Grades: Packers vs. Vikings
The Green Bay Packers kept their winning streak alive by giving a behind-the-woodshed-like beating to the hated Minnesota Vikings by the score of 45-7. This is by far going to be the best overall report card I’ve given to this point. Let’s take a look.
QB: Aaron Rodgers was, again, artistic in his play, finishing 23-of-30 for 250 yards and four TD passes. His touchdown pass to Greg Jennings was reminiscent of the one they hooked up for in the Super Bowl. It was a simple post pattern and Rodgers placed it where only Jennings could catch it. He has touch when needed and the ability to cock the arm back and fire a bullet when he has to. Rodgers is getting kind of boring to write about, since he’s pretty much perfect every game. The only pass that was bad was one to Jermichael Finley that could have easily been picked it off if the defender was paying attention. Luckily, Finley made a great adjustment to make it a completion. In case you didn’t know, Rodgers has a backup named Matt Flynn and he got to play Monday night. He only threw two passes, but both were complete for a total of 38 yards. Flynn was able to drive the offense down the field and score, when he ran it in for six. Flynn played the janitor role perfectly and did what was needed. GRADE: A+
RB: The running backs did what was asked of them. The Packers only called 21 running plays, which gained a total of 69 yards. James Starks ran and blocked well. He dropped an easy outlet pass from Rodgers, but did catch three others for 11 yards. Ryan Grant, on the other hand, continues to be a still a shell of his former self. His only highlight was his one reception, which went for a 17-yard gain. John Kuhn — in my opinion, an underrated player — did a good job blocking and was on the receiving end of a Rodgers’ touchdown. The Packers aren’t expecting this group to win games right now. I think we’ll see a lot more of them come December, when running the ball will be necessary in the cold weather. For now, they do what’s expected. GRADE: B+
Receivers: Much like Rodgers, there really isn’t much you can say about this group anymore. They’re a very good group and know exactly what they’re doing. Jordy Nelson led the Packers’ pass catchers with five receptions and two scores. He keeps his way toward star status. Veteran Donald Driver had a outstanding catch in the first quarter, grabbing a back-shoulder catch that was high. As I stated before, Finley made a great adjustment to grab a Rodgers pass over a defender. Jennings grabbed a touchdown and James Jones and Andrew Quarless each had one catch. Rookie stud Randell Cobb had a good game catching the ball as the Packers fifth receiver, pulling in three balls for 36 yards. It’s always hard to point out who stood out in a game where seven different wide receivers or tight ends have at least one catch. GRADE: A
Offensive line: Here’s where the overall grade takes a dip. The offensive line was bad for much of the game. I’m actually getting angry while typing this. I wanted to call Lambeau Field and ask if tackle Marshall Newhouse was working because frankly, it sure didn’t look like it. Newhouse looked beyond lost on numerous plays. Jarred Allen is a outstanding defensive end and makes offensive tackles look bad on a regular basis, but Newhouse was a turnstile for him. I’m very surprised he wasn’t yanked from the game. The rest of the line played okay, but did very little to open holes on the few running plays the Packers called. Scott Wells continues to play solid ball, but Josh Sitton, Bryan Bulaga and T.J. Lang were nothing special. Surprisingly, Rodgers was sacked only twice. GRADE: C-
Defensive line: The defensive line played better than they have in the past, but still lacked that big push up front. They were pushed around on Adrian Peterson’s touchdown run and never got close to getting pressure on Christian Ponder. Yes, I know Peterson was held to 51 yards rushing, with a 3.6 average, but that had nothing to do with the defensive line. C.J. Wilson led all lineman with three tackles and played solid all around. B.J. Raji, on the other hand, has yet to make a impact this year. This unit should get a boost when Mike Neal comes back, but who can really say what he’ll provide coming off surgery? The best play of the game for the defensive line was on a attempted screen pass that they sniffed out, causing Ponder to get rid of the ball. It’s the second half of the season and they, like I said last week, need to step it up big time. GRADE: C
Linebackers: The reason Peterson gained only 51 yards was because of this group. The linebackers came to play. They flew to the ball and hit their holes on blitzes with serious conviction. Clay Matthews almost doubled his season sack total, notching two and forcing a fumble, which was refreshing to see. Desmond Bishop blew under the radar, but is a very good linebacker. He collected a sack and harassed Ponder all night on blitzes. Walden got away with a pass interference call early in the game, but overall, the unit played very well in pass coverage. Capers had a great game plan and they executed it almost flawlessly. It was also good to see Vic So’oto get some playing time. The only negative was the lack of push on Peterson’s TD. GRADE: A
Defensive backs: This group stepped it up. Like the linebackers, they flew to the ball and came ready to hit someone. Communication has been an issue, but it looked like it was fixed, at least for one week. This was most in evidence on the flea flicker the Vikings attempted. Peterson took a handoff and tossed it back to Ponder, who went long for his receiver. Tramon Williams stayed with his guy and had Morgan Burnett with help, playing it perfectly and resulting in Williams’ interception. Charles Woodson played outstanding and had a couple breaks where he was just shy of grabbing a pick of his own. They only allowed Ponder to throw for 190 yards and most of that was during garbage time in the second half. I’m very pleased with what I saw. GRADE: A
Special teams: Randall “Bright Lights” Cobb showed up, taking a first quarter punt 80 yards for six. That’s something that hasn’t happened with a Packers team since 2006. Cobb is no Devin Hester, but he’s given the Packers a special teams weapon opponents have to contend with. Of course, he did fumble a punt that Minnesota recovered, which led to their sole TD — something he did the last time the Packers played The Vikings. This must be fixed. Kick coverage was solid, keeping Minnesota out of good field position. Mason Crosby, as has been the case all season, was perfect on the night. The one guy who has it the easiest, punter Tim Masthay, only punted twice for nearly a 50-yard average. Overall, it was a good night for special teams. GRADE: A
Overall: It was as close to a flawless game as the Packers have played, with just a few speed bumps along the way. This team continues to roll over people on offense and the defense tightened up and played very well. Never a better time than to do it against those purple wearing pansies from Minnesota. GRADE: A-
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