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Red-hot Rodgers overcomes Packers' defensive issues

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Dan Arkush
Executive editor

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Posted Nov. 07, 2011 @ 5:02 p.m. ET
By Dan Arkush

Neither rain, which fell steadily Sunday in San Diego, nor snow, which will be covering Lambeau Field before we know it, nor a porous pass defense, which has been a problem all season, has stopped the Packers in their quest for a perfect 2011 season.

With QB Aaron Rodgers putting together what up to now has been a perfect season in every way imaginable, the prospect of an undefeated season remains very much alive. Rodgers' numbers continue to boggle the mind. On Sunday, he had almost as many TD passes (four) as incompletions (five) in a scintillating shootout with Chargers QB Philip Rivers, the NFL's top-rated passer the past three seasons. Two of Rodgers' TD tosses were particularly breathtaking — a 16-yard back-shoulder strike to WR Jordy Nelson and a 21-yard floater that James Jones caught perfectly in stride on his way to the endzone. Just for fun, Rodgers decided to stretch his legs for good measure, reeling off 52 yards on eight scrambles.

The PFW Spin

How many times can you say league MVP?

At the season's halfway point, Rodgers has an off-the-charts 129.1 passer rating — exactly eight points better than the NFL-record of 121.1 set by Peyton Manning in 2004. Rodgers' accuracy has been outstanding, as he has completed 80.4 of his passes the past two games despite often facing heavy pressure. The same can be said for his ball distribution, as he continues to spread the wealth with amazing consistency to the Packers' receivers.

Yet despite Rodgers' brilliance, the Packers continue to play with fire. On Sunday, the defense surrendered more than 400 yards (460 to be exact) for the fifth time in eight games. You knew after the Chargers' first offensive play of the game — a 23-yard completion to WR Vincent Jackson with CB Sam Shields unsuccessfully defending — that Green Bay's pass defense was in for another excruciatingly long day in San Diego.

It won't matter as long as the Packers' offense continues to outshoot the opposition. But it's worth noting all the high-profile bullets that were missing from the Chargers' attack on both sides of the ball Sunday — OLB Shaun Phillips, RB Ryan Mathews, OG Kris Dielman, WR Malcom Floyd and DE Luis Castillo, among others.

The one other saving grace for the Packers is their penchant for takeaways. The Packers lead the league with 16 interceptions, and they have needed just about every one of them to maintain their spotless record. But defensive meltdowns like the one in the fourth quarter that allowed the Chargers to quickly get back into contention are very hard to ignore.

For comparison's sake, think back to the second half of the Packers' 2009 campaign when similar meltdowns in crushing losses to the Steelers in Week 15 and the Cardinals in the playoffs proved to be the team's undoing.

Could history be on the verge of repeating itself?

Unless Rodgers can continue his Superman act, a similar chain of events would be perfectly understandable.

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