I was able to attend my first Packers game at Lambeau Field since 2002 this past Sunday, and while the weather, beer, and brats were excellent, the first 28 minutes of the game left a lot to be desired.
The Packers found themselves down 21-3 in the second quarter, and had yet to stop an average Geno Smith-led offense (or even slow it down for that matter). The turning point in the game had to be Tramon Williams' red-zone interception late in the second quarter, which turned into a 14-point swing - the offense would then reel off one of the more impressive two-minute drills you will see all season.
The Packers were end the game on a 28-3 run, and improve to 1-1 on the season. Let's take a look at the individual grades.
Aaron Rodgers finished 25 of 42 for 346 yards, three touchdowns, zero interceptions, and a passer rating of 109.8. He was a little off-target at times, but his pass to Jordy Nelson on the 80-yard touchdown reception was a textbook example of how to beat a cover 2 defense. He kept the ball chest-high with plenty of velocity and hit Nelson in stride as he had inside position on Dee Milliner and just enough room to make rookie safety Calvin Pryor miss in the open field.
What brings Rodgers grade down for me was his fumble on the opening play of the game, and the fact that he consistently held on to the ball too long. It's hard to blame the offensive line when Rodgers has that much time to throw and still gets sacked. Not only does it end up being a negative play, but he puts himself in harm's way of another injury. Rodgers finished with +3.1 overall grade from Pro Football Focus with a +2.1 grade in passing.
Running Backs: C-
It's hard to blame Eddie Lacy (-0.6 overall, -1.5 rush, +1.0 pass block) for his lack of production on Sunday. Coach Mike McCarthy realized early on in the game that the Jets were going to stack the box and force the Packers wide receivers to beat them in the open field. Lacy finished with 43 yards on 13 carries, and didn't really get a chance to get going. Lacy was an adequate blocker in pass protection, and was able to get open for two receptions for 18 yards. DuJuan Harris (-0.9 overall, -0.8 pass block) added one reception for 11 yards during his eight-snap performance on the last drive of the first half.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: A+
Rex Ryan and the Jets decided to load the box, send a lot of blitzes, and hope that the secondary could cover the Packer receivers long enough to slow down the vaunted Green Bay pass attack. Unfortunately for the J-E-T-S, jets, jets, jets, that didn't work out real well. Jordy Nelson (+4.5 overall) was able to create separation against whoever was on him (mostly Dee Milliner) to the tune of 209 yards and one touchdown on nine receptions (16 targets). Randall Cobb (+0.5 overall) also had no problem against the Dawan Landry or whichever outside linebacker was covering him in the slot, as Cobb finished with five receptions (six targets) for 39 yards and two touchdowns.
The battle for the No. 3 spot at wide receiver just got a lot more interesting. Rookie Davante Adams played in 37 offensive snaps, while Jarrett Boykin saw 35. Adams looked much more explosive in his routes than Boykin and almost took a middle slant to the house in the third quarter. Adams finished with 50 yards on five receptions (six targets), while Boykin only recorded one reception for six yards on three targets.
Andrew Quarless and Richard Rodgers were non-factors in the passing game, other than an eight-yard reception for Quarless, but both were solid in run blocking. The addition of Brandon Bostick to active duty on special teams is a big plus for this team. His ability to stretch the field is sorely missed right now though, and may be holding the team back from reaching its ceiling.
Offensive Line: C
Guards Josh Sitton (+3.0 overall, +2.1 pass block, +0.7 run block) and T.J. Lang (+1.0 overall, +1.1 pass block, -0.3 run block) graded out well according to Pro Football Focus. I also thought Corey Linsley (-0.6 overall, +0.2 pass block, -0.9 run block) performed well despite a fumbled snap and a couple of low shotgun snaps. Linsley continues to get movement at the point of attack and usually keeps his man away from the ball on run plays.
Derek Sherrod (-0.8 overall, -0.3 pass block, -0.8 run block) and David Bakhtiari (-0.3 overall, +0.7 pass block, -1.3 run block) had below average performances off the edge (though that's quite an improvement from Sherrod's rough performance in Week 1). Sherrod appeared to be more confident in the second half, after giving up a sack in the first half. He finished with four allowed pressures, while Bakhtiari allowed 3.5 hurries, and was beat soundly on a few run plays by Muhammad Wilkerson.
The pass protection seemed sharper in week 2, although that could just simply be from not playing against the Seahawks defense. The run blocking continues to struggle as Sherrod can't hold blocks, Bakhtiari is getting beat inside on outside runs, and rookie Corey Linsley continues to work to hold up against bigger defensive tackles.
Defensive Line: A-
Mike Daniels was a one-man wrecking ball against the Jets offensive line, recording five tackles, including one sack. Daniels finished with the best grade of any Packers player with a +5.1 overall grade (+3.8 run defense, +2.2 pass rush). Letroy Guion wasn't great (-1.5 overall, -0.7 run defense, -0.9 pass rush), but he stood his ground well against Nick Mangold, and was able to help close some gaps and push runs outside in the second half. Guion can be a plus-player for the defense if he plays low, but he has a tendency to let his pad-level get high at times.
Datone Jones (-0.5 overall, -1.3 run defense, +0.7 pass rush) and Josh Boyd (-1.3 overall, -1.0 run defense, -0.4 pass rush) split reps at left end, with Boyd playing during most of the running situations and Jones taking the role of specialized pass rusher.
Jamari Lattimore (+2.4 overall, +1.1 run defense, +1.0 pass coverage) played 59 snaps in place of Brad Jones, and looked much more fluid in pass coverage and aggressive against the run than both Jones and Hawk have been so far this season. Lattimore did miss a tackle, but didn't have a single negative play in pass coverage and laid some powerful hits on the Jets running backs. A.J. Hawk (+0.1 overall, +1.6 run defense, -0.9 pass coverage) was solid against the run, but did have a costly mistake in pass coverage when he left his assignment on Brian Powell and let Geno Smith flip the ball out to him for a costly 20-yard completion that set up the only score of the second half for the Jets. I may have missed a couple due to my vision from the field, but it looks like Hawk Helmet Count was 3 for the day.
Due to the switch to a 4-3 front for most of the game, both Julius Peppers and Mike Neal played more snaps as defensive ends than outside linebackers. Peppers (+3.9 overall, +1.5 run defense, +0.7 pass rush) finished with 3.5 pressures and continues to be a plus-player as an edge rusher. Mike Neal (+1.1 overall, +1.5 run defense, +0.7 pass rush) looked much more comfortable as a DE, and hopefully will continue to play more as a push rusher and not an outside linebacker in coverage.
Clay Matthews (-0.1 overall, -1.6 run defense, +1.7 pass rush) recorded two pressures off the edge, and had 11 dropbacks in coverage from the slot-side outside linebacker position in the 4-3. Nick Perry (+0.3 overall, +0.8 run defense, -0.6 pass rush) was excellent against the run and used his bulrush effectively to set the edge from the outside.
Davon House (+1.6 overall, +1.5 coverage) might have been the best player in the secondary on Sunday, with great technique and timing on his two pass deflections. He is by far the most physical corner on the roster, and the team will likely use him more and more in their nickel and dime sub-packages when the match-ups warrant it.
Tramon Williams (+2.2 overall, +1.8 coverage) didn't allow a single completion in four targets, and high-pointed an interception in the second quarter that Geno Smith put too much loft on, thanks to a hit from Mike Daniels. Sam Shields (+0.2 overall, -0.1 coverage) was tested by Eric Decker, and Decker usually won, including a 29-yard touchdown pass in which Decker caught Shields flat-footed on a slant-and-go route.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (-1.1 overall, -0.5 coverage) was beat deep on the potential game-tying touchdown pass to Jeremy Kerley, and almost got beat by Decker on a long pass that Geno Smith overthrew.
Morgan Burnett (+0.6 overall, +0.6 coverage) had a nice break up on a third-down pass, but was overall slow on underneath routes, and missed badly on the initial tackle on the option-run play.
Crosby was good from 31, 20, and 55 yards out. His 55-yard field goal would have been good from 60-65 yards out. He recorded four touchbacks on five kickoffs, and had an average of 75.4 yards per kick.
Tim Masthay (aka The Ginger Wolverine) averaged 49.3 yards per punt with 4.22 seconds of hang time.
Bonus - Coaching: F
Dom Capers usually gets the brunt of the punishment from the fan base in terms of questionable coaching decisions, but Coach McCarthy deserves the majority of the criticism after Sunday's performance. First-and-goal from the five-yard line with a powerful running back like Eddie Lacy and you wait until third-down to give him the ball? Add in an onside kick that the Jets seemed more ready for than the Packers, and a challenge of a play that was clearly called correctly on the field (not to mention challenging it after getting plenty of opportunities to view replays), and you have sub-par performance from your head coach.
The Packers travel to Ford Field this Sunday for the first NFC North battle of the season against the Detroit Lions, who lost at Carolina 24-7 last week.