Report card vs. Rams

Here are the grades for the Green Bay Packers in the wake of their 23-20 loss to the St. Louis Rams on Sunday at Lambeau Field:

A game that seemed destined to end with a dramatic victory instead finished with another loss because of blown protection in the final minute. Rookie right guard Tony Moll's missed block on a stunt prevented Brett Favre from stepping up to avoid back-side pressure by Leonard Little, who stripped the football and sealed the St. Louis victory deep in Rams territory. It was the only glaring protection flaw by the line. The only other sack of Favre was a coverage sack when he rolled out and ultimately slipped.

Favre, meanwhile, was off his game throwing the football. He completed only 22 of 39 passes for 220 yards and frequently was off the mark, including a deep slant thrown behind rookie Greg Jennings in the third quarter.

Donald Driver valiantly played with a sore side but was ineffective, catching just three passes for 24 yards.

Jennings, though, is proving to be the real deal in his debut season. He streaked behind cornerback Tye Hill for a 46-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter that started what should have been a big comeback win and finished with five receptions for 105 yards.

Koren Robinson had an extensive role in the offense for the first time in four games and converted third downs with three of his four catches.

Ahman Green could be old news in Green Bay soon if he can't overcome the hamstring injuries that have sidelined him the last two games. His replacements aren't too shabby, and Noah Herron figures to be in the best shape of them all after capitalizing on Vernand Morency's ball-handling problems.

Herron stepped up in the final three-plus quarters and ran with purpose in gaining a career-high 106 yards on 20 carries for a robust average of 5.3 yards per tote. It helped that the line was in sync and creating gaping holes.

Morency, who churned out 99 yards in the previous game, lost his hold on the featured role after fumbling the ball away in the first series and almost turning it over again in the subsequent possession. That's three miscues in the last two games.

On the surface, seeing that Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce were held to a combined five catches for 63 yards speaks well for the coverage primarily applied by Al Harris and Charles Woodson, respectively. Yet, the outcome was decided in the second half because the plethora of explosive plays that has been the bane of the season thus far reared its ugly head again.

After not giving up one pass of at least 16 yards in the first 30 minutes, the Packers were hit for six by six different receivers in the final two periods.

Harris, who was beaten early in the game on a 6-yard slant from Marc Bulger to Holt for a touchdown, had the biggest blunder of the game, at least from a defensive standpoint. He dropped a pass right at his numbers that would have been a sure 95-yard return for a touchdown late in the third quarter with the Rams up 17-13.

Linebacker A.J. Hawk and Woodson also let go of would-be picks. Patrick Dendy was serviceable as the replacement nickel back for the deposed Ahmad Carroll.

Not unlike the pass coverage, it was a tale of two halves in how the defense handled Steven Jackson. The line was stout and the pursuit of the linebackers on par as Jackson managed just 27 yards in eight carries in the first half. Thereafter, however, the line was overmatched, and the linebackers, particularly Brady Poppinga and A.J. Hawk, were slow in getting to Jackson coming around the corner. Jackson had two big runs of 14 and 10 yards on successive plays in the third quarter to soften the defense and totaled 98 yards in 23 carries.

Kicker Dave Rayner and punter Jon Ryan had their first encounter with the famously gusty fall conditions at Lambeau Field, and the results were a mixed bag. With the wind in excess of 20 mph behind him in the second quarter, Rayner's 45-yard field-goal attempt sailed left. The miss turned out to be the difference in the final score.

The strong-legged Ryan had two sub-par kicks of 39 and 37 yards into the wind and then fired away with the wind at his back for boots of 66 and 53 yards. The net suffered greatly on the 39-yard punt because the line drive gave Shaun McDonald ample room to return it 28 yards. Big-play runs from Woodson on punt returns and Robinson on kickoff returns have yet to materialize.

Miscommunication on the field has been at the heart of the huge plays given up by the defense on a weekly basis. As perplexing has been the lax communication from the sideline to the field that has resulted in several substitution situations the last few weeks in which the defense has had 12 or 10 men on the field. It happened three times Sunday, the first of which incidentally forced the Rams to spend a timeout because they evidently didn't have a play called for a 10-man alignment.

Mike McCarthy, for a change, was true to staying committed to the running game, going with a pass-run ratio of 20-18 in the first half. In the second half, though, Herron had only seven carries after a 73-yard effort before halftime. The bye week comes at a critical time for the coaching staff, which has a 1-4 season to try to salvage.

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