The ever-present deep ball disappeared from the Packers' arsenal Sunday, and that was mostly a good thing. Aaron Rodgers' longest completion was for 24 yards on an intermediate catch-and-run by Donald Driver. Rodgers was economically effective with short drops and quick throws of the slant, hitch and screen variety, going 25-of-36 for only 189 yards — his lowest output since 184 in the opening-night win over the Chicago Bears. Rodgers was money on third down (3-for-3 through the air) in a crucial 15-play, 80-yard drive of more than 8 1/2 minutes that he capped with a 1-yard touchdown sneak to extend the lead to 10-0 in the fourth quarter. Rodgers also threw a TD pass, of 2 yards to newfound scoring threat Spencer Havner, later in the quarter. Rodgers, though, was off target on a few of his short strikes, and James Jones and Driver (in the end zone) let him down with drops. Four more sacks also reared their ugly head, upping the league-worst total to 41. Rodgers was spared a sack and fumble that Dallas recovered by a Cowboys penalty early in the game. Eight of Green Bay's 12 enforced penalties were on the offense, including four by offensive linemen.
RUSHING OFFENSE: C-plus
Ryan Grant rebounded from a sluggish first half, in which he carried the football seven times for only 28 yards, by coming through with 51 yards in 12 carries in the final two quarters when head coach/play caller Mike McCarthy leaned more on the run. Grant's best run went for 13 yards, made possible by his slipping a tackle attempt from linebacker DeMarcus Ware behind the line of scrimmage. The Packers' total of 105 rushing yards (3.8-yard average) included 15 yards by Rodgers on five keeps. Ahman Green and Brandon Jackson combined for all of 11 yards in four totes in place of Grant.
PASS DEFENSE: A-minus
Clay Matthews tries to score after picking up a loose ball created by a Charles Woodson sack.
Morry Gash/AP Images
RUSH DEFENSE: B
It didn't take long for the Cowboys to become one-dimensional, as offensive coordinator Jason Garrett inexplicably abandoned the run with his three-headed monster in the backfield. Dallas had a scant 14 rushing attempts and produced just 61 yards, the second-lowest total against the Packers in 2009. Romo accounted for 16 of those yards on three scrambles. The only significant gains for the Cowboys were 13 yards by Marion Barber in Dallas' first series — half of Barber's output of 26 yards in five carries — and 11 yards from Tashard Choice in the Wildcat formation. Woodson, who had a team-high nine tackles, chased down Choice at the sideline for a 1-yard loss in another direct-snap play. Defensive end Johnny Jolly had a stop of Barber behind the line of scrimmage.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-minus
The Packers more or less rectified their coverage issues for one game anyway. The Cowboys averaged only 20 yards in three kickoff runbacks, while Patrick Crayton was held to an average of 8.2 yards in five punt returns. Crayton's long return was 18 yards, as he had time to get started up along the sideline. Punter Jeremy Kapinos had a hit-and-miss busy day, averaging 43.7 gross yards but only 35 net yards in seven kicks. Mason Crosby's struggles from 50 yards and beyond on field goals continued, badly hooking a 52-yard attempt, before he connected on a 48-yarder. Tramon Williams handled all of the returns. He set up Crosby's field goal to end the first half with an 18-yard punt return to midfield. Williams later got away with a fumble on his next punt return, when replay review determined that he was down by contact.
Defensive coordinator Dom Capers succeeded in his objective to make Romo uncomfortable in the pocket, dialing up blitzes on more than 50 percent of the Cowboys' 44 pass plays — a season high for the Packers. Capers also played it right in matching up Woodson on Witten and playing Harris closer to the line to knock Austin off his routes. McCarthy also followed through in the changes-that-needed-to-be-made department in the wake of two straight losses. He kept the pressure on Rodgers to a minimum with a liberal employment of three-step drops and the quick passes. The players were focused on beating a quality opponent for the first time this season in a game Green Bay had to win. Despite the amended game plan on offense, however, the multiple sacks of Rodgers remains a sore spot. A rash of penalties (12 for 100 yards) also is a troubling broken record. McCarthy admitted a day later that he shouldn't have challenged a would-be touchdown by receiver Jordy Nelson in the fourth quarter when Nelson clearly hadn't broken the plane before his knee touched the ground, which set the Packers up with a first down at the Cowboys' 1 anyway.
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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 email@example.com, 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.