Grading The Game: Packers

With the delayed report card after a holiday game, the grades aren't so full of cheer. Fans are getting about what they expected — a solid offense and a lackluster defense.

PASSING OFFENSE: A — QB Daunte Culpepper had a career-high 151.3 passer rating, three touchdowns and 16 completions in 23 attempts. RB Michael Bennett looked explosive on a 38-yard touchdown catch. WR Nate Burleson also looked faster than ever when he turned a crossing route into a 68-yard touchdown. The pass protection was as good as it has been in weeks. Culpepper wasn't sacked.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B — Michael Bennett started for the second consecutive game and showed some burst. He finished with 92 yards rushing on 17 carries (5.4). RB Onterrio Smith was a game-day inactive. He didn't practice all week because of flu-like symptoms. Overall, the Vikings averaged 5.5 yards per carry, rushing for 131 on 24 carries.

PASS DEFENSE: D — Except for LB Chris Claiborne's excellent snag of a Brett Favre pass and 15-yard return for a touchdown, the pass defense was atrocious. The Packers converted 8 of 16 third downs, most of them with Favre carving up clueless defensive backs. Favre directed touchdown drives of 80 and 76 yards in the final eight minutes. LB E.J. Henderson was in position to break up a touchdown pass on fourth-and-goal from the 3 but was looking back and never saw Favre's pass. On the drive that led to the last-second, game-winning field goal, Favre threw to a hot spot when he was blitzed by safety Brian Russell. Javon Walker caught the pass in front of CB Terrance Shaw and ran 31 yards to the Vikings 7-yard line.

RUSH DEFENSE: B — After giving up a combined 467 yards rushing in the previous two losses to the Packers, the Vikings clamped down and allowed only 102 on 34 carries (3.0). Ahman Green had only 64 on 19 carries (3.4), but he did have a 1-yard touchdown on fourth-and-goal. DT Kevin Williams hit him solidly at the 2, but Green was able to squirt into the end zone because no other Viking was able to deliver a second blow.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C — It was a solid performance except for one glaring exception: A 59-yard kickoff return by Antonio Chatman late in the second quarter enabled the Packers to kick a field goal to move within 21-17 as the first half ended. P Darren Bennett had three punts that were downed inside the 20. Kelly Campbell averaged 36.7 yards on three kickoff returns.

COACHING: D — The defense just isn't doing what it's supposed to do. Part of that is a lack of talent at safety and a lack of experience at linebacker. But coaching is part of it, too. Offensively, the Vikings stalled at the worst possible time, holding the ball for just 1:13 late in the game before punting the ball away and giving Favre possession at his 13 with 1:35 left and two timeouts. Part of the reason the offense stalled is penalties. The Vikings committed back-to-back penalties on their last possession. They had nine for 78 yards for the game. That's a sign of a lack of discipline.



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