Sunday, January 16, 2011

Packers Report Card: Clipping the Falcons' Wings Earns an A+

Overall: A+

Going into yet another hostile environment on the road against a tough opponent puts a lot of doubt in everyone's mind...everyone, that is, except the Green Bay Packers. Even after a rough start, falling behind 14-7 on a Greg Jennings fumble, an Eric Weems kickoff return for a touchdown, then having James Starks fumble the ensuing kickoff out of bounds, the Packers didn't crumble. Even with a deafening crowd doing their best to keep the Falcons in the game, the Packers went on a succession of clock-eating drives that notched another four touchdowns on their next four possessions. The resilience shown by the Packers completely took the Falcons out of their conservative gameplan, and the more they took chances to catch up, the more mistakes they made. The Packers capitalized with four forced turnovers and owned time of possession (38:19 – 21:41). In a convincing 48-21 win, Tim Masthay never had to come in to the game to punt.

Rushing Offense: B

The hype before the game was that the Packers were now a balanced offense with the advent of James Starks' big game last week against the Eagles. To be expected, the Falcons appeared ready for Starks and limited him early. With a lead, Starks did come alive later on the first drive in the second half, rushing four times for 27 yards as the Packers scored a touchdown on an 80-yard drive. James Kuhn ran for a touchdown (and added another tough score on a screen pass), while Aaron Rodgers had a rushing score. Starks finished with 66 yards on 25 carries: while not dominating, it did show the Packers were willing to keep giving the ball to him.

Rushing Defense: A

Coming into the game, the Packers knew that they had to contain Michael Turner, the big, bruising running back who started out consistently moving the line of scrimmage back into the Packers' linebacking corps. But, as the Packers extended their league, the Falcons were forced to go away from the strength of their offense and try to pass their way to catch up...a strategy that played right into the hands Tramon Williams and Co. Turner finished with 39 yards on 10 carries, but had only one touch in the second half.

Passing Offense: A+

When the running game appeared to sputter early in the game, Aaron Rodgers did what he's done much of the season: he took the game on his shoulders. Luckily for the Packers, his receiving corps decided to join him today. Rodgers put on a clinic, carving up the Falcons' defense in grand fashion, throwing for three touchdowns and 366 yards, while only missing on five passes all game long. Much-maligned James Jones more than made up for his potentially costly drop last week by snatching a jump ball away from a defender in the end zone, and Jordy Nelson showed great concentration by placing a ball on the pylon with a defender reaching in. The early fumble by Jennings was costly, but he and fellow starter Donald Driver made up for it with strong hands and nary a dropped pass.

Passing Defense: A

The intent of shutting down Turner and the running game was to put the ball in Matt Ryan's hands and into the strength of the defense. Tramon Williams didn't disappoint, making yet another end zone interception in the first quarter, then closing the first half with a 70-yard pick-six that may have ended up being the dagger for the Falcons. In the end, Ryan did pass his way to another scoring drive in the second half, but finished with a 67.0 efficiency rating and in the end, couldn't generate more than one drive of over four minutes all game long.  Ryan was pounded for five sacks and six more hits.  Clay Matthews and BJ Raji made their presence felt in the backfield all day.

Special Teams: C-

Well, not everything could be perfect, even in a game like this. Eric Weems returned an early kickoff for 102 yards and a touchdown, while our returners' best returns were usually fair catches. Starks fumbled a kickoff out of bounds, and Mason Crosby clanged a 50-yard field goal off the left upright, although he did make two other field goal attempts. Following their third-quarter touchdown, the Falcons appeared to recover on an onside kick attempt, but it was called back due to an illegal touch by Falcon Michael Finneran...however, had he touched it a half-second later, there was still no Packer near enough to have taken it away from him.

No comments: