Focused Packers crush Cleveland

After a slow start, Green Bay dominated Cleveland in every phase in cruising to a 31-3 romp on Sunday. We have all the highlights, the play of the game, the player of the game and much more in our comprehensive review from Cleveland.

Getting ready for Armageddon — next Sunday's return of Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings to Lambeau field — the Packers took care of business for the second straight week, blowing out to a 21-3 halftime lead on three second-quarter touchdowns and routing the struggling Cleveland Browns 31-3 on Sunday at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

The win, coming on the heels of last week's 26-0 blowout of the hapless Detroit Lions, improves the Packers to 4-2 while dropping Cleveland to 1-6.

The Browns scored first on Billy Cundiff's 22-yard field goal that hit the left upright and caromed through the uprights on the opening play of the second quarter. The Green Bay defense, which was outstanding all day, put on a good stand after the Browns moved to a first-and-goal at the 5. It would be one of just two serious scoring threats by the Browns.

The Packers answered that — and then some — in lightning-quick fashion when quarterback Aaron Rodgers and little-used tight end Spencer Havner hooked up on a 45-yard catch-and-run for a TD just 3:47 later on a third-and-1 play. It was only the third catch of the year — and the first for a score — for the part-time linebacker.

Green Bay came back on its next possession to score again, getting its longest play of the year when Rodgers passed 71 yards to a streaking Donald Driver, as the wide receiver outran and stiff-armed the Cleveland secondary on his way into the end zone. The second touchdown in 5:10 made it 14-3 with 7:01 left in the second quarter.

The Packers got set up for another tally moments later when cornerback Charles Woodson intercepted a Derek Anderson pass intended for wide receiver Brian Robiskie and returned it 25 yards to the Cleveland 15. It was Woodson's team-leading fourth pick of the season. It took the Packers seven plays, but they finally got a TD and a 21-3 lead with 1:56 left in the half as Ryan Grant's second effort allowed him to nudge the ball over the goal line from a yard away on third-and goal.

Mason Crosby missed his third field goal of the season in 14 tries when his 55-yarder early in the third quarter was wide left. But he came back on the next possession when he booted a chip-shot 18-yarder to make it 24-3 after the Packers had moved to within 18 inches of the goal line.

The Browns moved to a first-and-goal at the 1, but the Packers held again, forcing an incomplete pass on fourth down early in the fourth quarter.

Green Bay used the momentum of that stand to march the length of the field for a TD on a 5-yard pass from Rodgers to wide receiver James Jones to up the margin to 31-3 and complete the scoring for the day.

The moment

The Browns have been having trouble scoring points all year. For that matter, every first down — even every yard — has not come easy. For a team in which 13 of the 15 players it has enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame are from the offensive side, it's been a particular difficult — and embarrassing — struggle.

So when the Packers went ahead 14-3 midway through the second quarter, the Browns were hanging by a thread — and a quickly fraying one at that. They knew they would have a lot of trouble scoring enough points to overcome that.

But on the next possession of the game, the Packers made it even more difficult when cornerback Charles Woodson intercepted Derek Anderson's pass and returned it 25 yards to the Cleveland 15. The Packers scored again on Ryan Grant's 1-yard run, making it 21-3 and, in a lot of ways, put the game out of reach for the Browns. You could see a lot of shoulders slumping on the Cleveland sideline as the mountain they were trying to climb became Mt. Everest.

The number

139: In response to their fans who say they want more offense, the NFL decision-makers over the last 30 years have skewed every rule change to satisfy that. The guidelines for offensive holding have been liberalized, and if defensive backs so much as breathe onto a receiver more than 5 yards down the field, it looks like the United Nations building with all the flags that come flying. But the Packers turned back the clock to the old days — the Vince Lombardi days — on Sunday, allowing the Browns just 139 yards. The number becomes even more impressive when you consider that 43 yards — or a little less than one-third of that — came on two passing plays. So, for the Browns' 50 other plays, they had just 96 yards. When you can limit a team to so few total yards, you have to work real hard not to win the game.

The word

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers: "We haven't really hit our stride yet. We needed to win those two games (Cleveland and Detroit) to get us in a position to get us back in this division race and start making a push towards November and December. Those are when the playoffs are decided and it gets tougher. We've got some tough games coming up."

The player

So much attention has been focused onto quarterback Aaron Rodgers — and rightfully so, for if you have a good quarterback, it gives your team a much better chance to be good. But for that quarterback and his team to be good — at least as good as they can be — then you have to have a good running attack. Passes look prettier, but it's those runs, some of which simply disappear into a pile of bodies, that really make the difference. It takes pressure off the quarterback and the offense by keeping them out of obvious passing situations where the defense can tee off with its rush and blitzes.

Having said all that, then, Ryan Grant was the key to the victory. His 148 yards — near a career high — in 27 carries for an average of 5.5 yards per attempt, kept the Browns from going after Rodgers. His presence gives the Packers a potent 1-2 punch, which will be crucial as they go along and the games get more important and the opponents get tougher.

The other things you need to know

— Tight end Jermichael Finley left the game with a knee injury early in the opening quarter on the Packers' first possession after being undercut on the knee on a tackle by cornerback Eric Wright while catching a 16-yard pass from Aaron Rodgers on a crossing route. His return was listed as questionable, but he did not return. Coach Mike McCarthy called it a knee sprain.

T.J. Lang started at left tackle for Clifton. Also, Scott Wells got the nod at center for Jason Spitz, who was active in case of emergency. Lang acquitted himself nicely at left tackle. The Packers, who entered the game having allowed a league-high 25 sacks, didn't allow any.

— The Packers' 28-point margin of victory was their third-largest over the Browns, and their biggest since a 55-7 decision in 1967. Green Bay also won by 32 points, 49-17, in 1961 in Cleveland in the only meeting between Pro Football Hall of Famers Vince Lombardi and Paul Brown when they were both head coaches.

— The Packers have outscored their last two foes, the Browns and Lions, by a combined score of 57-3.

— So potent was their offense that the Packers did not punt until 7:25 was left in the game. They did not punt when Aaron Rodgers was at quarterback. By that time, with the game well in hand, he had been lifted for Matt Flynn.

— Flynn threw his first passes of the season, going 1-for-2 for 12 yards.

— Flynn and Rodgers spread the wealth around, completing passes to eight different receivers.

— That interception and 25-yard return by cornerback Charles Woodson was huge. He grew up in Fremont, Ohio, about 70 miles to the west of Cleveland, and was Mr. Football in Ohio during his senior year at Fremont Ross High School. It was his first game in Cleveland since 2003 when he was a member of the Oakland Raiders.

— Linebacker A.J. Hawk had a memorable day coming home, too. The Centerville, Ohio, native, who starred at Ohio State, had a team-high eight tackles.

— To get down to the 45-man game day active roster, the Packers deactivated running back Ahman Green, fullback Korey Hall, safety Mike Giordano, guard-center Evan Dietrich-Smith, offensive tackles Mark Tauscher, wide receiver Jordy Nelson and defensive end Jarius Wynn.


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Steve King, who covers the Browns for Scout.com's Orange and Brown Report, was pinch-hitting for Packer Report publisher Bill Huber on Sunday and covered the game in Cleveland. E-mail him at stevencollking@aol.com.


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