Guest Post
Steve Smith

Smith was a problem for the Packers all day.

Summary: Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw for 308 yards and two touchdowns, while the Packers overcame Carolina quarterback Cam Newton’s 432 passing yards to beat the Panthers 30-23.

Game Balls: Rodgers, receiver Greg Jennings (2 receptions, 55 yards, 1 TD), receiver Jordy Nelson (1 reception, 84 yards, 1 TD), cornerback Charles Woodson (5 tackles, 2 interceptions, 1 fumble recovery) and safety Morgan Burnett (6 tackles, 1 interception, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble)

Injury Report: Safety Nick Collins (neck, out-for-the season), defensive end Ryan Pickett (bruised knee)

Passing Offense: B
While he struggled throughout the game, Rodgers had good protection and completed 19-of-30 passes for 308 yards, two touchdowns, and had a 119.9 passer rating. He completed two big-play touchdowns — a 49-yarder to Jennings for a second half lead and an 84-yarder to Nelson to put the game away. However, Rodgers missed an open Nelson in the end zone on third and goal. His receivers also dropped catchable balls, including Jennings along the sideline on 4th-and-4 at the Carolina 45 late in the first half, James Jones, who failed to get a catchable ball over the middle in the red zone, and Jermichael Finley, who lost the football when he hit the ground, negating a 19-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter. Further, the trio of Jennings (two catches for 55 yards), Donald Driver (one catch for 10 yards), and Nelson (one catch for 84 yards) combined for just four catches.

Rushing Offense: A
The rushing game found a solid niche in a balanced offensive attack. The Packers rushed 19 times for 122 yards, averaging a strong 6.4 yards per carry. James Starks had nine big carries for 85 yards, averaging a 9.4 yards per carry. Ryan Grant had just six carries for 25 yards. John Kuhn scored a one-yard touchdown. Meanwhile, the offensive line had a pretty game, especially center Scott Wells, guard T.J. Lang, and guard Josh Sitton, although they had four holding penalties. Tackle Chad Clifton is just adequate in the running game.

Passing Defense: D+
The Packers gave up another 400-plus-yard passing game, this time to a rookie. Newton threw for a whopping 432 yards and two touchdowns against a defense that blew several assignments in coverage. If not for the red zone defense (the Panthers were only two-of-six), four turnovers and 2 fumbles, the game could have been an embarrassing loss. Using an effective check-down system, Newton dropped off several passes underneath to running back Jonathan Stewart (eight catches for 100 yards). Also, he got big play passes to receiver Steve Smith (six catches for 156 yards) who battered Woodson. Fortunately, Woodson got two interceptions on two bad passes and recovered a fumble caused by Burnett, who stripped a careless Smith after a big catch-and-run into Packers territory. While cornerback Jarrett Bush is no longer a liability in coverage, he isn’t a playmaker either. He gives up a big touchdown almost every game. Sadly, cornerback Sam Shields struggled throughout the game. Overall, the linebackers were average, with the exception of Desmond Bishop.

Rushing Defense: B+
The Carolina game plan didn’t seem to involve the running game and the Packers did enough to stop the Panthers with the front line and outside linebackers on the edges. If you take away Newton’s 53 yards scrambling, the Panthers got only 18 yards on 11 carries. Both running backs, DeAngelo Williams (five carries for 13 yards) and Stewart (six carries for five yards), were non-factors on the ground. The big play involved Burnett, who stopped a bootleg by Newton to the right on 3rd-and-1 from the Packers’ 3 for a three-yard loss. The Panthers turned the ball over on downs following Clay Matthews’ stop of a Newton scramble up the middle to end the game.

Special Teams: C
Beyond the early fumble by kick returner Randall Cobb, the special teams were pretty pedestrian. The highlight was kicker Mason Crosby’s three field goals. Crosby’s kickoffs and solid team coverage contained Panthers kick returner Mike Goodson. He averaged only 21.4 yards per return. Punt returner Armanti Edwards averaged only 5.5 yards on two returns. Packers’ punter Tim Masthay continued to struggle, averaging only 38.7 gross yards and 35.0 net yards per punt.

Coaching: C-
The Packers played an uninspired, ugly, and sloppy game, overcoming a horrible first quarter, a fumbled kickoff return, numerous on-field communication breakdowns, a dropped touchdown pass, seven penalties, and a failed fourth-down conversion near midfield before halftime. The defense continued to have coverage breakdowns and gave up another 400-yard passing game. On offense, the Packers did enough to win, but they were one-for-four in the red zone. Overall, it was a mixed performance. The Packers avoided an embarrassing loss due to big plays by the defense in the red zone.