As usual, it's time to check in on the grading for the Green Bay Packers' most recent game. We'll go position-by-position and break down the relevant players for the Packers, assigning a letter grade for the group as a whole by taking into account the Pro Football Focus grades for individual players.
Without further ado, let's look at the grades from Sunday's 55-14 victory over the Chicago Bears.
Aaron Rodgers (+4.5 overall) finished 18 of 27 for 315 yards with six touchdowns and zero interceptions for a quarterback rating of 145.8. His first-half performance was otherworldly, and was a perfect example of how to beat designed blitzes with quick, accurate passes. His hamstring looked fine on his bootleg touchdown pass to Andrew Quarless, while his touchdown passes to Jordy Nelson were throws that not many quarterbacks would even think about making. Other than maybe Dan Marino and Peyton Manning in their primes, I can't think of a quarterback that could throw a low-trajectory pass 40+ yards to a wide receiver so quickly that the safety can't even get close to making the play.
Matt Flynn (-0.2 overall) finished 1 of 5 for 4 yards in mop-up duty. He almost fell over on his first dropback, and forced the ball to the wrong wide receiver on third-down. It's never easy to come in to the game as a back-up, but Flynn had plenty of time to get himself mentally and physically ready when the team was up 42-0 at halftime. He's a career back-up at this point, which begs the question; why not see what you have in Scott Tolzien when you already know what Matt Flynn is?
Running Backs: B
Eddie Lacy (+0.9 overall, +0.5 pass, +0.1 rush, +0.3 pass block) rushed for 50 yards on 14 carries and added three receptions for 68 yards and one touchdown, while DuJuan Harris added 52 yards on eight carries. Harris only saw action in the fourth quarter, but was by far the most impressive runner on the night. He was much more decisive and explosive than Lacy, and his one-cut moves in the running lane were fluid and smooth. He is essentially Eddie Lacy in a scatback's body, but he seems to be more comfortable running out of the shotgun formation.
John Kuhn (+1.6 overall, +0.6 rush, +0.1 pass block, +0.9 run block) rushed for 20 yards on five carries, while James Starks added 10 yards on five carries.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: A+
Jordy Nelson (+3.6 overall, +3.0 pass, +0.5 screen block) caught six passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns, while Randall Cobb (0.0 overall, -0.1 pass) added 72 yards and one touchdown on four receptions. Davante Adams (-0.3 overall, -0.4 pass) caught one pass for 10 yards, while Jarrett Boykin (-0.2 overall, -0.2 pass) didn't record a target in 22 snaps, but did have an impressive blocked punt (or forced fumble, depending on whether you listen to Shawn Slocum or the official stat book). There isn't much to analyze here -- blown coverages made Nelson's two touchdowns look effortless, while Cobb made an incredible catch on a seam route for his score. The Bears secondary still doesn't have an answer for Nelson and Cobb, and when the defensive coordinator (in this case Mel Tucker) dials up blitzes that don't get home to the quarterback, bad things happen.
Andrew Quarless (+0.2 overall, +0.4 pass, +0.2 pass block, -0.5 run block) caught two passes for 10 yards and one touchdown, while Richard Rodgers (-1.0 overall, -0.5 pass, +0.3 pass block, -0.9 run block) added two receptions for six yards. Rodgers allowed one hurry and had a few instances where his pad level was a little too high in run blocking, but both tight ends were adequate in run blocking and pass protection.
Brandon Bostick caught a one-yard touchdown pass with rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller on his hip to open up the scoring flood gates.
Offensive Line: A-
David Bakhtiari (-0.1 overall, +0.4 pass block, -0.7 run block) and Bryan Bulaga (+1.3 overall, +1.1 pass block, -0.1 run block) were able to neutralize Jared Allen and Willie Young. Corey Linsley (+1.4 overall, +0.8 pass block, +0.5 run block) battled with Stephen Paea for the majority of the night, and didn't have any glaring losses other than one negative run play in which Will Sutton got the inside track on him.
Josh Sitton (+1.4 overall, +1.6 pass block, -0.3 run block) and T.J. Lang (-1.6 overall, -0.9 pass block, -0.8 run block) each played 44 snaps and performed well considering there was legitimate concern that both players would be out for Sunday night's game. Their downfield blocking on Lacy's screen pass was impressive, and although they weren't spectacular in run blocking early on, it's great to see two veterans gut it out like that.
J.C. Tretter (-0.8 overall, -1.6 pass block, +0.7 run block) made his regular-season debut, playing nine snaps at left guard and 14 snaps at left tackle. He allowed two hurries, including a hit on the quarterback and looked very rusty. His footwork and hand punch were slow, and his general technique leaves a lot to be desired. You can't expect someone who missed the first half of the season to be in mid-season form, especially someone who is coming off a knee injury. The good news is the team can slowly bring him back into the fold, and he can work his way back into the rotation when he gains more confidence.
Lane Taylor (-1.5 overall, -1.3 pass block, -0.3 run block) played at right guard, while Garth Gerhart (-0.3 overall, -0.4 pass block, +0.1 run block) played at left guard. Taylor had a much better performance in mop-up duty than he did two weeks ago in New Orleans. Both Taylor and Gerhart were able to keep their pad level low and pack a punch on initial contact. They were a big reason why the team was able to salt the game away in the final half of the fourth quarter.
Defensive Line: A-
Josh Boyd (+1.1 overall, +1.6 run, -0.6 pass rush) benefitted the most from a blitz-happy scheme by Dom Capers, recording two tackles for loss. Mike Daniels (-0.2 overall, +0.1 run, -0.4 pass rush) recorded two hurries and was stout against the run.
Letroy Guion (-0.9 overall, -0.3 run, -0.7 pass rush) only played 22 snaps due to the Packers limited use of the base 3-4 formation. Mike Pennel (+0.4 overall, -0.9 run, +1.2 pass rush) took advantage by playing 27 snaps from the right defensive end and nose tackle positions. He was physical and showed decent pursuit for a guy his size, but needs to work on getting off the initial block a little quicker. Datone Jones (+0.4 overall, +0.8 run, -0.5 pass rush) wasn't very productive in his first game back in over a month and only played 16 snaps.
The decision to move Clay Matthews inside over the bye week was a risky one, but it paid off in spades for a unit that has struggled all season. Matthews (+4.0 overall, +1.2 run, +1.5 pass rush, +1.1 coverage) led the team with 11 total tackles, including one sack. He was able to shed blocks, drop back in coverage with ease, and most importantly, blitz directly up the middle of the offensive line. If there's anything that can disrupt a quarterback's confidence, it's pressure up the middle, and Jay Cutler doesn't exactly have the mental poise that many of us would be jealous of. Matthews is a rare athlete, and allowing him to run free at smaller linemen might just be a recipe for success after a slow start for the all-pro pass rusher, who still shifted back to his familiar right outside position on obvious passing downs.
The biggest beneficiary to the move might be A.J. Hawk (+2.2 overall, -0.5 run, +1.8 pass rush, +0.8 coverage) who recorded five tackles and three hurries. He is still susceptible to getting beat laterally in pass coverage, but pairing him with a more agile athlete like Matthews takes pressure off Hawk in that area. Julius Peppers (+7.0 overall, + 1.7 run, + 5.1 pass rush) was pumped up to play his former teammates in front of his new home crowd. He recorded the rare "strip-sack-recovery", two batted passes, and two additional hurries.
Nick Perry (-3.3 overall, -1.2 run, -1.2 pass rush, -0.9 penalty) started at right outside linebacker due to the shuffle and recorded two tackles, including one for a loss and two hurries. Sam Barrington (-0.4 overall, -0.4 run, +0.3 pass rush, -0.3 coverage) recorded four tackles, including one sack on a zone blitz in limited action, while Mike Neal (-1.6 overall, -0.8 run, -1.0 pass rush, +0.2 coverage) added four tackles and two hurries.
Other than a 45-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall, the Packers were able to shut down the Bears' passing attack that is capable of being one of the more lethal aerial attacks in the league. Casey Hayward (+1.2 overall, +1.1 coverage) applied excellent coverage from his dime back position and while his 82-yard interception return wasn't a difficult catch, he was able to read Cutler's eyes, jump the route, and focus on catching the tipped ball before he took off. Both Sam Shields and Davon House dropped similar passes in the game. Micah Hyde (+0.9 overall, -0.9 run, +1.2 pass rush) added a much more difficult interception earlier in the game when he jumped a route by Martellus Bennett and wedged himself between Bennett and the ball for the turnover. Hyde was burned by Bennett on multiple occasions during the Week 4 matchup, but Hyde looked well-prepared for everything Bennett attempted to do against him.
Morgan Burnett (+1.5 overall, +0.2 run, +0.7 pass rush, +0.5 coverage) returned to action in style, recording six tackles including one sack. He did get beat by Bennett for a long gain, but his experience paid huge dividends in terms of pre-snap communication and physical run support.
Sam Shields (-2.8 overall, -1.9 run, -1.0 coverage) recorded six tackles in his return, but also led the team with four missed tackles, including one that sprung Marshall for his 45-yard score. Shields is getting paid to be a top-10 cornerback in the NFL and just simply is not living up to the billing. Add in the fact that he dropped a potential pick-six, and you have a forgettable night for the starting right corner.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (-0.6 overall, -0.2 run, -0.2 pass rush, +0.7 coverage, -0.9 penalty) recorded four tackles, while Davon House (-0.2 overall, -0.2 coverage) added two. Sean Richardson (+0.2 overall, +0.1 run, -0.1 pass rush, +0.2 coverage) was a plus-player in run support, but gets caught out of position sometimes in coverage.
Mason Crosby connected on field goals of 52 and 20 yards and added seven extra points. He also averaged 65 yards and 3.7 seconds of hangtime on 10 kickoffs.
Tim Masthay, excuse me, the Ginger Wolverine recorded an average of 40.3 yards per punt on three punts, including a long of 47.
The decision to move Clay Matthews to inside linebacker might have been risky, but give Dom Capers and Mike McCarthy credit for not just settling with the current situation at linebacker. It takes a special player to make that kind of sacrifice, especially mid-season, but it also takes a special coaching staff to develop a level of trust with said player in order for the whole thing to be put in motion. The offense looked sharp; the play calling was excellent on both sides of the ball, and the team looked well prepared for the task at hand. The only thing preventing this from being an A-plus was McCarthy's bizarre challenge of a three-yard reception in the second half.
Up Next: The Packers host the Philadelphia Eagles, led by the rejuvenated Mark Sanchez, on Sunday at 3.25 p.m. CST on FOX.