Packers earn poor playoff grades in loss

Packers earn poor playoff grades in loss

Published Jan. 16, 2012 8:17 a.m. ET

A 15-1 record in the regular season didn't mean much following the Packers' early exit in the playoffs, losing to the New York Giants, 37-20.

Handing out grades following the Packers' season-ending loss:

Passing Offense: C-

Six dropped passes by Packers receivers was just one reason why the passing game didn't work against the Giants. And they weren't just by one player as Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Jermichael Finley, James Starks, Tom Crabtree and Ryan Taylor all contributed to the issue.

Aaron Rodgers finished 26 of 46 for 264 yards with two touchdowns, one interception and one fumble. In a very un-Rodgers way, he was also inaccurate on several passes. On the first drive of the game, Rodgers missed a wide-open Jennings on third down and the Packers were forced to settle for a field goal.

When passes weren't being dropped or poorly thrown, the Giants' defense had Rodgers in trouble. Rodgers was sacked four times (one which led to his fumble) and had eight other passes deflected. Other times, receivers down the field were so well covered that Rodgers was forced to scramble seven times.

Rushing Offense: D+

Rodgers' aforementioned seven scrambles went for 66 yards, making him Green Bay's leading rusher in a landslide.

Starks had a 29-yard run and Ryan Grant had a carry for 19 yards, but both were ineffective in their other 12 combined carries.

The most important aspect -- by far -- of the Packers' rushing offense is ball security. In this game, the running backs were responsible for two lost fumbles; one by Grant and the other by fullback John Kuhn.

A big reason for Green Bay's success during the regular season was not turning the ball over. Those two fumbles had a huge impact on the outcome of the game.

Rushing Defense: B

Until the final drive of the game, the Packers' run defense did well. The dangerous duo of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw were held in check and had only gained a combined 47 yards through the first 55 minutes of the game.

Then, with five minutes remaining and Green Bay in desperate need of a defensive stop, Bradshaw and Jacobs sealed the game with big runs, including Jacobs' for the touchdown.

The Packers had six tackles-for-loss, including two by linebacker Desmond Bishop, who played a very good game. But when Green Bay needed a stop most, it didn't happen.

Passing Defense: C

It's difficult to expect great things from a defensive secondary when there is rarely any pass rush forcing the quarterback into bad throws. That has been the biggest issue for the Packers all season, and Sunday's game really proved it.

Green Bay finished with one sack, and that was by outside linebacker Brad Jones who barely played during the regular season.

Giants quarterback Eli Manning threw one interception, and that happened when the Packers brought a six-man pass rush. When Green Bay only brought three or four, Manning had all day and dissected the Packers' secondary.

It also didn't help that Green Bay had several missed tackles, allowing for long runs-after-catch.

Manning finished 21 of 33 passing for 330 yards, three touchdowns and the one interception.

New York's Hakeem Nicks was by far the best receiver in this game with seven catches for 165 yards and two touchdowns.

Special Teams: B

Mason Crosby made both of his field-goal attempts, including one from 47 yards out.

Randall Cobb did not have any breakout runs, and nearly had a costly blunder. Cobb was initially ruled to have fumbled on a kickoff return, but the Packers won the challenge and Cobb was ruled to have been down before the ball popped out.

Jones -- in addition to his sack -- blocked a field-goal attempt.

The biggest concern in special teams from this game was Crosby's onside kick attempt in which the Giants were not fooled at all and recovered.

Overall: D

Four turnovers. Six dropped passes.

Although there were plenty of other issues in this game, it was those two categories that really cost the Packers a win.

Green Bay did everything in the regular season to ensure itself the easiest path back to the Super Bowl for a chance at back-to-back championships. The Packers had the NFC North won with four games to go, later earned the NFC's No. 1 seed and therefore had home-field advantage to play at Lambeau Field where they had not lost in 15 months.

However, despite all of that working in their favor, Green Bay played poorly in nearly every aspect of the game and had its season ended much sooner than expected.

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