Report card vs. Vikings

High marks across board for Packers in season-opening victory

PASSING OFFENSE: A -- Brett Favre had as few as 22 pass attempts as the starting quarterback in the Packers' previous 15 season openers only twice. Like Favre in those economical showings, Aaron Rodgers came out a winner in his pressure-packed starting debut as the successor to the league's only three-time MVP.

Rodgers was sharp, going 18-for-22 for 178 yards and a touchdown without an interception. He completed his last 10 passes, going all the way back to the second quarter. The streak should have been 11, but a laser throw from Rodgers and a big run after the catch by Donald Driver for a 68-yard touchdown in the third quarter was erased by a questionable ineligible-man-downfield penalty on right guard Tony Moll.

Rodgers, who released the ball quickly and settled on his checkdowns, didn't have to give his arm a deep-ball workout, though he hit Greg Jennings on the fly with a 56-yard pass in the second quarter. Shortly after that big play, Rodgers did a little Favre-esque improv by dancing away from pressure in the pocket and threading a one-yard touchdown throw to diving fullback Korey Hall.

Jennings led a short-handed receiving group, missing No. 3 James Jones, with five receptions for 91 yards. The pass blocking of the offensive line was superb, as it kept Jared Allen and the rest of the Vikings' formidable front from sacking Rodgers. The line, though, was guilty of eight penalties (six enforced).

RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- Ryan Grant wasn't 100 percent with a sore hamstring that kept him from carrying the football once in the preseason, but the late-season sensation from 2007 came through when the Packers needed a big play down the stretch Monday.

Held to only 35 yards in his first 11 touches by the Vikings' No. 1 run defense of 2007, Grant ripped off a 57-yard gain midway through the fourth quarter. He favored the leg by not cutting loose on the run, which kept him short of the end zone.

Rodgers, though, followed with a clinching one-yard touchdown sneak. The mobile quarterback picked up the slack when Grant was spelled on occasion, picking up 35 yards on eight carries.

Brandon Jackson was ineffective running the football as Grant's understudy, averaging a paltry 1.7 yards on seven rushes.

PASS DEFENSE: B-minus -- Minnesota QB Tarvaris Jackson had unappealing numbers (16-for-35, 178 yards), but he nearly rallied the Vikings to victory after they trailed by 12 with six minutes to play by making a handful of clutch throws and inflicting more damage by pulling the ball down and taking off.

Jackson's ill-advised throw down the sideline and instinctive reaction by safety Atari Bigby to cut underneath for an interception in Packers territory in the final minute saved the day for Green Bay.

The Packers were prone to coverage penalties. The pass rush, which had numerous blitzes employed, produced only one sack, by end Aaron Kampman. Linebacker Brady Poppinga let an interception escape his clutches.

RUSH DEFENSE: B -- The Packers' front line, a source of great concern entering the season after run-stuffing tackle Ryan Pickett missed the entire preseason because of a hamstring injury, needed a quarter to get settled in.

After the electric Adrian Peterson had his way in that initial period with five carries for 61 yards, highlighted by a 34-yarder when he expertly bounced to the outside and outran three defenders, he mustered just 42 yards in his last 14 attempts.

While Minnesota's puzzling play-calling in keeping Peterson from getting to the outside was of help, the Packers shored up their gap assignments. The linebackers were relentless in pursuit, with A.J. Hawk (10), Nick Barnett (8) and Poppinga (6) ranking 1-2-3 on the team's tackles chart.

Jackson's elusiveness on broken plays -- he had 65 yards on nine carries -- boosted Minnesota's rushing output to 187 yards (5.7 yards-per-carry average).

SPECIAL TEAMS: A -- Will Blackmon, if he can finally stay healthy after two injury-plagued years, has to be taken seriously as a home-run threat on kick returns. He returned a third-quarter punt 76 yards for a touchdown to give the Packers some needed breathing room with a 17-6 lead.

As vital as Blackmon's speed and awareness were to the play, the blocks were aplenty, culminating with Jason Hunter's open-field clearance of Chad Greenway to spring Blackmon the last 25 yards.

Blackmon averaged 26 yards in three punt returns and 23 yards in three kickoff returns, sharing the duties with rookie receiver Jordy Nelson.

The coverage units were outstanding -- the Vikings averaged all of 3.3 yards on punt returns and 20 yards on kickoff returns.

The only discernible breakdown in the retooled kicking operation of long snapper Brett Goode, punter/holder Derrick Frost and kicker Mason Crosby was a low kick by Crosby on a 33-yard field-goal attempt that was blocked to end the first half.

Frost, meanwhile, was as good as advertised as a directional punter, finishing with a net of 42.6 yards that wasn't far off the gross average of 45.2 in five kicks.

COACHING: A-minus -- Rodgers' bright beginning is an extension of head coach/play-caller Mike McCarthy's game management in not trying to overload the first-time starter but also putting him in low-risk, high-reward situations.

Rodgers, 14 years the junior of the 38-year-old Favre, clearly is more fleet of foot than his predecessor. So, the frequency of getting Rodgers moving out of the pocket should be a staple of the game plan.

Bob Sanders' defense, which was riddled by key injuries throughout the preseason, did enough to contain Peterson and not let Jackson become an unlikely hero at the end of the game. Mike Stock has his special-teams units hitting on all cylinders.

On the negative side, 12 penalties for 118 yards as a team isn't a good starting point for a coaching staff that demands discipline.

Also, McCarthy drew the ire of the Lambeau Field fans when he chose to exhaust the clock by about 25 seconds on third down at the Vikings' 15 with a timeout in hand and have Crosby kick the field goal that was blocked before halftime.


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