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Game Review: Explosive Offensive Plays, Dominant Defense Key Victory

CLEVELAND - The Packers established their running game early, posted some big gains through the air, and recorded another impressive performance on defense on their way to a 31-3 victory over the Browns in Cleveland on Sunday afternoon. - More Packers-Browns Game Center


CLEVELAND - The Packers established their running game early, posted some big gains through the air, and recorded another impressive performance on defense on their way to a 31-3 victory over the Browns on Sunday afternoon.

The win in front of 69,797 at Cleveland Browns Stadium improved Green Bay to 4-2 on the season, putting them alone in second place in the NFC North and just one game behind division-leading Minnesota (6-1) in the loss column. The Vikings visit Lambeau Field next Sunday.

"I'm glad that we came out and played the way we felt we're capable of playing on offense," said quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who completed 15-of-20 passes for 246 yards and three touchdowns on his way to a franchise-record 155.4 passer rating. "I thought it was our best performance technically. We were productive. No sacks (allowed), and we ran the ball well.

"We're going to have to carry that over next week. We realize what kind of challenge we're going to have facing us."

The Packers didn't waste any time getting their rushing attack going on Sunday, with nine running plays on their first 10 snaps that picked up 38 yards. Even though they didn't come up with any points on the opening series after Rodgers was stopped short on a sneak on 4th-and-1 at the Cleveland 32, the tone was set.

"I always have a starting point; maybe I view it differently than some," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "I think you go into every football game prepared to run it and prepared to throw it. Games go different directions.

"I've made mistakes before trying to tilt my game plan in one direction, but our starting point was definitely to run the football today, no question, and we were able to establish that again for four quarters."

After Cleveland took over at their own 31, quarterback Derek Anderson led the Browns on an 11-play, 65-yard drive that was capped off with a 22-yard Billy Cundiff field goal that went off the left upright. Anderson completed all four passes on the drive for 46 yards, but Cleveland was only able to come away with three points despite having first-and-goal at the 5.

Green Bay's offense got on the board on their second possession when Rodgers rolled out to his right on third down and found tight end Spencer Havner on a short pass to the Cleveland 40. Havner broke a tackle by safety Abram Elam and took it all the way down the right sideline for the 45-yard touchdown, the first of the tight end's career.

On the Packers' next possession, they saw a look from Cleveland's defense that they had worked on in practice during the week. Elam came on a blitz, leaving wide receiver Donald Driver open for a quick pass from Rodgers that he took 71 yards for the score, fighting off cornerback Eric Wright for the final 20 yards on his way to Green Bay's longest play of the season.

"They ran the same defense that they had run last week against Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh had gotten sacked," said Rodgers, who completed 7-of-9 passes in the first half for 174 yards and two scores. "We call it 'Two-slide', where they are bringing a safety off the slot, and they are playing Cover-2 behind it.

"Today we went long count, and I was sitting there thinking, 'I hope that guy comes, because if he comes, it's going to be a big play.'"

The Packers' defense limited the Browns to just 57 yards of total offense in the second half, with Cleveland only threatening once, late in the third quarter. After the Packers were flagged for three penalties for 25 yards, running back Jamal Lewis had a game-long 16-yard run down to the Green Bay 22. On the next play, Anderson found tight end Michael Gaines for a 21-yard pickup down to the Packers' 1.

On first-and-goal, linebacker A.J. Hawk stopped Lewis for a 2-yard loss, one of three tackles for loss by Hawk on the day. Anderson's pass on second down intended for wideout Mohamed Massquoi fell incomplete, Lewis picked up two yards on third down, but Anderson's pass on fourth-and-goal from the 1 for Massaquoi again fell incomplete, ending their best and last chance for a touchdown on the afternoon.

"We're playing well," said cornerback Charles Woodson, who posted an interception and a forced fumble. "To hold a team to zero last week and then three today says a lot about you. The fourth-and-1 stop down there to keep them off the board was big.

"At this point we're making the plays that we're supposed to make, and if you can do that, then you feel confident going into the next game."

The offense then turned around and posted their most impressive drive of the day. Rodgers found wide receiver Greg Jennings on a quick slant on first down for 18 yards, then Havner on a short pass that picked up 14 more. On 3rd-and-6 from the Green Bay 39, Rodgers scrambled down the left sideline for a 19-yard gain, and running back Ryan Grant busted a season-long 37-yard run on the next play down to Cleveland's 5. Rodgers hooked up with wide receiver James Jones on the next play for a 5-yard score to put Green Bay up 31-3.

{sportsad300}"We still would have been up 14 if they had scored there, but we stop them and we go 99 yards and we put the game away," Rodgers said. "That was kind of the finality of the game at that point...I feel like we got back to playing the kind of football we are capable of. There was excitement, there was dancing, there was celebrating, there was guys looking out for each other.

"I got my helmet ripped off in the first drive and kind of punched in the face as well. The linemen came over and said, 'Who was it and we've got your back.' Stuff like that, I think that means a lot to me and it means a lot to our team. I felt like we kind of played with excitement and joy and all of the things we should play with, and got back to playing our brand of football this week."

That brand of football included a season-high 148 yards on the ground from Grant, including 100 on 15 carries (6.7) in the second half. The Packers went over the 200-yard mark as a team for the first time this season with 202 yards on a season-high 41 attempts (4.9 avg.).

"Anytime you can continue to run it the way we did, it definitely helps you," McCarthy said. "You're not ever pressing. We were able to establish the run early in the football game on the first series, and once again the most important statistic in my view running the football is attempts, and we definitely hit the mark today."

The timing was right for the Packers to have their best all-around performance on both sides of the ball with the first-place Vikings coming to town next weekend and three of their next four games at home.

"We haven't really hit our stride yet," Rodgers said. "We needed to win those two games (Detroit and Cleveland) to get us in position now to get back in this division race and start making a push to November and December.

"Those are when the playoffs are decided and teams start hitting their strides and it just gets tougher. You look at our schedule, we've got some tough games coming up."

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