Report card vs. Cardinals

Packers get bunch of A's, including an A-plus for rushing offense

Thanks in great part to the effectiveness of the running game, Brett Favre wasn't asked to do much. His 25 pass attempts were his fewest since Week 3 last season, and his 180 passing yards were the second lowest of the season. Favre, though, had his second-highest efficient performance of 2006, with a 102.1 passer rating as he completed 17 of the throws without an interception for the third straight game. Favre was off the mark on a handful of short and intermediate passes over the middle and to the outside. Still, he managed with a depleted cast of receivers, which was without an injured Greg Jennings.

Undrafted rookie Chris Francies drew pass-interference penalties by cornerback Antrel Rolle on back-to-back plays in the first quarter that set up a 1-yard touchdown pass from Favre to tight end David Martin. Ruvell Martin, starting in place of Jennings, coaxed a pass-interference penalty that preceded a 1-yard TD keeper by Favre in the third quarter. David Martin and fullback Brandon Miree offset the limited natural receivers with four catches apiece. Overlooked in the big rushing day was the offensive line's keeping Favre sack-less for the third time in the last five games.

Shades of 2003, when the Packers ranked third in the league with an average of 159.9 rushing yards per game? Indeed. Building off a breakthrough 155-yard effort the previous week against Miami, Green Bay was hitting on all cylinders in rolling up 203 yards -- its highest output since November 2004. The total was actually brought down some by an 11-yard loss for punter/holder Jon Ryan on a bungled fake field goal and three negative runs credited to Favre, including two kneel-downs. Otherwise, Ahman Green, Vernand Morency and Noah Herron combined for 219 yards in only 34 carries -- a gaudy average of 6.4 yards.

Green and Morency, in particular, ran at will and often were beyond the second level because of precise blocking from the linemen, tight ends and fullback in the zone scheme. The backside cuts were plentiful for Green, who ran for 106 yards in 21 carries with two short touchdowns. Morency was equally decisive and displayed his exceptional burst in churning out a career-high 101 yards in all of 11 attempts -- highlighted by gains of 23 and 36 yards in the first half. The Packers had two 100-yard efforts in the same game for the first time since 1985.

For all the talk about Matt Leinart's playing beyond his rookie year, the league's worst pass defense brought him down to earth. Leinart was out of sync from the outset. He didn't complete a pass until early in the second quarter and finished a dismal 14-of-35 for 157 yards. The defense rarely went all out in pressuring him, but the blitzes were timed just right and disrupted Leinart's ability to get the ball out in a hurry with accuracy. He was sacked four times.

Aaron Kampman has set himself apart as the playmaker of the defensive line, getting to Leinart twice in a third-quarter series to set a career high with 8 1/2 sacks. Kampman had three total hits on Leinart.

Cornerback Al Harris blanketed Anquan Boldin for most of the game, holding him to four catches for 47 yards. Harris, though, committed another holding penalty, which aided the Cardinals in a second-half touchdown drive.

Linebacker A.J. Hawk also had a costly face-mask penalty in the first half that fueled Arizona's other scoring possession. Cornerback Charles Woodson gamely played on after suffering an early knee injury and gave up just one catch to Bryant Johnson and glided in front of Johnson for a late interception, Woodson's second in as many games.

The Packers, as expected, received a heavy dose of Edgerrin James. Like the teams that played Arizona before them, the Packers corralled James, who rushed for only 84 yards. The Cardinals' retooled offensive line couldn't get a push between the tackles. James' two longest runs were for 9 and 7 yards on plays that started to the outside. Kampman and tackle Colin Cole controlled the line as James averaged but 3.5 yards in 24 carries. The Packers extended their streak of not allowing a 100-yard rusher to eight games, dating to the end of last season.

Big gains are slowly but surely coming on punt returns. Woodson averaged 12.3 yards in three runbacks and exhibited a knack for slipping the first would-be tackler.

Recently signed rookie receiver Shaun Bodiford filled in on a moment's notice for Woodson after he was injured and showed that he has a natural feel for picking his spots and getting upfield quickly with a 16-yard return. Bodiford is in line to be the top kickoff returner with Morency out indefinitely because of a back injury.

Jon Ryan didn't have to punt until the fourth quarter and continued to swing away with an average of 53.5 yards in two kicks. The net average of 42 was appreciably better than it had been this season. Ryan, though, was caught in no-man's land on the fake field goal in the Packers' first possession of the game. Kicker Dave Rayner failed to call off the fake when the Cardinals showed a look the Packers weren't expecting in the fourth-and-1 situation. Consequently, tight end Bubba Franks had no chance to reach cornerback Eric Green shooting to the outside.

Save for the mindless call with the fake field goal, considering the Packers were in a fourth-and-inches situation, Mike McCarthy has orchestrated two solid games in consecutive weeks. The commitment from Day 1 to the running game is finally paying off. Given a spate of hardships at the receiver position, the coaches have done a remarkable job to get young players such as Ruvell Martin and Francies up to speed in a short time to handle extensive roles on game day. Perhaps the limitations with personnel has made the offense more cognizant of protecting the football. The Packers didn't have a turnover for the first time in 17 games. Although Miami and Arizona don't have high-caliber offenses, subtle adjustments made with the coverage schemes seemingly has the defense turning the corner, too. At least the big pass plays aren't off the charts anymore.

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