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Packers vs. 49ers Performance Grades: Secondary is Exposed

We take a second look at the game film from the Packers' season opener against the 49ers, and hand out performance grades at each position.

Eddie Lacy (27) hurdles over a pile during Sunday's game against the 49ers
Eddie Lacy (27) hurdles over a pile during Sunday's game against the 49ers
Jeff Gross

After letting the full range of emotions run their course and looking at the game film for a second time, it's time to hand out the first meaningful positional grades of the 2013 season. Timing, communication, and general sharpness aren't expected to be top-notch during Week 1, but when you are playing against arguably the most complete team in the NFL on the road to start the season, the margin for error is slim.

The Green Bay Packers fell short 34-28, but the San Francisco 49ers had to have a career passing game from Colin Kaepernick (412 yards, 3 TDs), and a monster game from Anquan Boldin (13 receptions, 208 yards, 1 TD) in order to pull out the win. I think the general consensus is that if the Packers could have avoided those two turnovers in the second quarter, this game could have been a lot different. I'm not a believer in moral victories, but the Packers showed a lot of promising signs in this battle of NFC juggernauts.

Now, let's get to the grades:

Quarterback: A (get used to seeing this)

Aaron Rodgers might have had one of the best passing performances of his career against a 49ers defense that has had his number as of late. He didn't get much help from the ground game, but was still able to spread the ball around to Nelson, Cobb, and Finley enough to keep the defense on their heels.

Rodgers finished 21 for 37 for 333 yards, 3 touchdowns and one interception* (I guess, since he put the ball right on Jermichael Finley's hands). His passer rating once again broke the 100 point plateau at 102.6, as Rodgers continues his reign of consistency. I'm sure there's a few throws he wishes he could have back, like on the opening drive when he threw the ball over Lacy's head on third down, but let's not nitpick.

Running Backs: C+

The lack of running lanes can't be blamed on Lacy, but his fumble in the second quarter warrants a significant grade reduction. Coach McCarthy has zero tolerance for fumbles, which is why you saw James Starks for the rest of the half. Lacy redeemed himself with his performance on the Packers scoring drive in the fourth quarter, where he ran the ball five times for 26 yards, including an impressive goal line dive from two yards out for the touchdown.

Lacy finished with 41 yards and one touchdown on 14 carries against probably the toughest defense he'll see all season. John Kuhn added solid blocking and one carry for three yards, while James Starks added an eight-yard reception in relief duty of Lacy. I expect a better performance next week, but Lacy showed signs of becoming a prominent part of this offense on Sunday.

Wide Receivers: B+

Man, it's nice to have Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson back. Cobb and Nelson didn't miss a beat after sitting out the majority of the preseason with injuries. The duo made tough catch after tough catch, took a few hard hits, and kept on coming.

The only thing keeping the wide outs from an A- grade was that James Jones only recorded two total targets on the day, with one drop. With three weapons at the position, one person is usually going to get the short end of the stick, but I thought James Jones should have been more of factor in this game.

Tight Ends: B

The drama never ends with Jermichael Finley. After bobbling a pass that turned into an interception, my irrational fan mode kicked in to overdrive, and I was making fake trades with other team's fans to get rid of the $7 million hands of stone. I was soon silenced by Finley's acrobatic touchdown grab just a short time later.

Finley finished with five receptions for 56 yards and one touchdown (and he should be charged with the one interception). Finley is a playmaker in this offense, and the Packers without question need him to play well in order to be a Super Bowl contender. He recovered nicely after his mistake, and hopefully he can get that out of his system. No one is perfect, but when you are getting paid more than all three of the starting wide receivers, I reserve the right to criticize a botched catch/ turnover.

Andrew Quarless didn't even record a target on the day, which will need to change moving forward. Quarless has the ability to be a weapon on play-action passes, but the Packers need to establish the run game more in order for that to happen.

Offensive Line: C-

David Bakhtiari and Don Barclay held their own against one of the most talented defensive lines in football. I just wish Josh Sitton and Evan Dietrich-Smith would have held up their end of the bargain. Sitton was called on three penalties during the game, two for holding and one for illegal hands to the face, which is just flat out unacceptable at the NFL level, and Dietrich-Smith struggled to get any push in the running game.

The line was able to keep Rodgers upright for most of the game, only allowing two recorded sacks on the day, but ending the game with a near-sack on a three-man rush was pretty pathetic. The offensive line is the key to the Packers 2013 season, and has some work to do in terms of establish a running attack. The Packers may have found answers at the Tackle positions, but they will need better production from their interior lineman in order to be a contender this season.

Defensive Line: A-

The defensive line came to play on Sunday, and held the 49ers under 100 yards rushing as a team. They were also able to keep Kaepernick in the pocket for the majority of the game, and force him to beat the Packers with his arm (which he did).

My only compliant would be the lack of quarterback pressures and sacks. I understand they didn't want to break containment on Kaepernick, but it seemed like he had way too much time to throw the ball. If the Packers front seven can add a reliable pass rush to a powerful run defense, it will go a long way in making the secondary's lives a little easier.

Linebackers: B+

Clay Matthews deserves an A individually, but unfortunately this is a positional grade. Matthews recorded eight tackles, three for a loss, including one sack, and was generally his disruptive self on Sunday. His quick reaction on one of the only read-option plays of the game, in which he buried Kaepernick for a five-yard loss, was a thing of beauty. He'll need more of that next week against a quicker RGIII, but I was impressive with what #52 brought to the table in Week 1.

Brad Jones led the team with 10 tackles, while A.J. Hawk added nine, including one for a loss. The biggest disappointment might be that Nick Perry only recorded three tackles and wasn't much of a factor in the pass rush. Hawk and Jones were also average in pass coverage, as they allowed Vance McDonald to get open in the middle of the field for a 25-yard gain in the first half. Run defense was solid, but I was hoping for better things in terms of pass rush.

The Entire Secondary: F

I thought about splitting up the blame individually, but after closer examination, they are all to blame.

Sam Shields and Tramon Williams made a few nice plays after they had been beat on double-move down the field, but when a team only has one real receiving threat, and you fail to even slow him get a failing grade.

Jerron McMillian, M.D. Jennings, and Micah Hyde looked confused and lost. Whether it was miscommunication on zone coverages, bad positioning, or lack of awareness, the secondary was exposed and abused on Sunday. If Casey Hayward and Morgan Burnett can't get healthy soon, this could be a legitimate issue moving forward. I'd like to think that getting those two players back will solve a lot of issues, but I can't be sure at this point. The performance was just THAT bad. Here's to hoping they spend the rest of the week in the film room.

Kicker: N/A

Punter: A++

Tim Mastay was a special teams warrior on Sunday. He had six punts for an average of 46.2 yards, and boomed several kickoffs out of the end zone to neutralize any threat of Kyle Williams as a returner. Did you see the form on his tackle in the first quarter? Damn!

Overall, it was an encouraging opening to the season against arguably the toughest team the Packers will play all season. There is room for improvement, especially between the offensive line and defensive secondary, but I came away with more positives than negatives after Sunday's game. Time to get ready for RGIII and the Washington Redskins.

Josh VanDyke covers the Green Bay Packers for Acme Packing Company. He is also currently a sports writer for Follow him on Twitter: @JVanDyke24

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