Packers vs. Lions report card

Green Bay receives mostly high grades after finishing the season with a 31-21 victory over Detroit.

Aaron Rodgers finished a solid debut season as a starter with a flurry. His passer rating was a career-best 132.2 on the strength of 21-of-31 accuracy for 308 yards, a personal-high tying three touchdowns and no interceptions. The completion percentage would have been off the charts if not for seven drops, including an uncharacteristic four by top receiver Greg Jennings. Previously under fire for not being able to come through at crunch time of close games, Rodgers shot back with the team's longest pass play of 2008, a laser that traveled 50 yards in the air to Donald Driver, who covered the rest for a 71-yard touchdown that delivered the final knockout to the 0-16 Lions with 7 minutes to play in what was a three-point game at the time.

Driver (six catches, 111 yards) and Jennings (five catches, 101 yards) had 100-yard performances. Rookie tight end Jermichael Finley finally let his play do the talking after he had taken issue with his involvement in the offense and questioned Rodgers' throwing abilities earlier in the season. Finley pulled down a 3-yard fade pass for an early touchdown and had a 26-yard catch on downfield lob later in the game. Rodgers was sacked four times behind a makeshift offensive line that was shuffled some more on two occasions in the game because of injuries.

Identical 106-yard outputs by Ryan Grant and previously maligned DeShawn Wynn boosted the Packers' struggling run game to a season-high 211 yards, which reflected well on an O-line in a state of flux.

Wynn, filling the No. 2 role for the second straight game in place of an injured Brandon Jackson, needed only seven carries to realize his first 100-yard game. In one fell swoop, he broke away for a 73-yard touchdown (Green Bay's longest run of 2008) in the first quarter. Daryn Colledge, the normal starting left guard making his first pro start at right tackle, sprung Wynn by sealing off a defender on the outside in the open field. Wynn received a blocking escort to the end zone from Driver the last few yards. Grant broke out of a mini-slump by averaging 5.6 yards in 19 carries. He made amends for losing a fumble for the first time since Week 4 by turning his next carry in the third quarter into a would-be 80-yard touchdown — the call was overturned when Grant was determined to have hit the ground on a tackle, leaving him with a 21-yard gain.

Cornerback Al Harris ended this season not unlike how he finished the 2007 campaign trying to defend the New York Giants' Plaxico Burress in the NFC championship game — with a troubling thud. In what might have been Harris' last game as a Packer, he was torched by hulking receiver Calvin Johnson (nine catches, 102 yards, two touchdowns) and even John Standeford (three catches, 82 yards), no less imposing for his height but certainly not in the league of Johnson. Harris allowed a 9-yard touchdown catch by Johnson in the second quarter. The results were far worse when Harris was moved to shadow Standeford, who had fourth-quarter receptions of 35, 36 and 11 yards at the expense of the lackadaisical Harris.

Covering up Harris' misdeeds were the usual Pro Bowl ball-hawking antagonists of cornerback Charles Woodson and safety Nick Collins, who stayed in step with each another with their seventh interceptions to finish the season tied for the league lead. Collins clinched the victory by picking off a desperation heave from Dan Orlovsky on fourth-and-27 down at the goal line with the Packers ahead 31-21. Defensive end Jason Hunter had the only sack of Orlovsky, who rarely was pressured.

Given the heavy diet of carries (28) given to Kevin Smith, the Packers' struggling run defense did a commendable job in holding the explosive rookie to 92 yards for a per-attempt average of 3.3 yards. Smith's longest run was officially 11 yards, reduced by a holding penalty from a 19-yard scamper when he broke a few tackles. Otherwise, Smith, who had 17 runs of no more than 3 yards with four in the negative, was a nonfactor until he caught defenders out of position on a wide run to the left and hard cut inside for a 9-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Defensive ends Aaron Kampman (six tackles) and Michael Montgomery (five) and defensive tackle Johnny Jolly (four) were tenacious up front.

Mason Crosby's powerful right leg nearly connected on what would have been a league-record 69-yard field goal out of the hold of Matt Flynn when the Packers attempted a rare free kick after Will Blackmon's fair catch of a punt at the end of the first half. The football landed below the crossbar between the uprights. Crosby, though, started the second half by hitting his placement kickoff out of bounds. Rookie Jordy Nelson matched the team's season high for a kickoff return with a 45-yard burst on a short kick to start the game. Blackmon, however, averaged only 15.3 yards in his three kickoff returns and allowed himself to be pinned in a corner when he mishandled Jason Hanson's well-placed kick, forcing the Packers to start a futile possession at their 8. Jeremy Kapinos had an off game with his punting, averaging only 37.7 gross yards (same for net) and benefiting from a big-time roll for a long of 55. The Lions didn't have a punt return, and the kickoff-coverage unit was solid, holding Detroit to an average of 17 yards per return.

Six days after Mike McCarthy went conservative in taking the ball out of Rodgers' passing hand and settling for three straight runs to set up a blocked Crosby field-goal attempt that wound up costing the Packers in an overtime loss at the Chicago Bears, the head coach/play-caller put his trust in Rodgers to make the play of the game and perhaps the season.

The Lions had just closed their deficit to 24-21 on Smith's touchdown run with 7:32 left in the final quarter. Instead of relying on the run in an attempt to chew up some clock and stem Detroit's momentum, the first play called by McCarthy on Green Bay's next possession had Rodgers roll out on play-action and let loose with the 71-yard scoring strike to Driver. McCarthy's balanced play calling — 35 pass plays to 26 running plays — yielded superb results in both facets. McCarthy was even better with clock management to end the first half, having all three timeouts at his disposal to force the Lions to punt and set up the fair-catch free kick.

Whether better results on defense and special teams were enough to spare defensive coordinator Bob Sanders and special teams coordinator Mike Stock from possibly being cut loose remains to be seen. Avoiding a six-game losing streak to end the season and not allowing Detroit to gain its first victory were a credit to the coaching staff for keeping the players focused on the otherwise meaningless game.

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