Report card vs. Seahawks

Rush offense, rush defense and coaching at their best in playoff victory

PASSING OFFENSE: A -- The game plan - and snowy conditions as the game wore on - dictated the employment of the five-wide formation only two times.

A would-be third scenario, in which tight end Donald Lee motioned into the backfield, resulted in the defining play of Brett Favre's mastery in this game. Favre wiggled out of a sure sack, stumbled forward and made an underhand flip to seemingly no one in particular, but a wide-open Lee caught it in the flat and picked up 11 yards on third-and-8 deep in Seattle territory to set up a pivotal touchdown before halftime. It was one of six straight third-down conversions for Favre through the air until the fourth quarter.

Receiver James Jones cashed in the first third-down try with a big run after the catch for 31 yards, Favre's longest completion on an economically productive 18-of-23, 173-yard, three-touchdown, no-interception day.

Greg Jennings added to his season-long reputation as a game-breaker with two TD receptions, cleverly maneuvering to the inside of cornerback Kelly Jennings on a 15-yard fade for the first score.

Given what he did in the final 58 minutes, 51 seconds running the football, Ryan Grant's fumble on the first play of the game as he tried to gather himself after slipping on a swing pass was excused. Right tackle Mark Tauscher needed little help to shut out end Patrick Kerney, whose name is conspicuously missing from the stats sheet.

RUSHING OFFENSE: A-plus -- Take away Grant's second run of the game, when he committed fumble No. 2 because he ran high with the ball unprotected on an open-field hit by safety Brian Russell, the first-year back was magnificent. He rewarded the faith head coach Mike McCarthy had in sticking with him after the two costly miscues by turning into a human snowplow against a helpless Seattle defense. He ripped off runs of 26 and 15 yards on a decent surface in the first half, then motored for gains of 24 and 43 yards on a caked track in the third quarter.

Grant exited as the team's record holder for a playoff game with 201 yards (in 27 carries) and three touchdowns on the ground. Rookie Brandon Jackson chipped in with 34 yards to give the offense a season-high total of 235 - and 452 rushing yards in the last two games.

A once-shaky interior of the line has taken hold with the return of Daryn Colledge to left guard and the improved health of right guard Jason Spitz. Not that Tauscher needed any help on the outside against the likes of Kerney, but tight end Bubba Franks was a big asset in providing occasional double teams to seal off the front side of run plays.

Fullbacks Korey Hall and John Kuhn paved the way out of frequent formations using the I or inverted wishbone.

PASS DEFENSE: B-plus -- The Seahawks predictably became one-dimensional by late in the first quarter, and they more often than not were no match for Green Bay's defense, especially when the playing conditions worsened. Matt Hasselbeck completed only 19 of 33 passes for 194 yards, the bulk of the Seattle offense.

Some of the inefficiency was due to unusually steady pressure applied by a defense that had gone sackless in four of its previous five games. Lineman Cullen Jenkins awoke from a season-long slumber with 1.5 sacks, with Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila sharing in one.

The cornerback combination of Al Harris (two), Charles Woodson (one) and Tramon Williams (one) combined for four pass breakups. Strong safety Atari Bigby was a man possessed, getting in a few good licks, none bigger than blowing up tight end Marcus Pollard in the flat to force a fumble on the first play of the second quarter - the only Seattle turnover that the Green Bay offense quickly turned into a go-ahead touchdown.

Still, the Packers were susceptible to a handful of big throws from Hasselbeck. They dropped downfield containment on both Bobby Engram and Ben Obomanu, who each had more than 60 receiving yards with Engram's splitting Woodson and free safety Nick Collins in the back of the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown. Green Bay benefited from at least five dropped passes, including a ball through the hands of Pollard standing open in the end zone that would have pulled Seattle within striking distance at 35-24 late in the third quarter.

RUSH DEFENSE: A-plus -- Facing Seattle's anemic running game was the pick-me-up Green Bay's previously lethargic run defense needed. The only Seahawks run of significance was their first - a 1-yard touchdown for Shaun Alexander right after the first fumble by counterpart Grant. Otherwise, the former league MVP was a non-factor when his number was called, mustering but 20 yards in nine carries.

Green Bay's revitalized front seven, which welcomed back nose tackle Ryan Pickett after a two-game absence to rest a sore groin, yielded only 28 rushing yards (a season low) and a per-carry average of a minuscule 1.6 yards. Pickett, Corey Williams and rookie Justin Harrell (three tackles) were active in the middle of the line.

Bigby, who had a team-high seven tackles, and linebacker Nick Barnett were on the ball in support.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B-minus -- Thanks to the proficiency of the offense and the dominance of the defense after the turnover-plagued first five minutes, the Packers' generally solid third phase wasn't needed for a huge play.

The coverage units, however, were stellar. Seattle averaged only 15 yards with ample kick-return opportunities, as Mason Crosby failed to reach the end zone with any of his kickoffs.

Jon Ryan didn't have to punt until the fourth quarter, averaging just 35 yards gross and 28.3 net.

Tramon Williams nearly turned a kickoff return early in the game into a lot more than the 32 yards he picked up.

Jackson broke free on a rush up the middle but somehow missed the football on a block attempt and bowled over punter Ryan Plackemeier to keep alive a second-quarter Seahawks drive that ended with a field goal.

COACHING: A-plus -- A stickler for fundamental perfection, McCarthy made a bold, but prudent move in not banishing Grant to the sideline after his two early fumbles. Grant's emergence the second half of the season was a big reason Green Bay attained lofty status, so McCarthy remained firmly behind him, especially when Grant was a vital part of a superbly crafted game plan that emphasized the run.

Having no knowledge beforehand that the weather conditions would turn snowy, McCarthy came in all but abandoning the staple five-receiver sets in an effort to counteract Seattle's attacking fronts with a surplus of protection for both the run and the pass. It was McCarthy's day to shine in his playoff debut as a head coach, doing so at the expense of onetime Green Bay coaching wizard Mike Holmgren.

The best coaching job, though, was across the board in keeping a predominantly new cast of playoff participants from cracking when the score was working against them at 14-0 in the early going. The overall resolve will help going into the team's first NFC Championship appearance in a decade.


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