Green Bay Packers Earn High Marks for Drubbing of Oakland Raiders
They have just two wins (over struggling San Diego and Chicago) in seven games with the quarterback they traded a first and second round pick to acquire. They do not take care of the football and they give their opponents free plays and yards through penalties.
Still, the Packers played well enough to pull Aaron Rodgers with almost two minutes to go in the third quarter because of the 43-7 lead. Only one win in the 19 of this streak relied less on that quarterback to get it done than this one.
Coach Mike McCarthy has said this team has goals it is focused on before talking about 19-0 for 2011. The Packers clinched a first-round bye in the playoffs, leaving homefield advantage as the only remaining hurdle. Because the San Francisco 49ers lost Sunday, that can be clinched next week at Arrowhead Stadium.
First, let us take a look at this game and what went right for the Packers...
Aaron Rodgers' streak of games with a 100-plus passer rating ends at 13, including Super Bowl XLV. He managed "just" 96.7.
Rodgers still led the Packers to scores on the first five possessions (four touchdowns and a field goal). At that point, he was 13-of-20 for 207 yards and two touchdowns while being sacked once for six yards. That adds up to a 132.7 rating.
Thus, the fact that he was just 4-of-10 for 72 yards with his sixth pick of the season and two sacks for 14 yards once the game was decided was almost inconsequential. However, no matter how little it was needed, the passing game was not very good for over half the game (overall passer rating of 90.8) and thus cannot get an A.
Again, why is everyone so sure Matt Flynn can be an NFL starter? One great game against a terrible pass defense last season? His only two passing attempts fell incomplete, leaving his career passer rating at 68.1.
The sack he took for a safety was on a delayed blitz, and he has to make a quicker read than that when he stands in his own end zone. He also officially had three carries for two yards lost, but they were kneeldowns.
Flynn did lead the team to a field goal thanks to one of the 11 Raiders penalties. Rodgers also drew the Raiders offsides a few times.
Running Backs: A
From the first official play of the game for the offense, there was a difference in the Packers running game. For the first time in two seasons, there was a touchdown run of 20-plus yards.
GRANTed (as in Ryan Grant), they were up against the worst run defense in the NFL. But playing soft run defenses has not helped the Packers rushing attack this season: St. Louis, San Diego, Tampa Bay, Detroit and New York represent five of the 10 worst run defenses in the NFL.
Had Grant's opening 47-yard touchdown run been the reason this unit was successful, it would still give the unit a solid grade. But the backs had 20 carries for 91 yards outside of that run, including a dozen carries for 53 yards after the 31-point lead was established.
Grant finished with 10 carries for 85 yards and two scores, plus had a big 13-yard catch. John Kuhn added 10 more carries for 46 yards and Brandon Saine had a run and two catches, gaining seven yards all three times. That gave the unit 165 yards on 24 touches, a 6.9-yard average.
The Packers receiving corps was led by Jordy Nelson's three catches for 81 yards, including a 37-yard score. Over the remainder of the season, we may find out if he is truly in the same league as Greg Jennings.
Jennings injured his knee on his second catch (an eight-yarder that gave him 20 for the day), and while the team has yet to do an MRI or list any official statement, discussion was toward getting him healthy in time for the playoffs.
The Packers did not do as well through the air after the injury, but it could as easily have been because of other variables as from Nelson's inability to beat the opposition's best cover-corner. There was no longer urgency and Rodgers eventually gave way to Flynn.
James Jones again showed that his signing was the least important of the Packers' offseason, catching just two passes for 28 yards. He has a chance to turn that view around if Jennings missed multiple games.
Donald Driver again showed that retirement talk is premature, catching four passes for 75 yards. Randall Cobb rounded out the wide receiver production with two catches for 45 yards.
However, the tight ends were not very involved. Ryan Taylor had his first catch, a four-yard touchdown, but Jermichael Finley only got his hands on the ball once, and it was ripped from him for Rodgers' third red-zone pick of his career.
The reality is, the main reason the Packers only completed 53 percent of passes was the receivers were not open enough. Still, no drops and only one penalty with two scores and a 16.5-yard average per catch is a solid performance, especially considering how key their blocks were on the Packers' three big runs.
Offensive Line: B
The offensive line did give up four sacks to the Raiders. But Oakland came in ranked in the top quarter of the league in sack percentage, and the Packers dropped back to pass three dozen times.
At least one sack was the result of a quarterback not getting rid of the ball fast enough, and for once, the line was not bailed out by the fleet feet of the players they are called upon to protect. They were almost penalty-free and at times held the pocket well despite the receivers needing longer than usual to get open.
More to the point, they opened up running lanes for the backs. There were almost no carries that did not go beyond the line of scrimmage, and often, the line was even able to get the backs to the linebacker level.
Defensive Line: B
Ryan Pickett had three of the four solo tackles and one of the five assists for the defensive line. He left the game early with a concussion.
Jarius Wynn had three assists, Howard Green had another and C.J. Wilson got the remaining tackle for this unit. B.J. Raji was once again held off the stat sheet.
However, pressure was consistent, even if not extreme (only one team sack). The potent Raiders running game, the line's primary responsibility Sunday, allowed Raiders backs just 95 yards on 26 carries (3.7 average) with just one score is solid.
Like much of the Raiders success, Michael Bush (23 carries, 78 yards for a 3.4 average) got his touchdown late with the Packers focusing on pass defense. They had 10 carries for a mere 20 yards in the first half before the game was decided.
There was deep production out of the linebacking corps Sunday. As a whole, they had 20 tackles, six assists, the only sack, two interceptions, forced and recovered a fumble.
Robert Francois had his second pick and D.J. Smith his first on passes that should not have been thrown. Both also had seven tackles, and Smith's three assists were one more than Francois.
However, Francois forced the fumble that Erik Walden (two tackles) recovered and returned for a touchdown. While Clay Matthews, III, had only a tackle and an assist, his pressure caused at least one penalty and one pick. Frank Zombo got the only sack to go with his three tackles.
The linebackers also did pretty well in pass coverage outside of the picks.
Since dump-offs to the backs are almost impossible to stop, the best one can usually do is make a quick tackle. Three Raiders backs combined for nine catches but just 40 yards (4.4 average).
This unit would share responsibility covering tight ends with the safeties. The talented Kevin Boss had five catches but just 43 yards (8.6), though it did include a late touchdown.
One reason that Carson Palmer had to dump the ball off so often is the secondary was covering the talented but inconsistent Raiders receivers well. Palmer finished 24-of-42 for 245 yards (84 yards and the score coming in fourth quarter garbage time), one score and four picks—a 42.4 passer rating.
In his 45 drop-backs, he completed just 10 passes to the wide receivers for 162 yards and no scores. Both Charles Woodson and Sam Shields picked off passes and coverage was that tight.
Overall, the unit stayed almost entirely error- and penalty-free while collecting a whopping 25 tackles and three assists. Morgan Burnett led the way with 10 solo tackles, and Charlie Peprah, Tramon Williams and Woodson all had five tackles and an assist.
Special Teams: A-
The Raiders have arguably the best special teams in the league, but the Packers out-played them. The Packers avoided the penalty bug and the Raiders were unable to take advantage of the man uncovered on a fake punt.
Tim Masthay had only one 40-yard punt with no return. Mason Crosby hit on all four field goals (three from 30-39 and a 49-yarder), but one of his extra points was blocked. Seven of his 11 kickoffs went into the end zone for touchbacks, and the other four averaged just over 10 yards per return.
Randall Cobb had a 50-yard kick return, but his other was for just 16. He had punt returns of 16 and 10 yards.