Report Card: Through 16 Games

The Aaron Rodgers-led passing attack offset several deficiencies as the Packers earned the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs. Special teams was a pleasant surprise after struggling in past seasons.

PASSING OFFENSE: A-minus — Matt Flynn goes back to the bench after his record-setting performance of 480 yards and six touchdowns through the air in the comeback win over the Detroit Lions to end the regular season. In steps Aaron Rodgers again with three weeks of rest from game action and in the midst of one of the more sensational seasons by a quarterback in NFL history. Rodgers' litany of regular-season milestones included a passer rating of 122.5 (league best), 4,643 passing yards and 45 touchdown throws (both team bests). While he was accomplishing all of that, the likely league MVP had a career-low six interceptions as he completed 68.3 percent of his 502 passes in his fourth season as a starter. Green Bay's third-rated passing attack featured a breakthrough season by fourth-year pro Jordy Nelson, who had team highs for catches (68), receiving yards (1,263) and touchdowns (15). He ranked third in league for the TDs and was second with a big-play average of 18.6 yards per catch. Greg Jennings, a Pro Bowl selection along with Rodgers, had 67 receptions for 949 yards and nine touchdowns despite missing the last three games because of a torn MCL — he is back practicing and should play in Sunday's divisional-round game. Green Bay's five wideouts each had at least 25 catches for the first time in team history. Throw in tight end Jermichael Finley, who has held up for the entire season and contributed career highs with 55 receptions for 767 yards and eight TDs. Finley, however, has been the poster player with an inordinate amount of drops by the receiving corps that bogged down the occasionally unstoppable aerial show in a few games. Green Bay's pass blocking also has been up and down since early in the season, due in great part to losing veteran left tackle Chad Clifton for 10 games and also right tackle Bryan Bulaga and right guard Josh Sitton for a total of seven games. Rodgers was sacked 36 times — second highest in his starting tenure.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C-minus — No trivial source of concern for the Packers going into the postseason, especially when it may be incumbent on the offense to try to run the football if the abnormally mild January conditions in Green Bay turn nefarious this weekend and perhaps the following weekend. Green Bay finished the regular season without one game of having an individual 100-yard rusher and ranked 27th in the league with an average of 97.4 yards per game. Second-year James Starks missed three of the last four games because of an assortment of knee and ankle injuries but still led the team in rushing with 578 yards — just 38th best in the league and the worst club-leading total for the regular season since the obscure Darick Holmes had 386 in 1998. Starks (133) and Ryan Grant (134), who missed one game in Week 4 because of a kidney injury, were even with the carries in the two-back rotation employed when both were healthy. Grant mustered just 559 yards in his comeback from playing in only one game in 2010 (ruptured ankle), but the fifth-year veteran might have rediscovered his explosiveness in recent weeks with a 47-yard touchdown run in the Dec. 11 rout of the Oakland Raiders and an 80-yard burst to paydirt on a screen pass from Flynn the last time out. Versatile fullback John Kuhn earned his first Pro Bowl selection but averaged only 2.6 yards in situational carries, though he had a team-high four touchdowns on the ground. Rodgers' mobility and fearlessness to take off on broken pass players resulted in 257 yards — he also had three touchdowns. The Packers lost promising rookie Alex Green to a season-ending knee injury in Week 7. The injuries across the line also affected the effectiveness of the run blocking, but center Scott Wells remained a rock and notched a Pro Bowl nod for the first time.

PASS DEFENSE: C-minus — The Packers led the league with 31 interceptions, the team's highest output since 1962, and returned four of those for touchdowns. The penchant for takeaways helped mitigate what otherwise has been an atrocious showing by the pass defense since the start of the season. Green Bay was never higher than 30th in the 32-team league for passing yards allowed in any week and finished the regular season at rock bottom, allowing a league-record 4,796 net passing yards (average of 299.8 per game). Opponents exploited a secondary that was without Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins, who suffered a career-threatening neck injury in Week 2, and capitalized on an insufficient pass rush (29 sacks) to burn the Packers deep for by the team count was 76 pass plays of at least 20 yards — second highest in the league. Outside linebacker Clay Matthews, picked to the Pro Bowl for the third time in as many pro seasons, has played well this season but managed just six sacks to lead the team with no help on the other side to draw extra attention from him. Veteran cornerback Charles Woodson, also a repeat Pro Bowl honoree, continued to set the tone for the team's NFL-high-tying 38 takeaways with seven interceptions to sit atop the league list.

RUSH DEFENSE: C — Green Bay was solid gold against the run three weeks into the season, leading the league after giving up a total of only 165 yards, including a stingy 13 against Matt Forte and the Bears. From that point, however, it was a gradual descent for the Packers to almost the middle of the league pack. Opponents cracked the century mark in 10 of the final 13 games, topped by the Vikings' 218 in Week 7 and the Forte-less Bears' 199 in the Week 16 rematch, and Green Bay finished 14th in the league rankings with an average of 111.8 yards allowed per game. Besides losing the hard-hitting Collins for the long term, the Packers had to cope without their tackles-heavy tandem of Desmond Bishop (team-leading 142) and A.J. Hawk (104) at inside linebacker for a brief stretch in late November/early December because of calf injuries and run-stuffing defensive lineman Ryan Pickett for two games late in the regular season because of a concussion. All three players are healthy for the playoffs. The Packers will need better production in the playoffs from talented nose tackle B.J. Raji, who had only 43 tackles but was named to his first Pro Bowl a season after he had a career-high 66 tackles.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A-minus — An Achilles' heel for the Packers in recent years has turned out to be integral to their nearly impeccable season heretofore. Mason Crosby, who came in with a subpar field-goal percentage of 78.1 his first four regular seasons in the league, connected on 24 of his 28 attempts for a career-best mark of 85.7 percent. He tied his own team record with a 56-yard field goal in Week 5 at Atlanta and then broke it two weeks later with a 58-yard boot in the dome at Minnesota. Crosby benefited from the potent offense with a league-high 68 extra points and finished with 140 points (fourth in league), one short of his team record in his 2007 rookie season. Crosby and punter Tim Masthay, supported by better coverage units, more often than not tilted field position in Green Bay's favor. Crosby swung away for 49 touchbacks (third in league). Masthay, whose 55 punts were the fewest for the team in a 16-game schedule, overcame a slow start in his second pro season and set team records for gross average (45.6 yards) and net average (38.6 yards). He placed 19 of his 34 punts in the last 10 games inside the opponent's 20-yard line and had a career-long 71-yard punt in Week 15 at Kansas City. Randall Cobb, the team's second-round draft pick in 2011, provided a spark for the once-pedestrian return units from opening night with a league-record-tying 108-yard kickoff runback for a touchdown in the shootout win over the Saints and later scoring on an 80-yard punt return in Week 10 against the Vikings. Cobb averaged 27.7 and 11.3 yards on kickoffs and punts, respectively. However, the rookie has been prone to literally dropping the ball on fielding kicks with three fumbles, including two in punt situations. Opponents averaged 12.7 yards on punt returns, a number inflated by Darren Sproles' 72-yard touchdown for the Saints in Week 1.

COACHING: B — Mike McCarthy is just the sixth coach in NFL lore to lead a team to a record of no worse than 15-1 in the 34 years of having a 16-game schedule. The most prolific regular season in 93 seasons of professional football in Green Bay included a 13-0 start. The Packers also racked up a team-record 560 points (second highest in NFL history) for a league-leading average of 35 points per game this season. While McCarthy was the play caller for the league's No. 3 offense (average of 405.1 yards per game), coordinator Dom Capers has the dubious distinction of being at the controls of the league's worst defense (average of 411.6 total yards allowed per contest). Green Bay's ability to advance the next two weeks and return to the Super Bowl to vie for a second straight title will likely hinge on whether Capers and his staff can coax better results from their unit. What has been top notch for the Packers across the board has been their discipline — 76 penalties (tied for the league low) and 591 penalty yards (No. 2 in the league) are the fewest by the team in a 16-game season.


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