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Lambeau Leap of Faith

November 15, 2010 1:36 AM

Packers Mid-Term Grades, Volume I

Continuing the report card series during the bye week that started with the offensive reserves, the defensive counterparts will be examined below in order of worst to best. 

As with the earlier volume of the series, they are being assessed on the role they are being called on to perform on defense only, rather than special teams or the one they were projected to at the outset of the season. However, those who have split time almost evenly between a reserve and starting position will be graded on their expected role.

Justin Harrell: Sure, Harrell also played far too little to judge. But that happens every year, and it is time he be judged on it--not that Packers fans have not been doing what Ted Thompson should have been two years ago in considering him a failure, but he is officially one here...F

Atari Bigby: Last year's starting strong safety for 13 games has missed all but one game recovering from ankle surgery he put off due to reluctance to sign the team's one-year tender offer as a restricted free agent. However, the grades do not include one's off-season choices, and one game as a backup would only have been sufficient to give him a grade if he was horrible or great; two tackles in reserve is neither...Incomplete

Brandon Underwood: Last season as a rookie, Underwood played some time at dimeback. This offseason, talk out of camp was that he was expected to play nickel. Instead, the former sixth-round pick has gotten limited playing time, with three tackles and an assist.

In the process, he has been beaten out on the depth chart by an undrafted rookie free agent (Sam Shields) who played only ten games at the position in college and another player (Jarret Bush) who has proven consistently over the past three seasons to be inadequate in coverage. Moreover, with the struggles at safety by Derrick Martin and his subsequent injury, the former safety should have been able to step in and avoid forcing the team to make a trade for depth...F

Pat Lee: Lee has been almost as disappointing--more so if you consider he has been in the league an extra year and was a second-round pick. He has also not gotten into what is, on paper at least, a weak secondary beyond the two starters. He has seven tackles and an assist, but many of those happened on special teams; he would be listed lower than Underwood if not for battling an injury that has affected him at times when he has played and caused him to miss two games...F

Derrick Martin: A safety who fills in for the injured Morgan Burnett who started for the injured Bigby may not seem like a player with heavy expectations, but he was signed in 2009 to be the team's top insurance policy at the position. However, the best thing that happened to the Packers defense was Martin getting hurt, forcing Ted Thompson to trade away one of his coveted draft picks to get the man he let go in favour of Martin, Anthony Smith.

Martin did have six tackles and three assists to go with an interception that had a 15-yard return, but the pick was an overthrown pass right to him, meaning Martin only caught it because he was not doing well enough in coverage. He was also responsible in allowing at least two touchdowns...D-.

Anthony Smith: Playing in only a couple games after a trade, Smith has six tackles and an assist, but was beaten twice in Sunday's rout of the Dallas Cowboys by a backup tight end. Nevertheless, he has been a clear upgrade over Martin despite having to make an adjustment Martin did not in moving back to a team and defense he has not been in for over a year...C-

Brandon Chillar: Widely recognised as the best linebacker the Packers have in coverage has been battling injuries that have kept him from playing every week, and perhaps affecting his play. Regardless of why, however, he has been very beatable this season, even if he has been there to make the tackle afterward--A.J. Hawk does that, too, and is hated on by Packers fans for it. Green Bay needs him to do better at the role he plays...C

Brady Poppinga: The Stormin' Mormon had his chance to start briefly because of the injuries to Clay Matthews and Brad Jones, and was solid with seven tackles, seven assists, and a sack before being knocked out for the season himself...C+

T.J. Lang: The backup offensive guard and tackle has actually seen more playing time lending a hand to the thin defensive line in goalline situations than he has at his natural positions. In the few plays he has gotten in, he has registered an assist--not bad considering all that is expected of him in those situations is to provide bulk and occupy blockers...C+

The play of young cornerbacks allowed the Packers to release Al Harris
Jarret Bush: Perhaps I am compensating for how hard I have been on the man whose attempt to make a highlight reel rather than ensure the turnover might have cost this team an NFC Championship in 2007. However, what I have seen from him has included some solid play at the dimeback position, and (other than special teams), that is all that the Packers need from him...B-

Mike Neal: Another reach for Thompson on the defensive line in this year's draft, Neal has gotten limited time on the field due to injuries. On a thin defensive line when the team could really use his services, he is now out for the season. However, he played pretty well in the limited time he was in, getting three tackles, a sack, and forcing a fumble...B-

Jarius Wynn: Supposedly small for playing defensive end in a 3-4, Wynn has held up pretty well in limited action with two tackles and a sack...B-

Brad Jones: Last season's seventh-round draft pick started seven games at outside linebacker in 2009, but was passed by on the depth chart by an undrafted free agent. However, he managed plenty of playing time, not just in the "psycho" (six linebacker) package, but even in standard 3-4 sets, and played pretty well with 16 tackles and 11 assists...B-

Howard Green: A mid-season pickup from the waiver wire to deal with the thin line, Green stepped into the rotation just in time to contribute to a shutout against his former team, the New York Jets. He has one tackle, one assists, and one fumble forced in two games as a reserve...B

Charlie Peprah: When rookie starter Morgan Burnett went down and Atari Bigby was not ready to return, the fear would be the Packers would suffer much like 2009 at the strong safety position. However, Peprah has proven to be an adequate starter with 25 tackles and three assists, and even been decent in coverage...B

Sam Shields: The rookie is getting on-the-job training at a position he does not have much experience at even in college. One can see how much he has improved at the position since his struggles early in the season, and he has ten tackles, two assists, and an interception to show for it on the statsheet. Perhaps more telling, the Packers have played the Eagles, Jets, Vikings, and Cowboys, all of whom have talented third receivers, and not gotten burned as badly as last season against deep receiving corps...B+

C.J. Wilson: Wilson was the Packers seventh round pick this season but has stepped in like a high pick. He has 12 tackles, six assists, and a sack, and the line's play has not dipped while he has filled in for injured starter Ryan Pickett--in fact, one could argue it has gotten better, even though Pickett does not have to worry about losing his starting spot...A

Desmond Bishop: There is no question the Packers are better off with Bishop starting than with Nick Barnett. Even fellow inside linebacker A.J. Hawk's play has improved since Bishop came in. He has been guarding wide receivers in the slot (getting a pick returned for a touchdown while on Randy Moss), pressuring the quarterback (two sacks), and honing in the ball carrier (35 tackles, 14 assists, and a fumble forced). When a reserve is a huge part of a defense improving once he replaces the starter, there is not much more that can be expected of such a player...A+
November 7, 2010 9:08 AM

Dallas a Trap Game for Packers

Playing a 1-6 team right before a bye week, or before or after a big game, is something often viewed as a trap game. This week, the Green Bay Packers had better not have a letdown after the big triumph in New York, because the Dallas Cowboys are more dangerous than most 1-6 teams.

I know, the Packers are finally getting healthy (that being a relative term in Green Bay). Meanwhile, the Cowboys are without arguably their best player, Tony Romo. They have no leadership, either in the coaching staff or the talent pool.

But there is a reason they were picked to win the Super Bowl by so many people. And they have been in most of their games this season.

In fact, Dallas has given up fewer passing yards, fewer rushing yards, and a lower third down conversion rate than Green Bay. They also have scored as many points per game and have a better time of possession while amassing more passing yards and total yards with a better third-down conversion rate.

So how are they 1-6 while the Packers are 5-3? They have the fourth-most penalties per game in the league (Green Bay is in the middle of the pack, and over a third came in one game). They have a -5 turnover ratio (Green Bay is +2)...in short, they do not make plays, they give them up.

That is a correctable problem, and while this coaching staff has not been able to do that and this team appears to have quit, the Packers should be wary of this team waking up at precisely the wrong time. So what should we expect?

When the Packers have the ball...4872901112_99b8732292_z.jpg

Green Bay will be without WR Donald Driver this week, joining TE Jermichael Finley and RB Ryan Grant as key offensive pieces missing. Linemen Daryn Colledge, Mark Tauscher, and Chad Clifton are also hurt, but are questionable to probable, and backup TE Andrew Quarless and RB Dimitri Nance are also battling injury.

With all the missing or hampered players, the Packers will need a big game out of their running backs to help neutralise a good Dallas pass rush. QB Aaron Rodgers has gotten protection of late, but should find some success dumping the ball off if he gets in trouble because Dallas is not deep at linebacker. The running game needs to get enough yards to control the clock and keep the pressure off Rodgers.

When the Cowboys have the ball...

Dallas has shown little in the running game for three reasons: playing from behind forces them to pass, they have had a lack of commitment to running early in games, and they have had a lack of results when they do run-Marion Barber is averaging about three yards per carry.

Miles Austin, Roy Williams, and Dez Bryant are dangerous receivers, but they are inconsistent. With aging backup QB Jon Kitna throwing to them, the important thing is to keep them from getting a rhythm going.

The Packers expect Al Harris and Atari Bigby to return this week, and that should help. But the line is still thin, with Ryan Pickett questionable (where he has been the last two weeks he has been out), backups Mike Neal and Justin Harrell out for the  year (not that they could ever be counted on), and Cullen Jenkins playing through hand and calf injuries. The linebacking corps is also thin, with three players out for the year and Clay Matthews still at less than 100 percent.

On special teams...

Both field goal kickers are hitting 75 percent of their attempts. Green Bay gives up 3.5 more yards per kick return than its returners average, but the Cowboys give up almost eight more yards than they get. Dallas is also one of the few teams that has a worse inside the 20 to touchback ratio on punts (9:4) than the Packers (10:3) thanks to a good couple weeks for Green Bay. However, the Packers get five fewer yards per return than their opponents, while the Cowboys average almost nine better than they yield.

Prediction: Packers 20, Cowboys 13 (record: 3-5, 3-5 vs. spread)

What do I know? I am wrong almost every week since the first two. But I believe this game will be close-ultimately, the Cowboys have little edge in special teams and will make too few plays on offense against a defense that is gaining momentum, but they will make it difficult for the Packers to make plays, as well.

October 31, 2010 6:32 AM

Packers-Jets Matchup Losing Luster

There is no room for a hangover from last week's thrilling win over a rival that stopped a skid in which the Green Bay Packers had lost three of four, all by three points. 

Sunday, the Pack travels to take on the team generally considered the best (see my Week Eight Rankings and a consensus for Week Seven at the same site) in football. The Jets have not lost since Week One, and a lot has changed since then.

Back then, they still had the shackles on Mark Sanchez and before they got Santonio Holmes back from suspension. Back then, they relied on their defense; now they win with offense.3834566953_3fce8cafb3_z.jpg

Back then, the Packers were Super Bowl contenders with one of the deepest linebacking corps in the history of the game; now three of them have been lost for the season , and two more are playing through injuries. The deep and talented secondary has been without two of last year's starters (cornerback Al Harris and safety Atari Bigby) and lost two more safeties for the season.

The defensive line, with a suspension to Johnny Jolly and injuries to Cullen Jenkins, Ryan Pickett, and Mike Neal (a tackle/end hybrid generally viewed as a reach drafted too high who cannot stay healthy...Justin Harrell-also out for the season again, but at this point his injuries do not count-anyone?) is so thin that offensive tackle/guard T.J. Lang has filled in on it.

Even on offense the Packers are hurting. Starting running back Ryan Grant and tight end Jermichael Finley, being counted on for 2000-plus yards of offense this season, are gone for the year. Right tackle Mark Tauscher and wide receiver Donald Driver are battling with significant injuries. Backup running back James Starks has yet to suit up.

Al Harris and Atari Bigby are two players the Packers are hoping to have healthy enough to play

But on the positive front, Harris, Starks, Bigby, Tauscher, and Pickett may return Sunday. Driver and Jenkins have been in the lineup and are also questionable. Clay Matthews and Driver, purely decoys against Minnesota, may be healthy enough to have an impact this week. The Packers picked up safety Anthony Smith, impressive for Green Bay in the 2009 preseason, in a trade before hosting Minnesota.

So what can realistically be expected out of the patch-work Packers roster this Sunday?

When the Packers have the ball:

The Jets had the league's top-ranked pass defense last season, and added cornerbacks Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson on the corners, safety Brodney Pool, and pass rusher Jason Taylor to the linebacking corps. But their pass defense has dropped to 22nd in the league. Of course, part of this is teams have spent much of the second half passing to catch up, and part of it is All Pro cornerback Derrelle Revis has been hurt.

Green Bay will be tested against a good, rested pass rush and deep, healthy secondary. But the eighth-ranked passing attack will have some success throwing the ball because of an All Pro quarterback and one of the best receiving corps in the game. The Packers do not run the ball much anyway (20th-ranked rushing attack), but will need to continue to utilise an improving Brandon Jackson enough to keep the 12th-ranked run defense honest.

When the Jets have the ball:

The Jets have the fourth-best scoring in the game hosting the 12th-best team in points allowed. New York is barely above average in yards and the Packers are barely below average in holding them down.

New York does most of its damage on the ground (second-ranked rushing attack), where Green Bay is vulnerable (23rd-ranked run defense). This contributes to a tremendous advantage in protecting the football: New York has a plus-10 turnover margin, while Green Bay's is minus-one. Meanwhile, the Jets have the 27th-ranked passing attack and the Packers have the 14th-ranked pass defense...expect the Jets to hand the Packers a steady diet of runs.

On special teams:

As in every match-up except the Dolphins, Green Bay is at a significant disadvantage here. Neither kicker has missed more than three field goals, but the Jets average over two more yards per punt and have 13 punts downed inside the 20 to just five for Green Bay. They yield four fewer yards per return and get one more. On kicks, they get 6.4 more than they give up, whereas the Packers yield 2.2 more than they manage.

Prediction: Jets 27, Packers 16 (Record: 3-4, 3-4 vs. spread)

October 29, 2010 7:41 PM

NFL Week Seven Recap: Packers-Vikings Unit Grades

The Green Bay Packers beat the Minnesota Vikings Sunday night, and I saw a poll among fans to determine what was the most important thing accomplished. The choices were getting into a tie for first place, finally winning a close game, and beating Brett Favre.

Guess which one was selected more than half again as much as the other two combined...

Love him or hate him (or love him and hate him, as many of us do), Brett Favre once again proved his mental and physical toughness. He played through a stress fracture and an avulsion fracture in his ankle, either one of which would send many quarterbacks to the trainers.

Leaving aside the off-field issues-especially the retirement drama that has tried the patience of all but the stoutest of Favre fans-there are reasons to love and hate Favre on the field, too. He makes plays that are amazing, like the apparent go-ahead touchdown at the end of the game that was rightfully called back. He also makes plays like the pick-6 he threw to Desmond Bishop that gave the Packers the lead he was trying to come back from.

If the Vikings play a hobbled and turnover-prone (14 in six games) Favre over a healthy and relatively gifted Tarvaris Jackson against New England next week, we know who really runs that team. We also know Favre is lying when he says the consecutive games streak (291 in the regular season and counting) is not important to him.

But enough on the next game of the last team. It is time to look at how this team performed in that game, one unit at a time...

Quarterback: D+

This was not a bad performance from Aaron Rodgers statistically: He was 21-34 (.618 completion percentage) for 295 yards (8.7 per attempt) and two scores but two picks. He had three carries for 14 yards and was not sacked.

But that is just it-he was under no pressure all day. He was up against a terrible secondary and had open receivers to throw to. And he was continually not on the same page with them; when it happens with one or two guys, it might be the receivers, but it is the quarterback when it is epidemic.

Worse, the two picks he threw-including his first in 173 attempts in the red zone and first ever as a starter-were inexplicable. Each took at least three points off the board.

Running back: C-

Brandon Jackson led the way with 13 carries for 58 yards (4.3 average) and caught three passes for 46 yards. But while John Kuhn had a huge fourth down conversion, he failed on the next attempt and finished with only 12 yards on seven carries; thus, Green Bay's backs only ran for 70 yards on 20 carries, a 3.5-yard average, but 116 yards of total offense in 23 touches-a 5.0-yard average.

Receivers: B

Packers receivers avoided dropped balls, and got away with one in the endzone. With Donald Driver no more than a decoy because of a torn quadriceps, others stepped up.

James Jones had four catches for 107 yards (26.8 average), Greg Jennings had six for 74 (12.3) plus a score, and Jordy Nelson added four for 25. Donald Lee stepped back into the starting tight end role with two catches for 27 yards, and Andrew Quarless had two for 16 with a touchdown; however, he would have had another from Matt Flynn had he not tripped over his own two feet.

Offensive line: A-

For once, the line was the shining star of the offense. Minnesota might not be getting as much pressure this season as in the past, but they still possess four true pass-rushing threats, even if Ray Edwards is really only a threat because he is the guy never double-teamed. To give up no sacks is incredible, and rarely was Rodgers even hurried or flushed from the pocket.

Chad Clifton performed at a Pro Bowl level Sunday, shutting down Pro Bowl end Jarred Allen

That being said, one reason the backs did not generate much on the ground was the holes were not what they could have been. Still, facing a very good run defense with only your third-down back and fullback, the job their production was at least adequate.

Defensive line: D

Considering how thin the line was-even backup offensive guard/tackle T.J. Lang had to fill in, getting one assist-they did not do badly. C.J. Wilson played lights out in relief, with five tackles and three assists; the rest of the unit combined for five and two, but Jarius Wynn added the only sack of the game at a very opportune time.

Still, Adrian Peterson had 131 yards on 28 carries (4.7 average) and a touchdown. Okay, he is Adrian Peterson, and will wear down healthy defensive lines, but Toby Gerhart had 24 yards on five carries (4.8) and Percy Harvin added 41 yards on three carries (13.7) and a score. This means the line's primary responsibility-run contain-was not met, as they allowed a whopping 196 yards on 36 carries (5.4 average).

Linebackers: C

The inside linebackers had the Packers only good performers in this lot: A.J. Hawk had six tackles, five assists, and an interception; Desmond Bishop had five, three, and one returned for a touchdown, respectively, and the latter came on one of two plays I noticed in which he successfully covered Randy Moss!

The entire rest of the unit managed just eight tackles and two assists. Running backs, whom this unit has full responsibility for covering, burned the Packers to the tune of four catches for 56 yards (counting H-back Jim Kleinsasser as a back rather than a tight end). They also bear some responsibility for Visanthe Shiancoe's three catches for 30 yards.

Secondary: A-

Nine catches for 125 yards and just one score to a wide receiver corps that includes Randy Moss, Percy Harvin, Bernard Berrian, and Greg Camarillo is exceptional. Even Shiancoe's production speaks well of the safety play, and Nick Collins added a pick for good measure. The unit kept the yellow hankies more or less off the field, and they added 18 tackles and three assists.

Special Teams: C-

The Vikings average kick return of under 17 yards is misleading, as the Packers gave up on kicking deep early in the second half with mixed results: Two squibs gave the Vikings the ball just beyond their own 30, which is exactly where they averaged on the previous punts and kicks combined.

Green Bay gave up 13 yards on one punt return and downed the other kick inside the 20 while averaging 45 yards per punt. Packers returners had just ten yards on two punt returns and 104 on five kick returns.

October 27, 2010 10:32 PM

NFL Week Seven Game Blog, Packers-Vikings

A small change from the usual approach with the game observations. Because this game was televised nationally, it was not necessary for me to view it at Vernon's Grille. Outside of those cramped and noisy confines, I was able to type in notes on my laptop as plays happened, allowing for far more of them.

Thus, I added in starting field position on every drive, providing far more context that has been missing in previous versions. (Remember, you can also see more details by the NFL site's play-by-play for each game.) I also typed something in for nearly every play, providing more extensive notes.

This made it far more like a live game blog, though I could not take the time to post it live. The following are the notes as I took them, with additional information added in parentheses:

Vikings, own 16 yard-line...Good run defense (I was still a little lazy at this point).

Packers, own 39...Big fumble recovery (on Brandon Jackson's early fumble). Nice to see a screen-good point from Chris Collinsworth about the frequent chipping technique (employed by tight ends on the Vikings line) masking the play. Good scramble by Rodgers for the first down.

Another false start by Daryn Colledge. Good draw by Jackson and he protected the ball. Nice footwork by Rodgers on third & two. FIRST RED ZONE PICK SINCE HE GOT STARTING JOB! OUCH! (173 straight passes.) More picks than last season (like Favre).

Vikings, own 22...Collins almost gets pick, no first downs for Vikes.

Packers, own 24...Wobbly pass, but Jennings was wide open. How did they get anything on that poorly executed draw? There's our YAC! (James Jones' 45-yard catch.) No blocking on that run, as three Vikings were there to stuff the play-maybe because they tried to go with an extra defender! That is much better! The middle of the line was packed with purple, but Josh Sitton executed it perfectly and Jackson had plenty of room.

Vikings, opponent's 44...Stop trying to strip the ball and tackle the guy! (Percy Harvin's kick return got at least five or six extra yards from that.) Was Adrian Peterson's good run because of momentum? He picked his way through nicely for first down. Harvin's hole was big enough for me to run for a TD! (They were lifeless on offense until that return-special teams are killing us...AGAIN!)

Packers, own 21...An injury that is not ours? Beautiful pass AND catch (to Jones)! Perfect screen design and great block by Jennings! (Both guys are really stepping up with Driver obviously too hurt to contribute.) THAT'S how you close (and I know about closing-I'm in sales)-Aaron Rodgers threads the needle to a third-string tight end. Maybe that isn't technically a catch because of overly litigious interpretation of the law, but it is in spirit (even more than Calvin Johnson's week one vs. Bears)

Vikings, own 25...gotta make that pick! Right in your chest! Gerhart for 11-someone tell Stroh I told him so since he's too chicken to read my pieces now that he's been proven wrong so much. Now he gets just two more, probably because God is putting me in my place for calling out someone. Where's Peterson? Now the announcers ask that, too: I don't mind them stealing my thunder by pointing out the same things I am seeing (this is at least the third time in this game)-at least they are not being paid handsomely to do something I can do better.

Peterson back after Gerhart got 14 on three rushes. Woody falls, but I think Harvin was out at the four on that catch. Make it inside the two...might not have been worth challenge, except McCarthy can actually win one-hope we don't need that challenge (smacks of 2008 in Minnesota). Are both of these offenses going to keep dictating the game?

DO NOT COMPARE VINCE LOMBARDI LEAVING TO FAVRE. He didn't whine about every move being an indication he was not wanted (of course, he MADE the moves), threaten to and eventually quit, then ask for us to demote his replacement, and go to rival out of spite and bad-mouth team.

Packers, own 41...On our return? A pass on third and one? It worked, but it's pathetic when you are that afraid of running the ball. Maybe it's because we only run draws, but we are getting good at them (four yards on first down). You gotta ask for the flag sooner if it's gonna work, Greg, and that's not even a real hold.

Chad Clifton IS handling Jarred Allen-is the mulleted rodeo boozer getting washed up? You guys (Rodgers and receivers) have been playing together for over two years and aren't on the same page? Good call on fake, wide open, and he trips over his own feet!!!!!!!!! That is why you weren't drafted until the fifth round, Andrew Quarless!

Vikings, own 37...Stop talking about that catch that shouldn't have counted-we get it! Nice pass beyond good coverage by the Gunslinger. Harvin wasn't even out yet on that penalty! Even so, he's on his way out, so there's no need to take the chance at them making a bad call. If Bishop gets his hand up, the Old Guy can't get the pass down the middle-no, on replay it's apparent he was to the side of the throwing lane.

We had better win that challenge, or the one we wasted earlier will really hurt. I don't have enough faith in our defense to stop anyone even with a score taken away. I agree with the call-the ball did move, and it hit the ground without him previously having possession like the one they keep telling us we got away with. Shouldn't it be second down? Thank you. Saved us four points and we still have the challenge...and Mac is two for two (is that a first? feels like one).

Packers, own 28...Only second time Rodgers has had to move out of pocket-nice pickup to Jackson. Wow, that flag was late-I guess if you drop it, but still a hold is prior to pass, and that didn't look like a real hold. (IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE CATCHABLE ON A HOLD, CHRIS! But I'll give you one mulligan.)

What's up with still not being on the same page? It's more than one receiver, so is it Aaron? A concussion thing? Thanks for not Favreing that deflection-he just lost yards catching them 'cause he never knows how to give up on a play-LIKE YOU SHOULD HAVE THERE! WE HAD THE TIE! AND THAT'S A HOLD THEY GOT AWAY WITH!

Vikings, own 20...Still not much for Peterson-they should be glad to go in with lead. Mac is still not learning! Timeouts when the other team has the ball are deadly-TWICE in 2008, once in 2009, Colts in 2010 vs. Jags. A safety one-on-one with Moss? Glad they had the courage to make that call on a star. Both teams will let it go-hopefully that stirs some discontent. And yes, Brad Childress shows he's not smart again by doing it. (Actually, he had a pretty good explanation in that caustic press conference-that's twice I admitted being wrong in one half!)

Brett Favre was finally called out by his coach after 14 turnovers through six weeks

SECOND HALF
Packers, own 30...They are batting down passes-it is time to adjust and throw deep drops in. Ask for the interference there! We need two yards and you go low percentage deep pass?

Vikings, own 24...We are still not getting pressure, there is still no room for Peterson to run, and Woodson's blitz too obvious-we never bluff those, and that might help disrupt hot reads. Some pressure gets A.J. Hawk (who clearly still sucks, right, haters? And no, not every critic is a hater, just those that ignore facts like that he is our leading tackler and tied for the team lead in interceptions) a pick...The Old Man"s not hurt enough to leave, guys-this game means too much to him.

Packers, own 43...A couple runs-are they accepting Rodgers is not best option right now? HE HAS ALL DAY on second down! Dangerously off-target to Nelson, perfect to Jennings and we have the lead!

Vikings, own 20...GREAT squib. More gang tackling on Peterson. Of course the Drama Queen got no medical attention to his ankle-the "pain" was for show. (Boy was I wrong here since he has two breaks in his ankle/foot. I should not have questioned the Iron Man's expression of pain given his threshold for it. I was clearly prejudiced by the idea that he had shown elbow soreness to distract from his off-field issues.) Attention is what he's about-and PICKS! (Desmond Bishop-a LB-on Moss!) What the heck was the Gunslinger doing? What he always does-his 36th "pick six" of his career. If we can get Rodgers to stop paying homage to #4 with picks of his own, we're coming away with a win.

Vikings, own 41...That squib didn't work so well. Peterson is now finding a little room, and that helps Harvin get wide open on Woody, who falls for the second time this game to allow a big play-he's getting old fast.

Packers, own 24...Imagine how well Pat Lee would have done on that returns if he had been in position to catch the kick-why did he have to run across the field? Nelson needs to stay in bounds when he's got that much running room. Nice to see a straight-on running play work. Rodgers missed on a deep pass? Nelson may have stopped to stay between defenders.

Another straight-on run works! We CAN run the ball, Mac! These runs are shortening the game, too-good with a lead. Plenty of time to look and make sure on challenge...don't challenge, glad to see them go for it, and GREAT second effort by Kuhn! HAD to have that first to keep eating clock and keep the Traitor from sticking it to us again.

Maybe not much on that dump-off, but at least no sack-did he inherit the Old Guy's uncanny instinct to detect back-side pressure? Forward progress on that catch by Jennings should be past the marker-challenge it? Or just go for it-sneak this time-cause we may need challenge later. DUMB! Same unimaginative play that almost failed last time, and challenge would be inconclusive.

Vikings, own 34...You knew eventually Peterson would get a big run. C'mon-now he moves three guys? (Yes, Hawk was one of them-I would have to be an apologist instead of merely a supporter not to acknowledge that.) Gotta keep 'em out of endzone, and we do look like we're getting tired. Facemask on Matthews not called or we got the sack. Woodson was held, but I'll take Collins' pick-Gunslinger's taking too many chances because he wants it so badly.

Packers, own 23...Fine if Jackson loses a yard so long as the clock keeps going. Looks like first half was offense and this half is defense. GREAT off-balance throw to Jennings (more wobbly passes from Rodgers in this game than all last year). Good idea on the quick hook to Nelson to keep that clock moving without becoming predictable with runs up the middle.

Kuhn is not getting much on any carries. If we're that bad on third and short, how 'bout taking a false start? Where was that throw, and why go so deep on third and short?

Vikings, own 17...Another punt inside the 20! Need to force error-prone Gunslinger to pass with Peterson wearing us down. Nice play C.J. Wilson twice in a row. Good call by Vikes, good stop but Peterson will get this on fourth down (of course they're going for it, Michaels!)-at least they're running the clock. Pretty soon they will have to pass-running out of time.

Clock was at 2:00 before snap-challenge? Won't need 'em anymore. (Was I wrong? Not much protest or questioning of that call by announcers.) No pressure even on the blitz coming out of the two-minute warning, but the coverage was good. Who is covering the slot receiver? And they don't get the snap off and blow critical timeout anyway!

Huge play after the timeout by the Gunslinger. Finally a sack, and by a guy at the bottom of the depth chart (Jarious Wynn) against their best lineman (Steve Hutchinson). Huge screen-I am definitely nervous. But are the Vikings choking again with these consecutive penalties? They finally called the hands to the face that's happened all day on Matthews.

Yes, Harvin WAS out of bounds on the "touchdown" and he even knows it! Good play to follow, but that is their last timeout and they have only two plays left...One play...

PACKERS BEAT THE TRAITOR! PACKERS BEAT THE TRAITOR! PACKERS BEAT THE TRAITOR! Defense finally comes up big for mediocre Rodgers tonight.

October 24, 2010 10:54 AM

Packers-Vikings Preview

Maybe having all these problems on both teams is a good thing. At least the teams are not merely claiming they are focused on themselves, and the media is not thumping us over the head with The Return of the Traitor, the Sequel.

The Minnesota Vikings are struggling mightily. They have not won on the road. They have not beaten a team that currently holds more than one win. Their defense cannot get a pass rush going, and their offense is struggling in large part because their quarterback has almost twice as many turnovers as touchdowns.

That is not all: The king of off-season retirement drama is not only battling two things. One is tendinitis in his throwing elbow, unless as Mark Schlereth suggested, he is using this as a distraction from his other battle-being involved in a sex scandal during the season-which I certainly would not put past him.

(Incidentally, I cannot stand the guy, and with two employees suggesting harassment and all of the childish and selfish accusations made about and by him, only a fool does not accept he is a lech. But it is a waste of the NFL's time to "investigate" the alleged misconduct given the prevalence of such behavior in the league and the lack of substance because one of the harassed refuses to cooperate.)

Meanwhile, the Packers are reeling, too. We have lost three of four, all by a field goal on one of the last two plays of the game. We have four starters out for the season, and an injury list that exceeds 20 players, including three safeties, three defensive linemen, and four linebackers. We have gone from the best turnover ratio in the league to coughing up the football two more times than we have seized it.

With all of those issues, the teams are focused on themselves more than even each other. They need to right their own ships before they can worry about what the other is doing and how to stop it.

That will make it like an old school football game, like the ones I had in high school: We knew our opponent's offense and defensive schemes, but we had to worry about running our systems because we had little idea how good they were this year...no one knows for sure whether the Packers' and Vikings' wheels have come off on their seasons or if these are early season struggles they will correct and contend as projected.

This makes a preview more of a crap-shoot, but here is an attempt to predict what to expect...

When the Packers have the ball:

For reasons it is hard to fathom given Green Bay backs have combined for about 300 yards and over five yards per carry in just over two games of football, Mike McCarthy simply refuses to call running plays. The Packers got results spreading out the Chicago Bears defense and using short passes in place of runs, but have not been able to duplicate this success.

Thus, expect the Packers to stubbornly do more of the same, particularly because it can be difficult to run the ball on Minnesota's front four. Mark Tauscher is questionable for the game, so even if he does play, it will not be at 100 percent-expect the Vikings pass rush to get on track once they know they do not have to honor the run.

However, the Packers will get some plays in the passing game because the Vikings secondary was not very good with in the lineup, and he will be out for this game. Donald Driver was hurt last week but is returning to the field, meaning that other than the absence of Jermichael Finley, the Packers stellar receiving corps is intact.

All of this will mean the Packers struggle to get a rhythm going offensively, but be able to score some points. Aaron Rodgers has averaged over 250 yards per game and will exceed that by a bit; Green Bay has gotten just over 100 rushing yards per game, but will fall short of the century mark Sunday night.

When the Vikings have the ball:

This offense has struggled, but they have established Adrian Peterson again and are averaging about 125 yards per game on the ground. They will find that tough going with the Packers stout run defense-one area virtually unaffected by the injuries on the line and linebacking corps.

As forecast, Adrian Peterson has gotten a handle on his fumbling

Peterson will get his carries and is not fumbling this year, nor are the Packers causing them. But he will fall short of 100 yards, and the Packers are finally facing a quarterback who will not hurt them on scrambles; they should barely exceed 100 yards as a team.

In the passing game, the Old Guy has thrown more picks than touchdowns and has lost multiple fumbles. But Green Bay's injuries have killed them in the passing game, with starting ILBs Nick Barnett and Brandon Chillar being joined by OLBs Clay Matthews, III, and Brady Poppinga. Without Matthews, the Packers have gone to applying pressure on over 70 percent of passes to just 30 percent.

However, Matthews is expected to play, and the defense will be bolstered by other returning faces. Al Harris will likely play the nickel-back, and either Anthony Smith (who the team picked up in a trade with Jacksonville this week and was in camp in 2009) or Atari Bigby will fill a big void at safety. Mike Neal will probably still be out, but Ryan Pickett may be back on the defensive line.

However, even a hamstring-hampered Percy Harvin will give his quarterback enough targets to move the ball. More than making plays against the bolstered Packers defense, the Vikings will draw penalties on the Packers grabby secondary.

On special teams:

As every informed fan knows, the Packers special teams are bad. They give up big returns, so they better hope Harvin cannot be back there to receive kicks and punts. They also do not get touchdown returns and have struggled with turnovers. Mason Crosby has played pretty well this season, but on field goals he is no Ryan Longwell, and the Packers have a similar disadvantage punting.

Prediction: Vikings 24, Packers 23
(record: 3-3, 3-3 vs. spread)

The Vikings' struggles are correctable while the Packers are not through their injuries. Green Bay's current talent does not match up, and we would need turnovers to win this game. Unfortunately, the Packers are not getting them this year, and should expect the gunslinger to be at his best, motivated by his ill-placed vendetta and his increasing rapport with Randy Moss.

October 19, 2010 1:04 AM

NFL Week Six Observations, Packers-Dolphins

Last week, I got a couple complaints from readers unable to put my observations in context. Since the purpose of these observations is to make them off-the-cuff rather than analytical, and since I am forced to watch the game at a packed Vernon's Grille (Ricky, that is how THEY spell it-hence "Grille" being capitalised), there is too little room and time to write down details (i.e. "third play of the second series in the first possession, with 11:32 on the clock").

Rather, I have always relied on landmarks, such as references to unique plays, to help readers place observations since all are listed chronologically.  You can also see the play-by-play on NFL.com to help you follow along.

However, it is not too much to ask that I list which possession the play took place on. Thus, I have inserted it in parentheses before the first observation of each possession-i.e. GB2 indicates the second possession of the half for Green Bay.

The Packers defense is nothing with Clay Matthews on the sideline

  • (M1) Two defenders slip on dry grass during just this one possession. (One more for Green Bay and one more for Miami later in the game, just among defenders)-still think there is nothing to the Lambeau Field turf being an issue?
  • Two crossings to Brandon Marshall attacking the void left by the injuries to Morgan Burnett and Atari Bigby (Derrick Martin is also hurt, but that injury leaves no void), and Chad Henne had time because of the void on the pass rush from Clay Matthews' injury.
  • (M2): Can anyone cover Brandon Marshall? Put one man short to jump the first move and another long for a second, and throwing to him will be too high risk.
  • It took 13 minutes to get the slightest pressure on a play.
  • All-out blitz (six rushers) and Henne still had all day to throw.
  • They went to the well once too often! Way to finish (with the pick), Tramon Williams!
  • (GB3) And we capitalise with a big play! Finally we get Jennings involved-great double-move!
  • (M3) Can we see their punter in this game? Yes, because they foolishly ran the ball on third down, even though we have not stopped the pass.
  • And we get a tip on it! Too bad they still got a 29-yard net.
  • (GB4) A badly designed blitz gives Aaron Rodgers time to find a wide-open Andrew Quarless.
  • Jordy Nelson runs before catching the ball. This team lacks focus as well as health in recent games, leading to drops and turnovers we have not seen since the first half of last season.
  • We downed a punt inside the 20! And it's about time they put the onus on directional punting, because I am tired of seeing balls bounce through coverage into the endzone.
  • (M4) Frank Zombo gets the tip, but the ball still finds its way to Brandon Marshall.
  • The only pass we are defending well is the screen. With this lack of pressure, there is no reason to run that, nor any reason not to throw consistently downfield.
  • (GB5) Rodgers falls and so does his receiver, and we still get nine yards?
  • You gotta get rid of that ball, Aaron! Even if you just flip it to Korey Hall whose block was beaten to allow that sack.
  • That sack plus a false start and we are out of field goal range. At least we down another punt inside the 20-that matches our total for five games in one half.
  • (M5) How do our two Pro Bowl defensive backs leave Marshall that wide open?
  • Now that we do not have to honour the run, we finally get a little pressure.
  • No sooner do I say that and Henne has all day. A missed tackle and again we are killed by the scramble.
  • That was pure luck that Marshall could not catch that in-bounds-I do not remember seeing anyone so open against this defense!
  • (M1, second half) The one time they can run is against the psycho package-first time I remember seeing it (though I was not looking), perhaps because we have no healthy linebackers left.
  • (GB1) Quit complaining to the officials about being hit, Rodgers, and get on your linemen-both of those were clean.
  • Forcing the ball was our last quarterback's thing, not yours! Costly pick!
  • (M2) Now Brady Poppinga is hurt, too? (Yes, and the ratio of significant injuries at home to on the road is now 19:12...but again, I am apparently an idiot for thinking there is something to that trend that looks at 38 games.)
  • Driver, too? (Fortunately, that was just minor.)
  • Tony Sparano should have taken the field goal, because a six-point lead forces us to do something we can't: Score a touchdown.
  • (GB2) We are not getting our customary yards after the catch because they tackle too well.
  • (GB3) Jordy Nelson was wide open on the swing pass after motioning into the backfield as no one picked him up, but Rodgers never even looked his way before taking our fourth sack.
  • (M4) Big third down stop by Desmond Bishop.
  • First, that penalty flag sure came in late. Second, Francois was almost two yards off the line-is that still considered lining up over center?
  • That was the perfect call against that blitz-no chance to stop the touchdown. Is it possible they saw something that told them it was coming?
  • (GB4) This empty backfield shotgun formation is not working, yet we keep going with it.
  • Good time and god coverage-if not for good creativity by both Rodgers and Nelson, we do not convert on fourth down. (And good job by Dan Fouts seeing this and pointing it out.)
  • Brian Bulaga played well last week, but Cameron is leaving him in his Wake today.
  • Call timeout and save clock before two-minute warning so you can get the ball back if you fail on fourth down!
  • See, Minnesota, that is how you run a goalline against the Dolphins!
  • With the way our defense cannot stop them until they get in the red zone and our offense is struggling to put together drives, we should have gone for two.
  • (M5) Why in the heck wouldn't you try a Hail Mary from midfield with one play left in regulation? What are you afraid of? A 100-plus-yard interception return is far less likely than a completed pass.
  • (M6) If they chose the ball, how come they also have the wind? Who picked that side and why?
  • Not one sack all game long...no wonder we lost!
October 17, 2010 9:23 AM

Packers-Dolphins Preview

At this point, any Green Bay Packers preview has to start with injuries. Green Bay's injury report has a whopping 16 players on it after just five weeks, and that does not even count Atari Bigby and Al Harris, still ineligible to play because injuries put them on the physically unable to perform list, or Ryan Grant and Morgan Burnett, already on injured reserve.

Rather than run down all the injuries, I will focus only on those unlikely to play: S Derrick Martin, TE Jermichael Finley, and LBs Brandon Chillar and Nick Barnett (now joining Grant and Burnett on IR) are definitely out; it is unlikely that either LB Clay Matthews or RT Mark Tauscher will play. Defensive linemen Mike Neal and Ryan Pickett are listed as questionable but will probably play, just at limited capacity.

In more ways than one, the Packers are in a world of hurt.

Green Bay cannot afford to drop to 3-3, with what will either be a desperate or more confident Minnesota Vikings team to follow and a road game against one of the three best teams in the league, the New York Jets, the following week. This team could easily find itself out of the running for the division title by the time it reaches the bye week.

Mike McCarthy needs this win to stay in good position for the playoffs

So what are the home team's chances of coming away victorious? Let us examine matchups between the Packers and Dolphins:

When the Packers have the ball...

Green Bay has found its running game in the past two weeks, but Miami's defense is stout. Expect the Packers to take advantage of one of their few healthy units (wide receivers) and spread the field, utilising the short passing game and mixing in enough runs to keep Miami honest.

However, the will have almost no success throwing to the tight ends with Finley out, as Miami has exceptional linebackers. Aaron Rodgers will need to find his opportunities to go downfield and make the most of them, because the Packers are not likely to have enough possessions or consistent success to put up points any other way.

When the Dolphins have the ball...

Believe it or not, the Packers have the same number of yards rushing as the vaunted running attack of Miami. True, many of those are from a Rodgers' superior mobility to Chad Henne, but Miami will have some difficulty running the ball on the Packers' still formidable defense.

On the other hand, Miami is averaging just a couple yards less per game through the air, as Brandon Marshall has forced teams to account for the passing game. With Matthews out, the Packers pass rush becomes sub-standard, and Henne will have time to throw. Look for Miami to run to control the clock and open up big plays in the play-action passing game.

On special teams...

One expects every Packers opponent to have the edge here. Green Bay gives up about five more yards per punt return than it gets, about three more per kick return, turns the ball over more and has two punts downed inside the 20 to its opponents' eight.

However, while the Dolphins do average more than three yards better per punt return and are good at downing the ball inside the 20, Brandon Fields averages more than four fewer yards per punt than Tim Masthay. Miami has also given up a touchdown kick return and gives up about 15 more yards per kick return than they get. They have had two kicks blocked (a field goal-just like the Packers-and a punt; one was returned for a score).

Prediction: Packers 23, Dolphins 21 (Record: 3-2, vs. spread: 3-2)

October 16, 2010 11:41 AM

Packers Report Card From Washington

It was a Tale of Two Halves. People like to say it is not how you start, but how you finish. But games are won all the time in the first half; unfortunately for the Green Bay Packers, that was not the case Sunday.

The visitors stormed out and dominated the first quarter, culminating in a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter on a Mason Crosby 52-yard field goal. Outside of one play in the first half, the home team could do nothing, and the Packers went into the locker room with a 10-3 lead.

But the second half was drastically different. With the Packers down two tight ends-leaving them only a late-round and an undrafted rookie-they were unable to move the ball, scoring only on a 36-yard field goal by Crosby. When the best player on defense, Clay Matthews, III, went down, they were unable to get to Donovan McNabb.

Washington rode one big-play, a 48-yard touchdown to Anthony Armstrong, and a 45-yard field goal into overtime. That is when a turnover and defensive penalties on the Packers opened the door to the game-winning kick.

To add injury to insult, Green Bay suffered five injuries in that game. While only one will miss more than a couple games, the impact could be devastating for a team that began the season with Super Bowl aspirations.

Yet a unit's performance must be graded on those that played, not affected by those who could not. It is the team's responsibility to get the job done no matter who is out there, or one would give losing teams the same leniency for lack of talent and everyone would get C's...

Quarterback: C+

Aaron Rodgers was 27-46 (.587) for 293 yards (6.4/attempt), one touchdown and one interception. Even though he was hit as he threw, the pick ended up costing the Packers the game, and they would not have been in the position had he been able to get a score inside the red zone in the third quarter instead of settling for the field goal.

Moreover, he must take a good deal of blame for the time management at the end of regulation: At one point, he wasted four seconds before calling a timeout-good enough for another play-at which point one might as well save that timeout. Then, with nine seconds left, he ran off time rather than spike the ball with enough to allow for one quick out so the game-winning kick could have been closer in.

Rodgers also actually had run support in this one, with backs getting 127 yards rushing to add to his own 30 yards on four carries. A team adept at applying pressure managed four sacks for 23 yards, none of which we Rodgers' fault. But it all adds up to an unimpressive performance.

Brandon Jackson finally had a day that can make fans believers in the running game

Running backs: A-

A great performance by the running backs was wasted in this one, as they were not given the ball enough. John Kuhn got just three carries for 12 yards and caught two passes for five yards total-unimpressive even considering his lack of touches.

However, Brandon Jackson ripped off an early 71-yard run, and also managed 44 yards on nine others; when you can take such a huge run off the books and still average almost five yards per carry, you are dominating. If you can also add 25 yards on five catches, you are a legitimate two-way threat.

Receivers: D

The strongest and healthiest unit coming into the game was the primary culprit in the team falling short.

Sure, James Jones (four catches, 65 yards) and Jordy Nelson (3-42) stepped up, but each also had a dropped pass. Andrew Quarless also did well (4-51), but Greg Jennings only caught two passes for 22 yards, and Donald Driver (4-58) dropped as many as he caught. Donald Lee had a touchdown, but fumbled on his other catch. Tom Crabtree had the only other catch for three yards.

Offensive line: C+

Allowing four sacks is too much, even against a good defensive line. However, the running backs did not make all that yardage out of nothing: They had holes to run through because the line got a surge. Brian Bulaga played well in his first start filling in for Mark Tauscher.

Defensive line: A-

The unit combined for only five tackles and three assists, but had a sack and a half and held Washington's running game in check: 17 carries, 41 yards (2.4/carry) out of the backs, and deserve credit for keeping McNabb (ten yards on five scrambles) contained.

Linebackers: A-

This unit kept the Packers in this game, totaling 21 tackles, 16 assists, and 3.5 sacks. They repeatedly broke up screens and covered dump-off passes that Washington continued to try to deal with the defensive pressure, allowing just six catches (albeit for 58 yards) to backs; the seven catches for 69 yards by Pro Bowl tight end Chris Cooley were more on the safeties.

Secondary: D

The secondary had too many penalties and too few plays. The only way Washington was able to move the ball was through the air, and 299 yards was at the expense of this unit.

Tramon Williams' lone turnover aside, they managed 15 tackles and four assists, but gave up huge plays to not just the only real wide receiver threat, Santana Moss (seven receptions for 118 yards), and only other proven commodity (Cooley), but Anthony Armstrong (84 yards and a score) and ancient Joey Galloway (three catches, 28 yards).

Special Teams: B

Poor Mason Crosby walks away just two of four in one of his best kicking days yet. Hitting on just one of three kicks of 48-yards plus is to be expected, and he was close on both misses, including hitting the crossbar on what could have been a 53-yard game-winner. Two of his five kicks went into the endzone, helping the kick coverage hold a good return team to a 16-yard average.

Tim Masthay put one of his six punts inside the 20 and managed a 36.2-yard net despite awful coverage that gave up a 30-yard return. The Packers rode a 52-yard return from Tramon Williams to a 15-yard average, but got fewer than 70 total yards on five kick returns, including one with no return.

October 9, 2010 2:43 AM

Packers Unit Grades, Week Four

Yeah, I know: It's Friday, the beginning of the fifth weekend of the NFL season, and a little late to be analysing (do not waste your time criticising my British spellings-they are not wrong, just out of the ordinary, and I am not conforming just because some of you do not like it) Week Four.

I have two excuses:

  1. I spend over 60 hours a week either at or commuting to my job that pays (which this does not)
  2. There was actual news during this week. A host of injuries, a couple signings that affected the Packers, and the start of both the baseball playoffs and NHL season, which I am actually paid (a pittance) to write about.

But now back to what I do just for fun: Write on our beloved Green Bay Packers. For better or worse they are our team, and how much more fun it has been in the last 19 seasons (1992-2010: only four full seasons without more than eight wins) than it was in the previous 19 (just one season with more than eight wins).

That being said, I was raised Catholic, and we learn to complain. A win is a win, but the Packers have to do better than win by two points at home against the Detroit Lions...here are the grades by unit:

Quarterback: B+

Because the Packers did not have the ball much, Aaron Rodgers attempted only 17 passes, completing 12 of them (an impressive .706 completion rate) for 181 yards (an astounding 10.6 per attempt) and three touchdowns (a remarkable touchdown percentage of 18.2 percent of attempts). Unfortunately, he also had two interceptions (12.1 percent), although one was better than a punt, especially with the Packers special teams.

However, one must bear in mind he did this against a very pourous Detroit secondary and with the help of a great receiving corps. He was sacked twice for 12 yards by an above average line-about par for the course. Finally, he added 21 yards on two carries before losing a yard on a kneeldown.

Running back: C+

John Kuhn ran out the clock with seven carries for 34 yards on the final drive even though the Lions knew the Packers would try to run. This pushed the grade above average considering they were up against a decent defensive line. Overall, he had nine carries for 39 yards (4.3 average).

Brandon Jackson finished with nine rushes for 33 yards (3.7) after losing three on that final possession, with a long carry of 14. This gave the backs them a combined 72 yards on 18 carries (4.0). Unfortunately, only one catch for a single yard was made between them.

Jordy Nelson should have spent less training camp time riding fans' bikes and more learning to hold onto the football

Receivers: B-

Up against one of the worst secondaries in the league, only Donald Driver was effective, getting 89 yards on three catches with a touchdown. Jermichael Finley had four receptions and a score, but just 36 yards; Greg Jennings got the other score on one of his two catches for 25 yards total. Both James Jones and Donald Lee had a catch for 15 yards to close out receiver production.

Offensive line: B

Again, giving up just two sacks for 12 yards is a decent performance against a defensive line that has some talent. What put the line above a C was the running game: Previously, neither Kuhn nor Jackson had shown much, yet they ran the ball effectively for how little the Packers had the ball and how obvious it was they wanted to run the ball on the final possession, and they avoided the penalties that plagued them against the Bears.

Defensive line: C

While the line appeared to be making an excessive number of plays for a 3-4 defense, a closer look at the numbers reveals they did so at the expense of some of their responsibilities. Seven tackles, two assists, two sacks, a fumble forced and a fumble recovered are great; allowing 68 yards on just 16 carries, even to a pretty decent stable of running backs, is not. Add to that the failure to contain the clay-footed Sean Hill in the pocket (four carries for 53 yards) and they are lucky to get a C.

Linebackers: D+

The linebackers have to take a lot of blame for Hill's big scrambles, too. But 22 tackles (led by A.J. Hawk's nine) and ten assists (led by Hawk's three), along with a sack (Clay Matthews) and a pick (Hawk) is a pretty good game since they were without Brandon Chillar for the entire game and Nick Barnett for some of it.

Unfortunately, this unit was terrible in coverage without Chillar, giving up 11 catches for 68 yards to running backs who were entirely their responsibility. Moreover, they share responsibility with safeties in covering tight ends, and Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler combined for a whopping 14 catches for 154 yards, an 11-yard average.

Secondary: D

True, the Packers had their fourth safety in the game once the coaches found out rookie Morgan Burnett was playing hurt. But the above production out of the Detroit tight ends is atrocious in any circumstance.

The Packers were up against Calvin Johnson, but nine catches for 109 yards and two scores is still not enough to offset the poor safety play. Even Charles Woodson's team-leading 11 tackles (the rest of the secondary had 12) and two assists plus the interception returned for a touchdown (which was probably trapped anyway based on his response to questions about it) could not make the unit's performance acceptable.

Special Teams: F

Once again, the Packers failed in this area. Jordy Nelson had two fumbles lost on kick returns, averaged about 17 yards per, and had a long of 24; Tramon Williams did get 11 yards in his only punt return. Meanwhile, the Packers allowed a kick return average of 24 yards and the one punt returned got 15.

Mason Crosby did not attempt a field goal, but only one of his five kicks went into the endzone, and that was after a penalty on the extra point moved him up five yards. Tim Masthay managed just a 36-yard punting net, although he did land one punt inside the Detroit 20.

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