Our weekly "Chips Report" will always include two blue chippers (outstanding, exceptional play), two red chippers (good, though maybe not great) and two cow chips (dud performances). From the Week 3 loss against the Bengals...
- Wide receiver Jordy Nelson––It's rather telling that a player earning a blue chip didn't have a hand in a single scoring play, but at least Nelson didn't make a crucial blunder. He caught eight of nine targeted passes for 93 yards, an average of 11.6 yards per reception. Several of his catches set up either Packers field goals or touchdowns. It's becoming a sure bet that Nelson makes an acrobatic catch along the sideline every game, an almost telepathic connection with quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
- Punter Tim Masthay––Nothing against Masthay, but the Packers would rather not see the punter earning blue-chip status. But regardless, Masthay did his job and did it well. His gross punting average of 43.3 yards wasn't special, but his placement was perfect. All three of Masthay's punts were downed inside the opponent's 20-yard line, and he didn't allow a single return yard. And other when the Packers were pushed back 15 yards by penalty, his kickoffs were as expected.
- Safety M.D. Jennings––It was perhaps a product of being in the right place at the right time, but Jennings capitalized with a big fumble return for a 24-yard touchdown that pulled the Packers within 14-10 in the second quarter. It was one of four turnovers the Packers defense forced. The very next series, he dropped Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton for a four-yard loss on a safety blitz, one of four Packers sacks on the afternoon. Jennings seized the day.
- Defensive lineman Datone Jones––The stat sheet doesn't give him credit (as of the time of publication) for forcing a second-quarter fumble, but it was first-round draft choice Datone Jones, who hit Dalton's right arm that caused another Bengals' turnover, recovered by linebacker Brad Jones. The ensuing drive led to a Packers field goal that pulled Green Bay within 14-13. Then in the fourth quarter, he sidestepped an offensive lineman to block a fourth quarter extra point that preserved a Packers' three-point lead instead of two. Jones is starting to show some of the first-round talent the Packers saw when they drafted him, and an extra week to rest his bum ankle should only help.
- Quarterback Aaron Rodgers––It was Rodgers first two-interception game since 2010. That tells you just about all you need to know. A passing line that reads 26 of 43 for 244 yards with one touchdown was merely pedestrian. Certainly, there have been worse performances by NFL quarterbacks and he wasn't helped by four sacks, but it's hard to deny that Rodgers did little to put the Packers in position to win the game. Rodgers averaged only 5.7 yards per pass and ended with a passer rating of 64.5.
- Return specialist Jeremy Ross––Ross's muff on the Packers' first kick return opportunity directly led a turnover and allowed the Bengals to jump out to 14-0 lead early in the first quarter. In 10 career games with the Packers, Ross has had a hand in mishandling three balls, each of them leading to a turnover. Because of the muff, Ross averaged only 10.5 yards per kick return on two attempts. He deserves credit for a heads-up play by fielding a ball out of bounds in the second half, but it didn't make up for the turnover. And although it wasn't his fault, Ross was clearly in over his head when asked to play running back.
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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