn excelled for most of the game, but he was at his best in the decisive eight-play, 80-yard drive that consumed just 1 1/2 minutes. Big-time touchdown connections of 36 and 58 yards to Jordy Nelson and halfback Ryan Grant's breakaway 80-yard catch-and-run TD on a screen earlier in the game paled in comparison to Flynn's cold-blooded 40-yard deep ball to James Jones in stride along the sideline on a third-and-4 play just past midfield. That set up the game-winner two plays later. Flynn finished 31-of-44 as he completed passes to eight players on a day when the Packers also were without receivers Greg Jennings and Randall Cobb and halfback James Starks. A first-half interception on an ill-advised throw intended for Nelson on the outside held Flynn's otherwise superb passer rating to 136.4. Nelson capped his breakout regular season in style with career highs of nine catches for 162 yards and three touchdowns. Finley and Jones also were productive with seven and six receptions, respectively, and the seemingly ageless Donald Driver broke loose for a 35-yard touchdown on a third-and-8 play early in the fourth quarter. The offensive line welcomed the return of veteran left tackle Chad Clifton for the first quarter and managed to do a satisfactory job amid another game of rotating guys at a few spots of protecting Flynn, who was hit seven times and absorbed three sacks, including a fumble lost in the game-opening series.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C — Grant's explosive touchdown on the screen pass, which actually covered 83 yards from the starting point behind the line of scrimmage, would be great to transfer to the still-ineffective running game. The Packers have been consistent of late, churning out just 81 yards on the ground for the second straight week. The absence of Starks to a pesky ankle injury and not having the threat of the mobile and daring Rodgers left the running chores up to Grant, rookie Brandon Saine and fullback John Kuhn. Other than a 10-yard run on a backward pass to Saine and one of 9 yards from Grant, the results were pedestrian as Green Bay averaged 3.4 yards. Grant topped the unappealing stats sheet with 12 carries for 48 yards.

PASS DEFENSE: C-minus — The silver lining on another dark day for the league's worst pass defense is the unit cemented its status as the league's top ball-hawking defense in coverage with three takeaways. The second interception of Matthew Stafford, made by cornerback Sam Shields on a downfield throw deep in Green Bay territory with 25 seconds left, clinched the victory. Jarrett Bush, filling in as the nickel back with Charles Woodson held out, had a red-zone interception early in the second half when Nate Burleson slipped on a slant. Linebacker Desmond Bishop forced a fumble by running back Kevin Smith in the first half. Otherwise, ugliness pervaded the field when the Packers were on defense. Stafford went nuts in throwing the football 59 times (36 completions) for a record 520 yards and five touchdowns. Calvin Johnson (11 catches, 244 yards, touchdown) was the huge beneficiary at the expense of cornerback Tramon Williams, whose coverage wasn't as bad as the numbers suggest but was simply overmatched by the towering and powerful Johnson. Johnson had eight of the Lions' 15 big-play receptions of at least 16 yards. Tight end Brandon Pettigrew (seven receptions, 116 yards) hauled in four completions of more than 20 yards. The Clay Matthews-less defense managed to end a streak of two games without a sack by dropping Stafford twice by backup linebackers Vic So'oto and Brad Jones.

RUSH DEFENSE: B — The return of veteran defensive lineman Ryan Pickett from a two-game absence because of a concussion helped improve things up front after the Packers were gashed for 139 and 199 rushing yards the previous two weeks by the Chiefs and Bears, respectively. Since they were having a field day through the air, the Lions didn't have to run the ball much. They amassed just 73 yards in 15 attempts for a 4.9 average. However, the back tandem of Smith (nine carries, 35 yards) and Maurice Morris (four carries, 13 yards) averaged a meager 3.7 yards. The only significant runs by Detroit came on end-arounds by receivers Stefan Logan and Burleson for 16 and 9 yards, respectively.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C-minus — While the Packers didn't skip a beat without Rodgers at the reins of the offense, they all but tripped over themselves not having Cobb (groin injury) available to handle the kick returns. Pat Lee, who was suspect on kickoff returns last season, proved to be a disaster from the start of Sunday's action. He muffed the game-opening kickoff in the end zone for a touchback. Two minutes later, on the next Lions kickoff, Lee mishandled the catch in the front of the end zone, gathered the football with it across the goal line and mindlessly pulled it back into the end zone and took a knee, resulting in a safety. He was promptly replaced by Saine, who didn't offer much with two runbacks for an average of 20 yards. The Packers didn't have any punt-return yards. Conversely, Green Bay's kick and coverage units did appreciably better. Erik Walden forced a turnover by stripping the football from Logan on a long kickoff return past midfield. Tim Masthay battled frigid winds in excess of 20 mph to average 44 gross yards and 42 net yards in four punts to set the team's single-season team records for punting average in both categories. Mason Crosby blasted away for five touchbacks, but the wind wreaked havoc on a 47-yard field goal that sailed wide left.

COACHING: B — Head coach Mike McCarthy played it safe by holding out the healthy likes of Rodgers, Matthews and Woodson with little on the line, and the end result couldn't have been better at least from the perspective from the once-beaten team and its record-setting offense. The Packers completed their first 15-1 season and a previously elusive season sweep of the division with the shootout victory. McCarthy didn't hold anything back in the game plan with Flynn at quarterback, and arguably the best No. 2 guy in the league responded with an unforeseen performance that bordered on epic. Even Rodgers, who was entrusted with some of the play calling early in the game, deserves credit for raising Flynn's stock in the eyes of potential suitors after this season. On the flip side, coordinator Dom Capers and his defensive staff are up against the wall the next two weeks before the team's first game in the playoffs. Green Bay allowed a season-high 575 yards and, coupled with Stafford's throwing exploits, finished the regular season as the league's worst-rated defense for total yards and passing yards.


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