Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin  |  Last updated 11/7/11
It was closer than it should have been, but the Green Bay Packers are still undefeated after a 45-38 win on Sunday in San Diego. Handing out grades following the Packers' win: Passing Offense: A Aaron Rodgers picked up right where he left off before the bye week, throwing for 247 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions against the Chargers. He now has 24 touchdown passes and three interceptions this season. Rodgers connected on 21 of 26 throws (80.7 percent), raising his already-NFL-best completion percentage. He also continues to spread the ball around to multiple receivers with Greg Jennings, Jermichael Finley, James Jones and Jordy Nelson all catching touchdown passes from Rodgers. The only issue with the passing offense in San Diego was protection for Rodgers in the pocket. He was sacked four times (all in the first half) and was forced to scramble and run the ball seven other times. Rushing Offense: B James Starks looked solid in the majority of his 13 carries. He ran for 66 yards total (5.1 average), and his first run -- which didn't take place until the second quarter -- was for 20 yards. Starks was not stopped for a loss all day, but his worst carry was the one that mattered most. With the Packers one first down away from running out the clock, Starks picked up no yards on a 3rd-and-2 carry and Green Bay had to punt. Ryan Grant's gradual demotion to second-string running back continued Sunday, getting two carries in the first drive -- for a combined 5 yards -- and not touching the ball again until late in the third quarter. He finished with 16 yards on four attempts. Due to Rodgers being forced out of the pocket frequently, he ran eight times for 52 yards and continues to show his versatility. Rushing Defense: B- San Diego's primary running back, Ryan Matthews, did not play due to a groin injury. That left the carries to 5-foot-9, 243-pound bruiser Mike Tolbert to get all but one of the rushing attempts. The Packers did a serviceable job containing Tolbert. His longest run of the day was only for nine yards, so the big plays were avoided on the ground. However, Tolbert ran for five-to-eight yard chunks at a time on many drives and finished with 83 yards on 19 carries (4.4 average). Even when Matthews was available for the Chargers during the first seven weeks of the season, San Diego was 13th in the league in rushing yards per game. So allowing a 4.4 average to a running back with one style, without having to worry about the flexibility of Matthews entering the equation, is not a great day for the Packers' rushing defense. But not giving up any running plays over 10 yards is a positive. Passing Defense: B Green Bay gave up several big passing plays and allowed Chargers receiver Vincent Jackson to score three touchdowns to go along with seven catches and 141 yards. San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers finished with a season-high 385 yards and four touchdowns. Rivers had not thrown more than two touchdowns in a game all season prior to Sunday. A lot of the damage that Rivers did to the Packers' secondary came late in the game when Green Bay had a sizeable lead. That is when a defense should be expecting nearly all passing plays, yet Rivers led a late comeback by scorching the Packers with deep throws. Based on those stats alone, Green Bay's passing defense is not deserving of anything better than C, but that would be to discount the back-to-back first-quarter interceptions that were returned for touchdowns. First, safety Charlie Peprah picked off Rivers and ran it back 40 yards. On the next drive, cornerback Tramon Williams stepped in front of a Rivers pass while in zone coverage and strolled into the end zone from 43 yards out. Those were two terrific plays, but things fell apart from there. In addition to what happened late in the second half, San Diego's drive following the two interceptions went for a quick touchdown highlighted by a deep 38-yard pass to Jackson. There were the very good plays and the not-so-good plays. That has kind of been the story for the Packers' defense much of this season. Special Teams: B The one big negative for Green Bay's special teams was a failed attempt to recover an onside kick from the Chargers in the fourth quarter. Instead of fielding the ball cleanly, Nelson swatted at it -- in a likely attempt to push it out of bounds -- and the ball was recovered by San Diego. This set up another quick touchdown as the Chargers nearly came back from a 21-point deficit in the fourth quarter. Aside from that, Mason Crosby continues his season of perfection by connecting on a 47-yard field goal. Plus, rookie returner Randall Cobb held onto the ball on kick and punt returns. He muffed a punt return in Week 7 and fumbled a kick return in Week 2, so while he did not have any spectacular returns in San Diego, he did what he needed to do by holding on to the ball and allowing Rodgers and the offense to take the field. Overall: B Green Bay had so many great plays, drives and sequences, both on offense and defense. Yet, the defense's inability to contain the passing game late and special teams not recovering an onside kick gave the Chargers a chance at a huge comeback. All in all, it's another win and another checkmark in coach Mike McCarthy's 'adversity football' column that he can point to when preparing his players for the Packers' inevitable playoff run. Though Green Bay did improve to 8-0, the team hasn't made it look easy by having to hang on late to win several games. However, that is the Packers' 14th consecutive win, adding to their already franchise-best winning streak. While it was closer than it had to be, McCarthy and his players continue to be the team that every other NFL franchise is chasing. Follow Paul Imig on Twitter.
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