GREEN BAY, Wis. — Handing out grades following the Green Bay Packers’ 31-13 win over the Cleveland Browns in Week 7:
Passing Offense: A-
Randall Cobb (fractured fibula) missed the first of what will be at least eight games and James Jones (knee) was held out, yet quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ passing offense still moved the ball effectively through the air against a good Cleveland defense.
Rodgers completed 25 of 36 passes (69.4 percent) for 260 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 117.8. Though it’s not often flattering to describe a quarterback as a “game-manager” (think Alex Smith), coach Mike McCarthy said that Rodgers “did a great job of managing the game.” Part of that means working well with the few players who were available and also not forcing passes that aren’t there, both areas that Rodgers was able to accomplish.
Jordy Nelson was matched all day by Browns star cornerback Joe Haden, so Rodgers only had six targets to his top remaining receiver. Nelson caught five of those six passes for 72 yards and one touchdown. Jarrett Boykin’s first career start was very productive, finishing with eight catches for 103 yards and his first NFL touchdown. Tight end Jermichael Finley started the game with a touchdown reception in which he broke four tackles, but his day ended with being rolled off of Lambeau Field on a gurney after suffering a neck injury.
Rodgers had good pass protection on most of his dropbacks and was sacked just once. However, offensive tackles David Bakhtiari and Don Barclay were both flagged for holding on passing plays, and left guard Josh Sitton had a false start.
Rushing Offense: B
It was another good day for the Packers on the ground, but it wasn’t an explosive or game-breaking day, either. This was a game in which rookie running back Eddie Lacy continued to prove that no matter how stout an opposing defense has been in stopping the run, he can still break tackles and get the most yards possible out of the majority of his carries.
Lacy finished with 82 yards on 22 carries (3.7 average) and was stopped for a loss on two runs. It shows how quickly Green Bay has raised the bar in the run game that having its leading rusher put up those numbers isn’t considered to be an overwhelming positive. Lacy’s long run in the game was only 13 yards, but he found the end zone at Lambeau Field for the first time in his career and got to experience his first official leap into the crowd.
Johnathan Franklin contributed two runs for six yards and Rodgers scrambled three times for 11 yards.
Rushing Defense: B
The Browns haven’t been a good running team this season and seemed to give up on that aspect of the game when they traded Trent Richardson and signed Willis McGahee off the street to take over in the backfield. However, the Packers did a nice job of containing most of what Cleveland was trying in the running game.
McGahee had 39 yards on 11 carries (3.5 average), Chris Obgonnaya added 15 yards on four rushing attempts (3.8 average) and Fozzy Whittaker had 11 yards on five carries (2.2 average). If it hadn’t been for quarterback Brandon Weeden’s two scrambles for 20 yards, Green Bay would have held the Browns to a 3.0 rushing average. Even with Weeden’s two rushes, Cleveland still only finished with 83 yards and a 3.6 rushing average with no touchdowns.
Johnny Jolly led the way with two tackles for loss, both of which were solo tackles.
Passing Defense: A-
The Packers continued their recent trend of taking the opposing team’s top receiver and making him a non-factor. This week, it was Browns wideout Josh Gordon, who was coming off a 126-yard performance a week earlier against Detroit. But in Green Bay, Gordon was held to 21 yards on two catches.
Cleveland’s playmaking tight end, Jordan Cameron, wasn’t held in check as well as Gordon was, but it still wasn’t a game-changing performance. Cameron had the Browns’ only touchdown and finished with seven catches on nine targets for 55 yards.
Davon House had the Packers’ only interception, but it came on fourth down and therefore didn’t have a major impact. It’s concerning for Green Bay’s defense that it only has three interceptions in six games, even including House’s.
With Clay Matthews and Nick Perry out, plus Mike Neal playing through a shoulder injury, the Packers got fairly good pressure on Weeden and had three sacks. Jamari Lattimore, Mike Daniels and Tramon Williams had one sack apiece.
Weeden, whose passer rating at one point in the game was 1.7, finished the game having completed just 17 of 42 throws for 149 yards with one touchdown and one interception (48.6 passer rating).
Special Teams: B-
The one big mistake came in the NFL debut of tight end Jake Stoneburner, who was flagged for a 15-yard roughing the punter penalty to give the Browns a new set of downs.
The field was not in great shape with the wet conditions, but Mason Crosby’s 52-yard field goal attempt fell short. Crosby was 2-for-9 from 50-plus yards last season, so it’s a distance that he has struggled from, even in different conditions. However, Crosby did connect on a field-goal attempt from 26 yards.
With Cobb out, Micah Hyde took over as the full-time punt returner and had one return for 18 yards. Hyde fumbled but recovered.
Franklin retained his role as primary kick returner and brought one return out for 26 yards.
The Packers let Cleveland stay in the game throughout most of it, but Green Bay pulled away late for an 18-point victory. While the Browns certainly aren’t among the NFL’s elite teams, they’ve been a strong defense. Yet, the Packers’ offense, even without Cobb and Jones, moved the ball effectively. Green Bay had just one three-and-out drive and was 7-of-13 on third-down conversions.
Defensively for the Packers, they weren’t challenged much by a lackluster Weeden, but they kept the Browns to 13 points — and that’s a point total that should produce a Green Bay victory every time.
First place in the NFC North now belongs to the Packers at 4-2. With the injuries that Green Bay has already dealt with this season, that’s impressive. The key for the Packers is continuing to adjust to injuries, especially while Cobb and Matthews remain out, as well as with Finley’s status uncertain. But this was a good first step for Green Bay in winning a game it needed at home against a team it should defeat.