Monday, November 8, 2010

Packer/Cowboy Team Grades

Yes, it may have been against the lowly Cowboys, but this is the first game this season that all three units (offense, defense, special teams) all played four quarters in the same game.  The Packers dominated every statistical category as they rolled to a 45-7 victory, appearing confident, focused, and ready to take advantage of every Cowboy miscue.  The Packers had only two penalties, no turnovers, and held a fifteen-minute advantage in time of possession. 

The two-headed monster of John Kuhn and Brandon Jackson each had 13 carries and churned out 96 yards between them.   It wasn’t dominating, but it was effective in keeping the defense honest. The Packers tried different power formations against the Cowboys, including utilizing their fullbacks more in the blocking.  Rodgers added 41 yards on five scrambles.

The Packers may have allowed 39 rushing yards, but 33 of those were in the final quarter on two meaningless drives.  Limiting Marion Barber and Felix Jones to five yards through three quarters was an incredible feat.  Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews played just as important a role bottling up the run game as they normally do in the pass game.  The Cowboys did not have one possession over three minutes until the clock-killing final drive of the game.

After so many struggles this season, Aaron Rodgers returned to 2009 form against the Cowboys, picking them apart with a barrage of swing passes, comeback routes, and quick hitters.  Then, he lofted long passes down the sideline and hit receivers in stride with the accuracy we haven’t seen since preseason.  Rodgers passed for 289 yards and three touchdowns, and appeared far more confident and aware in the pocket.  James Jones had a career game with 123 yards on eight catches, and may soon be known as “Mr. Sunday Night” after his big game against the Vikings two weeks ago.

Other than the one fluke touchdown drive at the end of the first half, the Packers’ defense flustered Jon Kitna all game long.  If he wasn’t suffering one of four sacks on the day, he was getting hit soon after releasing the ball.  An early interception by nickel back Sam Shields set up one touchdown, while a spectacular pick-six by Clay Matthews put the icing on the cake in the fourth quarter.  Dez Bryant did catch nine balls for 86 yards and a score, but that was all the Cowboys could manage.

The Packers had trouble containing Bryan McCann on kick returns (27.8 ypr), and a Mason Crosby kickoff out-of-bounds set up the Cowboys’ only scoring drive.  Crosby also had a 54-yard field goal blocked on the Packers’ first drive of the game.  The Packers’ punt team had a good day, with Tim Masthay downing both his punts inside the 20-yard line and keeping Bryant’s punt returns in check.  Jarrett Bush forced two coverage fumbles in the game.  Nick Collins scored a touchdown on the recovery in the second quarter, while Bush recovered his own forced fumble near the end of the game.

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