Senior writer jclombardi grades Packers loss to Patriots.
GAME BALLS: NT Raji; LB Bishop; WR Jones; FB Kuhn; RB Jackson; QB Flynn.
INJURY REPORT: S Collins (ribs).
Report Card Grades–Good, Bad, & Ugly (JC vs. SE):
PASSING OFFENSE: B vs B-. QB Flynn threw for 251 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 100.2 passer rating showing an impressive performance against the Patriots. His touchdown passes to WR Jennings and WR Jones were great throws. WR Jones had 5 receptions for 95 yards. The backfield quartet of Kuhn (three for 27), Dimitri Nance (two for 16), Quinn Johnson (two for 15) and Brandon Jackson (one for 3) combined for eight catches for 61 yards, one more reception than the combined total of top wide receivers Jennings and Driver. Inexperienced Flynn had two costly turnovers including a critical interception for a touchdown and a critical fumble leading to the loss.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B VS B. The Packers rushed for 143 yards. RB Jackson looked solid getting 22 carries for 99 yards averaging 4.5 yards. FB Kuhn had an outstanding game avoiding tackles and making the big plays to get the necessary yardage. He had 6 carries for 21 yards and 3 catches for 27 yards and one touchdown. While the bruising Kuhn converted two third downs in short yardage in the early going, he failed to plow his way across the goal line on two straight runs after the Packers had first-and-goal at the 2 to start the fourth quarter.
PASSING DEFENSE: B- vs C. The Packers defense held QB Brady to 163 yards and 2 touchdowns getting 3 sacks. The tight end combo of Hernandez (four catches for 31 yards) and Rob Gronkowski (one for 25) did the most damage on a night when mostly Woodson and Tramon Williams kept wideouts Wes Welker (three for 42) and Deion Branch (two for 33) in check, respectively. LB Bishop was solid getting seven tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble. NT Raji played solid too getting four tackles and two sacks. The Packers defense held the Patriots to 4 for 10 on 3rd downs.
RUSHING DEFENSE: D- vs D. The Patriots rushed for 113 yards averaging a huge 7.1 yards. RB Green-Ellis made the Packers pay for Woodson’s big drop two plays earlier with a 33-yard touchdown. That was the extent of Green-Ellis’ production, though, as he managed only 38 yards in six carries. RB Woodhead frequently hit the hole with little resistance and had nine carries for 59 yards, including explosive runs of 14 and 13 yards. TE Hernandez ripped off a 16-yard run on an end-around.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D+ vs C-. On special teams, the initial successful onside kick was a clever surprise to set the early tempos of the game. A Crosby’s squib kick backfired allowing Patriots offensive lineman Connolly to rumble a record 71 yards for the longest kickoff return down to Green Bay’s 4-yard line setting the Patriots up for their second touchdown. K Crosby went 2 for 2 in field goals. P Masthay had a good and bad punting performance, averaging 41.3 gross yards and 38.5 net yards with two punts inside the 20. KR Shields has a solid game with 128 return yards.
COACHING: B- vs B. McCarthy’s game plan for Flynn was both necessary and inspired. The Packers attempted a season-high 38 running plays, and their 143 yards was their second-highest total of the season. And while Flynn threw 37 passes, only eight of them traveled 10 or more yards in the air. That’s a quantitative way of explaining that the Packers wanted to control the ball with the run and the short passing game. The Packers largely succeeded outgaining the Patriots 369-249. Yet, the game came down to the untimely mistakes and the failure to make the big plays to score in the red zone going only 2 for 5. Finally, what ultimately cost the Packers the game was another special-teams gaffe by Shawn Slocum’s coverage unit and faulty clock management by McCarthy in trying to direct an inexperienced Flynn to the game-winning touchdown in the culminating 4-minute drive.
OVERALL: B. The Packers lost their sixth close game of the season by four points or fewer. Coach McCarthy’s career record in such games is now 5-16 including an 0-7 mark during the team’s 6-10 swoon in 2008 and 2-6 this season. The Packers had a dominant performance owning a 2-to-1 advantage in time of possession (40:56 to 19:04) and nearly a 2-to-1 advantage in first downs (26-14).