Senior writer jclombardi grades Packers win over 49ers.
GAME BALLS: QB Rodgers; WR Jennings; WR Driver; OLB Matthews; FB Johnson; DE Jenkins.
INJURY REPORT: DE Jenkins (calf–out 2 weeks). FB Hall (knee sprain).
Report Card Grades–Good, Bad, & Ugly (JC vs. SE):
PASSING OFFENSE: B+ vs A-. After a brutal one and one-half quarters, the offense got going making the big plays to score against an aggressive 49ers defense. Through much of the first half, the 49ers’ aggressive defensive scheme of containment frustrated Rodgers with his first nine completions no longer than 11 yards, while he got sacked twice. Rodgers stayed patient, adjusted, and called audibles against the strong pass rush and mixed coverage schemes. Overall, Rodgers threw for 289 yards, 3 touchdowns, and a 135.1 passer rating. In the second quarter, the turning point was WR Driver’s big catch that electrified the stadium with a 61 yards touchdown run. For the game, WR Jennings had 6 catches for 122 yards and 2 touchdowns. WR Driver had 4 catches for 73 yards and 1 touchdown.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B+ vs B+. The Packers rushed for a very solid 136 yards averaging 4.0 yards per carry. Bullish RB Starks had 18 carries for 73 yards averaging a good 4.1 yards per carry. He’s listed at 6-foot-2 and 218 pounds, and he doesn’t dance around. He’s a run-through-the-hole kind of guy. Not great pad level, but a long-strider. That’s what they need: A big, strong guy who won’t have many negative carries. It doesn’t appear that Starks is a blazer. RB Jackson played his productive role as third-down back with 4 receptions for 63 yards. FB Kuhn excelled in short-yardage converting four three-and-one downs and also scoring a touchdown. The left side of the line gets collapsed pretty easily. On Sunday, the Packers were asking LT Clifton, who isn’t very nifty, to come down and block a three-technique, a lineman to his inside. And LG Colledge often struggles in space. But the Packers got good blocking on the right side against what had been a good run defense. At times, RG Sitton and RT Bulaga drove guys off the ball. They really took it to the 49ers. C Wells doesn’t overpower anyone, but he’s so good at turning his hips and shielding defenders from the play.
PASSING DEFENSE: C+ vs C. Although the Packers sometimes had shoddy coverage leading to big plays and dodged some bullets, the defense made the big stops especially in the red zone. Excluding four big passing catches on four 49ers drives totaling 150 yards with the 49ers scoring on them, the 49ers got only 119 yards on 47 plays (2.53 yards per play). The 49ers offense only finished drives with field goals instead of touchdowns. 49rs QB Smith threw for only 194 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception, and 64.4 passer rating. He made too many off-target throws and red-zone mistakes. TE Davis had his usual (126 yards) big game with one big touchdown catch due to shoddy coverage by LB Hawk and a whiffed tackle by S Collins. Yet, the rest of the 49er receivers got only 68 yards. While the 49ers using max protection to protect QB Smith, the Packers had 4 sacks and 1 interception. With teams focusing double protection on pass rusher OLB Matthews, he fell back into pass coverage and run support leading the team in tackles. He was really solid against the run making tackles on plays away from him. He pushed the tackle back and helped set others up for sacks. He really had a complete game. He did well in pass coverage. But his spin move just isn’t what it was. Maybe that shin injury is bothering him. Thus, the other defensive players got involved in pass rushing with the defensive line getting 3 of 4 sacks. OLB Zombo continued to get better, played okay at the edge and got pressure getting a sack. Safety Collins had the lone interception. S Peprah had a rough day giving up two of four big plays against the defense.
RUSHING DEFENSE: B+ vs B. Excluding a few big runs, the front seven played well limiting the 49ers run game to 97 yards. Their solid 4.4 average yards per carry was ballooned due to QB Smith getting 28 yards. The stout rush front line defense looked solid clogging the gaps and holding running backs Westbook and Dixon to 64 yards.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C- vs C. Due to missed blocking assignments, K Crosby’s missed an early chip shot field goal, while he hit two other field goals. With punter Tim Masthay’s poor punts, pooch kickoffs, KR Ginn’s good returns, and costly penalties, the 49ers had great field position throughout the game. Crosby was effective with an assortment of short and deep kicks that kept Ted Ginn Jr. from being a game-breaker on kickoff returns. He averaged just 16.2 yards on five touches. Ginn was better on punt returns with two for an average of 15.5 yards. The Packers’ Sam Shields muffed one kickoff return, though he recovered it, and averaged all of 19.7 yards, while giving way to Starks on two short kickoffs. Tramon Williams had a 20-yard punt return, but he also threw away yards as he retreated on another runback.
COACHING: A- vs B+. The Packers and head coach McCarthy outplayed a struggling 49ers team. The Packers reestablishing their running and short-yardage games. The Packers were 5-for-5 on 3rd-and-1 in the short-yardage game. The Packers were 9-for-15 in third-down conversions. The Packers wound up with perfect balance with 34 pass plays and 34 run plays. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers also changed things up by deviating from the customary nickel look with six defensive backs and showing a hefty 4-4 front from time to time to choke off the 49ers in running situations. More woes continued to plague Shawn Slocum’s special-teams units. The Packers improved to 8-4 to keep a one-game behind pace with first-place Chicago in the NFC North.
OVERALL: B vs. B (CBS Sportsline). The Packers weren’t particularly sharp in the first half but they broke through in the second half due to another great performance from their receiving corps. The running game was rescued by rookie James Starks, who had 73 yards in his first NFL action. It wasn’t a pretty performance, but the big plays combined with San Francisco’s inability to finish off drives for TDs led to the team’s fourth victory in five tries.