Packers’ passing game needs a tune-up

Packers’ passing game needs a tune-up

Published Sep. 25, 2012 2:51 p.m. ET

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The final play of the Packers-Seahawks game is what will most be remembered by anyone who watched the game. However, with 59-plus other minutes to evaluate, Green Bay (now with a 1-2 record this season) has a lot of work to do.|

Handing out grades following the Packers' 14-12 loss to the Seahawks:

Passing offense: C-

Between quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the play-calling of coach Mike McCarthy, the inability of the wide receivers to get open and the offensive line's struggles to block, the Packers had a very poor night in the passing game. There was improvement in all four of those areas in the second half, but for the first two quarters, Green Bay had no chance to get anything going offensively. The Seahawks sacked Rodgers seven times ... prior to halftime. On multiple plays, the offensive line was beat in one-on-one matchups, allowing sacks before Rodgers had any chance to scramble or throw to a receiver. On other occasions, there were coverage sacks. Other times, the receivers were too deep down the field, often not even turning around in their routes before Rodgers was already down. That final part falls on McCarthy, who took until the third quarter to make the necessary adjustments for shorter passing plays and more frequent runs by Cedric Benson.

Rodgers did not throw an interception after getting picked off in each of the first two games. He completed 26 of 39 passing attempts for 223 yards with no touchdowns. Greg Jennings, who returned from a groin injury, was the most targeted receiver with 10 passes, but he caught only six of them for 35 yards. Tight end Jermichael Finley led Green Bay in receiving yards with 60. Veteran receiver Donald Driver dropped what would have been a tough catch in the end zone on his only target, while second-year receiver Randall Cobb had only two passes thrown his way, resulting in one catch for minus-1 yard.

Rushing offense: C

This was not the follow-up performance that the Packers were looking for from Benson. After rushing for 80 yards and a 4.1-yard average in Week 2, Benson had just 45 yards on 17 carries (2.6 average) against the Seahawks. Seattle is very tough along its defensive line, but just like Week 1, McCarthy won't be happy with such a low average per carry.

Cobb had one rushing attempt for 20 yards, with Rodgers scrambling twice for 17 yards.

The Packers will need a consistently strong running game to help get their offense going because running successfully would force opposing defenses to commit more players near the line of scrimmage. All three of Green Bay's opponents this season have played deep in coverage, seemingly daring the Packers to run the ball or throw short passes. If Benson can't finish with at least 3.0 yards per carry more than once every three games, Rodgers may never see single-coverage on deep passing routes again.

Rushing defense: B+

Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch is incredibly difficult to bring to the ground. He fights for extra yardage and, at age 26, is in the prime of his career. For the Packers to hold Lynch to 3.9 yards per carry is definitely a good night's work. Lynch finished with 98 yards, but that was on 25 carries, and his longest run was only nine yards.

Seattle's offense is based off its running game, and it was Green Bay's relative success in stopping it that kept the Seahawks from scoring only seven points (or 14 points, counting the last-second touchdown that shouldn't have been) and losing the time-of-possession battle.

Passing defense: A-

Not counting the final play of the game, Russell Wilson was limited to 106 yards passing. Even with that “successful" Hail Mary pass, he had only 130. The Packers did not officially have any interceptions, but rookie safety Jerron McMillian would have been credited with one late in the game had the replacement referees not called a curious roughing-the-passer penalty on linebacker Erik Walden. There were some big passing penalties that helped progress the Seahawks down the field, but even that should have an asterisk next to it. A 32-yard defensive pass interference call on Sam Shields should have been, at the very least, a no-call from the officials. It seemed like almost certain offensive pass interference on Seahawks receiver Sidney Rice. Yet, somehow, the flag was thrown on Shields. Altogether, Green Bay's passing defense, despite only recording one sack, had a very good game.

Special teams: B

There was nothing overly spectacular on special teams, but Mason Crosby made both of his field-goal attempts and Tim Masthay had another good game punting the ball. Cobb did muff one of his punt returns, but he recovered it.

Overall: B-

The biggest takeaway from this game will of course be the officiating, as well it should be. Despite not playing well on offense, the Packers should have won their second consecutive game, and that is due to a stellar turnaround on defense from a year ago. Green Bay now has to host the desperate 0-3 New Orleans Saints at Lambeau Field on Sunday, with the Packers getting an opportunity to use Monday night's officiating debacle to motivate them throughout the rest of the season. Now the wait is on to see whether this Green Bay loss and Seattle win ends up affecting who makes the playoffs or which teams do or don't get home-field advantage.

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