Thanks to his better-performing offensive line and big-play receivers, Aaron Rodgers didn't have to exert himself in producing a career-best and near-perfect passer rating of 155.4. He wasn't sacked for the first time in six games, helping himself at times dance and scramble away from what little pressure the Cleveland defense managed to apply. That allowed Rodgers to pick apart a soft underbelly of the Browns' scheme with quick shots in the short to intermediate range that translated into big numbers. Rodgers was 15-of-20 for 246 yards and three touchdowns. The Packers weren't hurt after tight end Jermichael Finley left with a sprained knee early in the game. Converted linebacker Spencer Havner promptly stepped in and kickstarted the rout with an incredible 45-yard, catch-and-run touchdown along the sideline. Donald Driver followed suit in the next Green Bay series, being left wide open coming off the line out of the slot on a Browns safety blitz and taking the hot pass in stride while slipping two would-be tackles the final 62 yards of a 71-yard touchdown — a season long for the Packers. Rodgers spread the football around to eight different players. Rodgers had a heady 19-yard run on a third-and-6 pass play to keep alive a 99-yard drive that culminated with his 5-yard touchdown toss to James Jones to cap the scoring.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B-plus
The Packers still won't be confused for a capable rushing offense, but Sunday's output against a leaky Browns defense was long overdue. The season-high totals included 41 rushing attempts for 202 yards, fueled by Ryan Grant's first 100-yard game of 2009. Head coach Mike McCarthy's game plan to run early and often paid off, as Grant turned 27 carries into 148 yards for a robust average of 5.5 yards, well above his season average of 3.8 entering the game. Grant was effective between the tackles. For a welcome change, he had good vision, was decisive on his cutbacks and broke several tackle attempts. His season-best run of 37 yards set up the final touchdown throw from Rodgers to Jones — rookie fullback Quinn Johnson sprung Grant to the right side with a lead block. The right-side blocking duo of guard Josh Sitton and tackle Allen Barbre also were instrumental in clearing space for Grant throughout the game. Brandon Jackson chipped in nine carries for 31 yards in spelling Grant. A glaring negative was not being able to punch the ball in on three straight carries inside the Browns' 4-yard line before Grant finally did from a yard out. Rodgers also failed on a fourth-and-1 sneak early in the game.
PASS DEFENSE: A-minus
Aaron Kampman goes for a loose ball.
Mark Duncan/Getty Images
RUSH DEFENSE: A
The Packers held Jamal Lewis to next to nothing until he ripped off runs of 11 and 16 yards in a second-half possession. Barnett took a bad angle at the line on the second run to the outside. Still, Lewis averaged a measly 3.1 yards per carry (15 rushes for 47 yards), and the Browns finished with a paltry average of 2.8. Their 58 rushing yards was a season low for a Green Bay opponent. Embattled linebacker A.J. Hawk, who was on the field the majority of the time after being reduced to a bit starter in the previous two games, was assertive at the point of attack and had a team-high eight tackles (seven solo). Three of Hawk's takedowns were for a loss, highlighted by a 2-yard drop of Lewis on first-and-goal from the 1 in the third quarter as Hawk busted through a gap in the middle. Bigby stopped Lewis short of the goal line two plays later.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-minus
Green Bay mostly succeeded in its top priority of not letting Cribbs beat them in the return game. A game plan that intermixed kicking away from him and kicking the ball deep to keep him from running with the football served its purpose. Cribbs had only three touches, though one of them he broke for a 41-yard return on a kickoff. His lone punt return was an innocuous 9 yards. Strong-legged Mason Crosby had two touchbacks, but when he tried to execute two directional kickoffs, he had two go out of bounds to give the Browns a good starting point. Jeremy Kapinos didn't have to punt until the waning minutes of the fourth quarter, averaging 43.5 gross yards and just 29 net yards thanks to one touchback. The Packers had negligible results in their return game — Tramon Williams averaged all of 2 yards on three punt returns, and Jackson averaged 18 yards on two kickoff returns. Green Bay committed an inexcusable penalty on a punt return when it had 12 men on the field — stemming from two players going on the field to replace injured Brett Swain — putting the Browns offense back on the field.
McCarthy was no dummy in picking the right spot to give his struggling rushing attack a good opportunity to realize some success. He was committed to it from the outset, running the football on four straight plays to start Green Bay's initial series and 10 of its first 11 plays. He also wasn't compelled to have Rodgers throw the deep ball, allowing his well-protected quarterback and the receivers to get into a nice rhythm with the shorter routes. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers' reliance on a base-heavy scheme after a few weeks of playing mostly nickel was the right call against Cleveland's sham of an offense. Special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum didn't allow Cribbs to be a difference-maker, though field position would have been problematic on Crosby's misplaced directional kickoffs against a better opponent. The knock yet again on the coaching staff is the team's propensity for penalties. The Packers had eight more infractions for 70 yards.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.