Report card vs. Cowboys

Pass defense fails the test; Romo barely touched by Packers

PASSING OFFENSE: B-minus -- The painful sight of Brett Favre's absorbing a hit to his right elbow and subsequently leaving the game for good early in the second quarter notwithstanding, the offense was better off with Aaron Rodgers at the helm.

Favre's heir apparent nearly led Green Bay from a 27-10 deficit by directing two long touchdown drives, during which he completed 11 straight passes and exhibited veteran-esque poise in the face of continued pressure by the Dallas rush. Rodgers executed a no-risk, short-pass attack with ease, going 18-of-26 for 201 yards and a passer rating of 104.8. He relied on the likes of Greg Jennings, Donald Driver and tight end Donald Lee to churn out substantial gains after the catch.

Before Rodgers' rare entrance, however, constant duress and poor protection by the offensive line conspired to turn Favre's splendid streak of five straight games with a passer rating of at least 100 into a career-worst efficiency rating of 8.9. Favre completed just five of 14 throws for 56 yards and was intercepted twice, both caused in part by at least five knockdowns he endured.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- If not for a 62-yard dash to the end zone late in the first quarter, Ryan Grant would have barely edged Rodgers as the team's rushing leader. Nevertheless, Grant's one big run of the night in 14 carries - he finished with 94 yards -- had the makings of being a game changer, as it pulled the Packers within 13-10 before things unraveled with Favre's injury and defensive blunders the next five minutes.

Fullback John Kuhn led Grant into the middle of the line on the third-and-1 play with a big block on linebacker Akin Ayodele, and center Scott Wells and right guard Jason Spitz worked in tandem to seal off the strong side and give Grant a nice crease through which to slip to the second level. Grant was in the clear once safeties Ken Hamlin and Roy Williams closed on each other, instead of the ball carrier.

Kuhn also had the lead block on Grant's 1-yard TD off tackle in the third quarter. Grant, though, was stuffed for no gain on third-and-1 in the fourth quarter.

Rodgers was fearless in moving out of the pocket and scrambling for big chunks of yardage, totaling 30 yards in five runs.

PASS DEFENSE: F -- No Charles Woodson in uniform, thanks to a sore big toe, underscored the problems for a secondary that was out of sorts and offered next to no resistance to Dallas' array of shifts, motions and crosses.

Al Harris was horrendous, even only as a part-time primary cover guy on the ever-moving Terrell Owens, who won the big matchup of the game in a landslide with seven catches for 156 yards. Owens should have had two touchdown receptions but juggled one in the end zone into the hands of Harris.

Jarrett Bush, Woodson's starting replacement, was pathetic. He was overmatched by Patrick Crayton and tight end Anthony Fasano, committed a pass-interference penalty on Miles Austin a deep pass inside the Packers' 10 and was pulled from the game in the second quarter.

Strong safety Atari Bigby was brutal, be it trying to keep up with Jason Witten in a huge second half for the safety, failing to pick up Crayton on a third-and-19 conversion and not helping elsewhere in coverage.

Tramon Williams, who replaced Bush, was flagged for a questionable pass-interference penalty on Austin down near the goal line, setting up a pivotal touchdown midway through the fourth quarter to keep the Packers at bay.

Also to blame was an unusually dearth of a pass rush - Tony Romo was sacked zero times.

RUSH DEFENSE: C -- Tackle Ryan Pickett was stout against the run, highlighted by a takedown of Julius Jones on fourth-and-2 early in the third quarter to augment the momentum for the comeback from the 17-point deficit.

Jones, in fact, was a nonfactor as the starting back, held to 26 yards in nine carries.

Marion Barber, on the other hand, excelled where he typically does best, late in the game grinding out yards in a decisive late series by the Cowboys that yielded a field goal to create the final 10-point spread.

Bigby aided the cause with his second blatant face-mask penalty of the game, with the extra 15 yards getting Nick Folk in range for the three points. Barber pounded out an average of 4.8 yards in his 17 rushes, pushing Dallas over 100 yards on the ground.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C-minus -- Texas native Mason Crosby came through for several family members and friends in attendance by splitting the uprights from 47 and 52 yards.

Jon Ryan averaged 49.7 gross and 46.3 net on his punts, including a 57-yard blast that he placed inside the 5, though Tracy White nearly pushed it across the goal line.

Otherwise, the special-teams units faltered. Crosby had to make two tackles on long returns by Austin, who averaged 27.7 yards.

Green Bay had nothing to show on its eight kickoff returns. Kuhn's left arm got in the way of the bouncing football to thwart the likely recovery of a sneaky onside kick late in the first quarter with the Cowboys ahead 13-10.

COACHING: D -- Head coach/play caller Mike McCarthy inexplicably deviated from the tried-and-true, quick-release, dink-and-dunk pass attack by having Favre throw deep time after time early in the game, often into double coverage.

The Cowboys' dominance of the Green Bay offensive line was palpable from the outset, but McCarthy insisted on spreading things out and ultimately left Favre as a sitting duck to be wounded in an empty backfield on the unattended blitz. The saving grace was Rodgers. He was well-prepared to run the offense and nearly pulled off an improbable comeback win.

The defensive backs, minus Woodson, were inadequately prepped to play zone coverage. The team's propensity this season for committing untimely, stupid penalties finally caught up to it, as it was cited nine times for walk-offs amounting to 142 yards.

A young squad showed grit in climbing out of the big hole without veteran leader Favre, but the loss likely cost the Packers home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs, which would be huge in January.


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