The Green Bay Packers failed to stay unbeaten as they fell to the Kansas City Chiefs 19-14 in Week 15. Entering the game 13-0, the Packers put together their worst performance of the season on the road at Arrowhead Stadium, and the Chiefs capitalized.
While it was far from pretty from the Packers' perspective, a lot of credit must be given to the Chiefs, who executed their game plan brilliantly. They kept Aaron Rodgers off the field by sustaining drives with their running game and short dink-and-dunk passing game, using screen passes to eliminate the Packers' blitz package and playing two-deep safeties in order to avoid giving up the big play.
In their weakest showing of the season, none of the Packers starters deserved an A grade. The offensive starters were terrible according to Packers' standards, but the defense played fairly well outside of not coming up with a turnover.
Aaron Rodgers played statically his worst game of the season. Rodgers threw more incompletions than he did completions as he finished his day 17-of-35 for 235 yards and a touchdown. On the ground, Rodgers added 32 yards and a touchdown.
The offensive line and wide receivers didn't provide Rodgers much help against the Chiefs, but Rodgers was not his typical lethal self. A number of passes were off target or rushed. The Packers' inability to stay on the field and get into a rhythm seemed to impact Rodgers the most.
Building off of his success last week, Ryan Grant was one of the few players ready to go for the Packers. On the day, Grant rushed for 66 yards on 12 carries and caught three passes for 35 yards. One of the few sparks, Grant simply didn't get enough opportunities to turn his day into a big performance.
Grant and the Packers definitely missed having either James Starks or Brandon Saine in the line-up to help out the running game. Successfully running the ball on first down provided the Packers with favorable downs and distances, but drops and poor offensive line play hurt the offense.
With Greg Jennings out with a knee injury, Jordy Nelson moved into the spotlight as the Packers' top wide receiver. The additional attention hurt Nelson as he was only able to muster up two catches for 29 yards. Both came on the Packers' last drive of the game.
Nelson was also flagged for three different penalties throughout the game. Twice he was flagged for offensive pass interference as he was caught pushing off (one was declined) and once for an illegal shift prior to the snap.
Donald Driver was almost invisible for the Packers besides helping Aaron Rodgers break the Packers' single-season passing touchdown record on a 2-yard pass. The only other pass Driver caught on the day was a five-yarder giving Driver two catches and seven yards on the day.
Driver was coming off strong performances in the last two games in which he caught a combined eight passes for 109 yards and two touchdowns. It was quite the opposite performance for Driver against the Chiefs.
Jermichael Finley's frustrating season continued in that fashion against the Chiefs with an up and down day for the big playmaker. Finley ended the day with three catches and a team-high 83 yards, but had plenty of drops that the Packers' biggest target should have had.
With his unique ability, Finley is able to get to balls most pass-catchers could only dream of getting their fingertips. This does lead to more "drops," but there were plenty of balls that Finley should have caught. If Finley was able to pull in a couple more passes, the game could have been drastically different.
Finley was open quite a bit and made one of the biggest plays for the Packers offense. Early in the third quarter, Finley adjusted spectacularly to a Rodgers' pass for a 41-yard completion to set up an eventual 2-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers to Driver.
John Kuhn didn't play much of a roll for the Packers in this game outside of blocking and an occasional touch of the football. He had two carries on the day for no yardage, but caught one screen pass for 11 yards. Kuhn did an average job blocking when asked to do so and was not a noticeable liability.
The Packers offensive line had quite an interesting day with two players injured, some good run blocking, moments of great pass protection and plays with nothing resembling pass protection. A starting line-up that featured LT Marshall Newhouse, LG T.J. Lang, C Scott Wells, RG Josh Sitton and RT Bryan Bulaga lost Bulaga and then back-up Derek Sherrod.
After losing both those players, the Packers offensive line for their last drive featured LT Newhouse, LG Evan Dietrich-Smith, C Wells, RG Sitton and RT Lang. Because of the injuries and shifting, the responsibilities and and performances of players on the line really changed throughout the game.
With regard to pass protection, T.J. Lang played well, but Newhouse struggled quite noticeable for the most part. Sitton and Wells held their own, but gave up pressures. In the running game, the offensive line opened up some big holes for Ryan Grant, but the Packers offense struggled to maintain the run.
Making the start for the injured Ryan Pickett, Howard Green failed to come up with a big performance. With the Packers needing any form of pass rush, Green had a big opportunity to prove he could get the job done against the Chiefs. He struggled to get much of a pass rush going.
Green did do a good job in the two goal-line stands that the Packers had. On short downs and distances, Green was able to push back his blockers and allow for the Packers to stop the ball carrier before getting the first down or the touchdown.
B.J. Raji played well against the Chiefs especially on the Packers' various goal line stands. Late in the second quarter, with the Chiefs up 6-0 facing a fourth-and-one at the Packers' 3-yard line, B.J. Raji blew up the play and allowed for the rest of the defense to clean up and stop Jackie Battle short of the first down.
Along with his big play in goal-line situations, Raji came up with two tackles. It wasn't all good for Raji though as he struggled to beat opponents in getting to the quarterback. The lack of a pass rush allowed Kyle Orton ample time to dink and dunk down the field.
Opposite Green, C.J. Wilson got the start for the Packers. Wilson has been part of a rotation featuring Jarius Wynn and Mike Neal, but Wilson opened the game on the field. Wilson registered two tackles on the day, but like his counter parts up front, did little to manufacture a pass rush.
Along with the other D-linemen, Wilson was big in the Packers' goal-line sets and helped the Packers win the battle of trenches in important situations.
When the coaches bench a player for poor performance, the player is certainly getting a failing grade. This was the case for Walden who was replaced late in the game by Frank Zombo. The Chiefs killed Walden on screen passes and runs to the outside of the formation.
Walden's inability to maintain his edge lead to his removal a week after having a good game and scoring his first touchdown. Walden will need to bounce back quickly for the Packers to keep his job safe.
D.J. Smith continued his strong play and furthered his campaign for playing time against the Chiefs. Smith finished the afternoon with six solo tackles and nine total. Like he has done since initially getting playing time, Smith was all over the field making plays for the Packers.
Smith was decent in coverage, but it wasn't perfect as a mis-communication lead to a big play on a completion to Leonard Pope. With Smith playing as well as he is, it will be hard for the Packers to keep him off the field. With Desmond Bishop's return looming, it could mean Smith takes snaps away from Hawk.
A.J. Hawk also played well at the inside linebacker position with D.J. Smith. Hawk finished third in tackles with eight solos and eight total tackles. He was flying across the field showing little sign that he of the calf injury that cost him some time.
Like most of the defense, Hawk played well, but failed to come up with that big play that would have shifted the game. It has been quite some time since Hawk has been the one to do so.
Hawk will need to continue to step up for the Packers and could be shifted into a rotation with D.J. Smith once Bishop comes back healthy.
In a favorable match-up, Clay Matthews did little to show that he was the runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year last season. Matthews had a hard time getting to the quarterback, but did finish the game with six tackles.
The Chiefs did a fantastic job with their game-plan to neutralize Matthews' threat and executed it perfectly. Screen passes and short throws limited the time that Matthews had to get to the quarterback. With the Chiefs rarely throwing the ball down the field and little help from the rest of the defensive front, Matthews had little opportunity to alter the game.
The best performance of the day for the Packers definitely came from Charles Woodson and it's not close. Woodson was all over the field and lead the Packers with 11 tackles on the afternoon. Woodson was critical on around the goal-line, saving a touchdown with a shoe-string tackle of Jackie Battle.
Woodson wasn't perfect in coverage as he slipped on a completion to Jonathan Baldwin and gave up a few. In a game where the Packers desperately needed a turnover, it felt like Woodson was going to come up with one. It never came for the Packers.
Tramon Williams had the pleasure of lining up against Dwayne Bowe the majority of the day. One of the top talents in the league at wide receiver, Bowe is a tough match-up for any corner. Williams did a good job against Bowe as he finished the day with just four catches and 49 yards.
Williams broke up a pass in the end zone and finished the game with two solo tackles and a total of three. Since returning from a shoulder injury, Williams has improved and seems to be getting back into the swing of things.
Morgan Burnett came up with the only quarterback hit that the Packers got all game. It came on the first passing attempt for the Chiefs, a 10-yard completion to Terrance Cooper as Burnett was slightly late on his blitz. Along with his quarterback hit, Burnett came up with five tackles (four solo) and a pass defended.
It wasn't a flashy game by Burnett, but it was a solid performance with no glaring weaknesses. Burnett did well on the Chiefs many screen passes and and got after the ball around the goal-line.
While creating turnovers has helped Charlie Peprah even out his play this season, there have plenty of times that his bad play has outweighed his positive plays. This was the case against the Chiefs as Peprah was eaten alive by the Chiefs' play action pass.
On the afternoon, Peprah registered six tackles, but like everybody else on the defense, failed to come up with a big play. Peprah will need to be better against play action going forward or opposing teams will destroy him.