PASSING OFFENSE: C
Between a mistake-filled first quarter and blunder-provoked finish to the game in overtime, quarterback Aaron Rodgers was wondrous in his playoff starting debut. He fashioned a near-perfect passer rating of 148.2 in the second to fourth quarters to help rally the Packers from deficits of 17-0, 31-10, 38-24 and 45-38. Rodgers finished with a postseason team record of 422 passing yards and a club-record-tying four touchdown throws, going 28-of-42. Top targets Greg Jennings (eight catches, 130 yards, touchdown) and tight end Jermichael Finley (six catches, team-record 159 yards) were downright nasty with their playmaking abilities in the big second-half comeback. Yet, Green Bay also stubbed its collective toe in the passing game with three big turnovers. Rodgers had two of them, the first on a needless throw for an interception after being flushed out of the pocket on the first play of the game and the second when he held the ball too long and had it stripped by previously maligned cornerback Michael Adams on a blitz and recovered by linebacker Karlos Dansby for the game-winning 17-yard touchdown return in overtime. To start the extra period, Rodgers missed by a long shot a wide-open Jennings on a deep ball that would have ended the game in Green Bay’s favor. Left guard Daryn Colledge committed a critical holding penalty right before the game-winning sequence. The Packers’ third play of the game resulted in Dansby’s ripping the football out of the clutches of receiver Donald Driver on a short pass, setting up another Cardinals touchdown. Shoddy pass protection contributed to five sacks of Rodgers, his most in the last nine games.
RUSHING OFFENSE: C-minus
Since they were in catch-up mode from the outset, the Packers had just 20 running plays and not much of significance in churning out 90 yards. The only explosive-type runs were 20 yards by Ryan Grant (11 carries, 65 yards) and 13 yards by a scrambling Rodgers. The Grant play came on a nice cutback into a vacant middle created by Finley’s back-side seal deep into Arizona territory to set up a one-yard touchdown sneak by Rodgers. Fullback John Kuhn also had a 1-yard scoring plunge. Ahman Green’s power running converted a third-and-short and a fourth-and-short.
Daryn Colledge and T.J. Lang wear looks of disbelief.
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
PASS DEFENSE: D-minus
How’s this for illustrating how horrid things were for Green Bay’s No. 2-rated defense against the aging, but supremely talented Kurt Warner — he had more touchdown passes (five) than incompletions (four) in ripping apart a dazed and confused Packers unit for 379 yards on 29-of-33 accuracy without an interception. His passer rating was a scintillating 154.1. The absence of All-Pro wideout Anquan Boldin because of ankle and knee injuries didn’t help Green Bay any. The Packers’ undermanned secondary was out of sorts against Arizona’s heavy reliance on stacked formations in spreading things out with its receivers. Warner, whose longest pass was a mere 33 yards, feasted on a defense that didn’t pressure him much (one sack) and didn’t have enough bodies to defend the fertile middle of the field for the Cardinals. Larry Fitzgerald was too physical for cornerback Charles Woodson and had six catches for 82 yards and two touchdowns. Steve Breaston and Early Doucet picked up the slack for Boldin with a combined 13 receptions for 202 yards and three touchdowns. The only impressive play of note by the Green Bay defense came on the lone turnover it forced — an open-field strip by Woodson on Fitzgerald inside the Packers’ 20 and recovery by linebacker Clay Matthews to stifle a potential touchdown drive by the Cardinals, who were ahead 17-0 in the second quarter.
RUSH DEFENSE: D
While Warner was next to invincible throwing darts from the pocket, an unexpected shot in the arm from Arizona’s running game made sure the Packers didn’t see Cardinals punter Ben Graham more than once. The Cardinals gashed Green Bay’s No. 1-rated run defense for 156 yards and a gaudy average of 6.8 yards per rush. Green Bay allowed averages of only 83.3 rushing yards and 3.6 yards per carry during the regular season. The 156 yards was a season high against the Packers. Three of the top four of Arizona’s 10 explosive plays that went for more than 16 yards were via the run. Green Bay’s linebackers, in particular, didn’t play well across the board. Inside ’backer A.J. Hawk missed a tackle as Beanie Wells (14 carries, 91 yards) motored past him for 42 yards. Rookie LaRod Stephens-Howling sidestepped a missed tackle by lineman Cullen Jenkins and carried safety Atari Bigby and cornerback Tramon Williams with him on an 18-yard run that also drew a face-mask penalty from Bigby. Three missed tackles sprung Breaston for 28 yards on an end-around.
Beanie Wells runs through Jarrett Bush.
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
SPECIAL TEAMS: C-minus
Mason Crosby’s atonement for another field-goal miss (of 54 yards) sent wide right will have to wait until possibly next season. Crosby did come in handy with a well-executed onside kick against a napping Arizona coverage team that Packers rookie Brandon Underwood recovered with ease in the third quarter during Green Bay’s furious rally from being down by 21 points. Receiver Jordy Nelson was yanked from kickoff-return duties after nearly turning the ball over on a fumbled runback late in the first half. Nelson, who averaged only 19.8 yards in four returns, looked unusually indecisive and earlier ran into the back of blocker Evan Dietrich-Smith. Fill-in Williams had a decent 29-yard kickoff return on his only touch. Jeremy Kapinos’ sole punt had satisfactory numbers of 47 gross yards and 41 net yards.
Defensive coordinator Dom Capers backed off throwing the kitchen sink at the immobile Warner, never mind his penchant for getting the ball away quick as he did again Sunday, and Capers was outcoached in the process. Capers’ insistence on hiding the coverage deficiencies of some young defensive backs by working in a lot of zone looks played to Warner’s strengths. The Packers’ highly regarded defense was torched for 531 yards. McCarthy and his staff kept the team together after the rough beginning and then falling into a deeper hole at 31-10 early in the third quarter, and nearly guided Green Bay to an improbable victory in the opening round of the playoffs. The successful onside kick with the Packers’ building momentum in their comeback and down 31-17 midway through the third quarter was a stroke of genius. Fundamentals were supposed to be the talking points of the practice week leading into the game, but untimely turnovers, penalties, missed assignments and missed tackles suggested otherwise.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.