Report Card: Packers at Cards

The grades are in from our insiders, with a high-octane passing game and an all-round defensive effort earning high marks from a 33-7 thrashing of the indifferent Cardinals.


Aaron Rodgers tuned up for the postseason with his sharpest performance of the season, going 21-of-26 (80.8 percent) for 235 yards and a touchdown in only three quarters of work for the second straight week. Rodgers didn't throw an interception for the fourth consecutive game (a season best), though he had the advantage of not going against many of Arizona's top-flight defensive players. The Packers had success in picking on Michael Adams after Pro Bowl cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie suffered a knee injury on the third play of the game. Adams was no match for the speedy Jordy Nelson on a 51-yard strike from Rodgers to the Cardinals' 1-yard line. Rodgers would have broken Lynn Dickey's single-season team record for passing yards if not for an illegal-formation penalty that wiped out a 30-yard catch-and-run by tight end Jermichael Finley in the game-opening series. Receiver James Jones also had a penalty later in the touchdown drive that nullified his own catch of 15 yards. The Packers were guilty of a couple more dropped passes. Rodgers' backup, Matt Flynn (1-of-3 for seven yards), threw a bad pass in the red zone that was intercepted and returned 80 yards by Ralph Brown, leading to the Cardinals' only score of the game.


The Packers cranked out 100-plus yards on the ground piecemeal. Not counting three kneel-downs by Flynn to end the game, Green Bay totaled 112 yards but needed 31 attempts to get there. Ryan Grant (11 for 51 yards) and Ahman Green (12 for 42 yards) split the bulk of the carries, and each had an explosive run — 14 yards by Green and 13 yards by Grant — as the Packers ran a lot out of the I behind fullbacks John Kuhn and rookie Quinn Johnson. Rodgers made good on two one-yard sneaks, converting a fourth-and-inches play to keep the game-opening touchdown drive alive and then going behind left guard Daryn Colledge again on a lunge across the goal line for a touchdown in the next series.


Charles Woodson
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Considering quarterback Kurt Warner was yanked after only two series, the Packers didn't benefit much from going against Arizona's prolific passing attack. Still, Green Bay, which stuck with its defensive starters for most of the game, continued with its opportunistic ways at the expense of backups Matt Leinart and Brian St. Pierre. The Packers picked off three passes, starting with cornerback Charles Woodson's well-played undercut of fellow Pro Bowler Larry Fitzgerald on a deep slant from Leinart and resulting 45-yard touchdown return. Safety Atari Bigby, who had an earlier interception taken away by a safety on left guard Reggie Wells' holding penalty against linebacker Clay Matthews in the end zone, plucked a badly overthrown pass from Leinart. Cornerback Tramon Williams jumped the route of tight end Stephen Spach to complete the interception trio. Woodson put the clamps on Fitzgerald for much of the first half; the receiver scored a late touchdown after Woodson was long gone from the game to finish with three catches for 17 yards. The Packers held the Cardinals to 139 passing yards but didn't register a sack for only the third time this season.


With the Packers' getting off to a big lead early in the game, Arizona didn't go to the run game often. Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells each toted the football six times and gained just 24 and 19 yards, respectively. The Cardinals had a grand total of 48 yards, the fewest allowed by the league's No. 1 run defense. Their lone explosive run was 17 yards by Wells late in the game. Defensive end Johnny Jolly was stout in anchoring the line with the continued absence of nose tackle Ryan Pickett. Safety Nick Collins and linebackers Nick Barnett and A.J. Hawk were active in forcing negligible gains.


Green Bay's late-season turnaround in shoring up its coverage inadequacies is progressing. Neither kickoff returner LaRod Stephens-Howling nor punt returner Steve Breaston manufactured anything of significance. Breaston inexplicably fielded a booming 54-yard punt by Jeremy Kapinos at the 1-yard line and was promptly taken down by Josh Bell. That enabled Kapinos to enjoy an extraordinary day of two punts that averaged 49 gross yards and 47 net yards. Nelson had a couple good runbacks in the dual-return role, highlighted by a 54-yard kickoff return along the sideline. Mason Crosby made his only field-goal attempt (26 yards). His first extra-point try was blocked, but that was because Adams bolted offside off the edge, resulting in a successful re-kick.


Head coach Mike McCarthy succeeded with his approach of rolling with his starters for most of the game in an attempt to win the game and maintain the late-season momentum on which the team has been riding the second half of the season. With the score getting out of hand in the second quarter, McCarthy wisely went vanilla with his play calling on offense to save things for the rematch back in Arizona this weekend. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers didn't give the Cardinals much to chew on, going away from his blitz calls but still being able to force bad decisions by Arizona's backup quarterbacks. In hindsight, McCarthy should have pulled the invaluable Woodson after his interception return for the touchdown, since Woodson aggravated a shoulder injury in the next series that ended his day anyhow.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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