Report card vs. Cowboys

Run defense gets a near-failing grade among all positions

PASSING OFFENSE: C-minus -- Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was brought back to earth after a pair of stellar outings to begin his starting career. He has yet to have a pass intercepted this season, but the controlled, pinpoint accuracy of the previous games escaped him at crucial times Sunday night. Rodgers completed 22 of 39 passes and wound up throwing for 290 yards.

Porous pass protection against Dallas' reckless 3-4 front played a part, with Rodgers' being sacked five times and tackled on the run several more times. The evolvement of Rodgers and Greg Jennings as one of the more dynamic pass-catch combos in the league continued with Jennings' turning eight short to intermediate throws into 115 yards.

Donald Driver also was big after the catch - he broke open downfield for a 50-yard grab and had four receptions for 76 yards.

Drops continue to be an issue for the receiving corps, which had to carry on with only three wideouts most of the night because of an aggravated knee injury for James Jones.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D -- Ryan Grant's fumble and giveaway on the second play of the game - when he exposed the football for a straight-on hit by Adam Jones - was the precursor to another rough go by the run offense. The Packers had a season-low 84 yards on the ground, with no run in the "explosive" double digits.

Grant still was limited to no more than 15 carries because of lingering hamstring soreness and mustered just 54 yards in 13 attempts.

Brandon Jackson made some inroads in relief of Grant in the second half but was given the ball only three times, averaging 6.7 yards.

PASS DEFENSE: C -- The loss of cornerback Al Harris to a reported spleen injury for the final three quarters didn't really have a bearing on how the Cowboys went through the air in the second half to pull away on the scoreboard.

For the commendable job Charles Woodson did on Terrell Owens (two catches for 17 yards) much of the game - an assignment switch that surfaced during the practice week - the Packers let the unheralded Miles Austin torment them. Austin's only two receptions were game-breakers - a 63-yard catch-and-go at the expense of safety Nick Collins that set up a third-quarter touchdown and a 52-yard TD behind nickel back Tramon Williams in the final quarter.

Patrick Crayton (zero catches) also was a non-factor in the passing game for Dallas, but the tight ends were integral for Tony Romo, who frequently turned to safety valve Jason Witten for third-down conversions.

Collins had a big interception of an underthrown Romo pass for Witten in the end zone and 61-yard return, leading to a field goal.

Green Bay's defense can hang its hat on generating constant pressure on Romo, strictly with its front four. Cullen Jenkins and Aaron Kampman evenly combined for the Packers' three sacks of the previously sackless Romo.

RUSH DEFENSE: D-minus -- The Packers will close the first quarter of the season trying to pick up the pieces from their pitiful performance against the Cowboys' rushing attack. Aside from Romo's kneel-down at the end of the game, the Cowboys had only three runs, out of 34, that went for no gain as they piled up 217 yards.

Marion Barber (28 carries for 142 yards) battered the defense early and often, breaking a slew of tackles to soften things up for the speedy Felix Jones to rip off a 60-yard, go-ahead touchdown run in the second quarter.

Woodson whiffed on a tackle attempt of Jones, and Charlie Peprah took a bad angle down field.

Green Bay was a mess up front with its gap assignments against the Cowboys' hulking line.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C-minus -- Not much to write home about for the second straight game, other than Mason Crosby's connecting on all three of his field-goal attempts and driving three kickoffs into the end zone (one touchback).

Will Blackmon was stifled for the second straight game after his splash to start the season with a 76-yard punt return for a touchdown. He averaged only 6 yards in two punt returns and combined with Jordy Nelson for a meager average of 16.2 yards on kickoff returns. Blackmon and Nelson also had a miscommunication on fielding a kickoff.

Derrick Frost had gaudy averages for his five punts (49.0 gross, 42.4 net), but his hang time lagged and he put one placement kick into the end zone.

The Packers did keep the Cowboys' Jones' - Felix (average of 24.5 yards on kickoffs) and Adam (4.3 average on punts) - from doing any damage on returns.

COACHING: C -- Two significant alterations to the defensive game plan - Woodson's getting the one-on-one nod over Harris on Owens and Brandon Chillar's plugged in at strong-side linebacker over coverage-maligned Brady Poppinga - reflected the coaches' desire to stop Dallas' high-powered passing attack. The amended plan did some good, particularly with Woodson's effort on Owens, but the extra attention paid to the pass seemingly took away some of the focus of the defense on stopping the run. The Packers were fundamentally flawed in that regard and have a lot of correcting to do this week.

The Green Bay coaches will have to accept that the Cowboys are the better team right now and strive in the ensuing weeks to narrow the pronounced gap in case a rematch comes to pass in the postseason.


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