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3 things we learned about the Packers

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GREEN BAY, Wis. — Philip Rivers threw for 503 yards. He needed 3 more.

The San Diego quarterback’s 65th and final pass, on fourth-and-goal from the 3-yard line, was batted down at the goal line by Green Bay cornerback Damarious Randall, giving the Packers a 27-20 victory over the Chargers at Lambeau Field on Sunday.

Rivers recorded just the 17th 500-yard game in NFL history, and he completed 43 of 65 passes for two touchdowns with no interceptions.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw two touchdown passes, and running back James Starks rushed for 110 yards, including a 65-yard run that staked Green Bay to a 14-3 lead in the first quarter.

Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen caught 14 passes for 157 yards, including an NFL season-high 11 in the first half, but he missed most of the second half with a hip injury.

The Packers took a 27-20 lead on kicker Mason Crosby’s 28-yard field goal with 2:37 remaining.

Rivers drove the Chargers the length of the field, leaning heavily on tight end Antonio Gates and running back Danny Woodhead. On fourth-and-goal with 20 seconds remaining, Rivers went to Woodhead to his right in the flat, but Randall closed and broke it up to save the game.

“They actually ran that play earlier,” Randall said. “Rivers was trying to see if he could get it to Gates first. I guess No. 39, Woodhead, was his second option, and I was just there to make a play.”

The Packers are 6-0 for the first time since 2011 and the second time in the last 50 years. For the first time in a long time, it is the defense — not the Rodgers-fueled offense — making the key plays.

Still, the Chargers made Green Bay sweat.

“If you have a chance to study their offense, (Rivers) is so accurate with the football and the at-the-line offense and the command of recognizing the defense and so forth, you’ve got to give him a ton of credit there,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “It was a competitive match, but we kept them out of the end zone. That’s what was most important. When you get in games like that, where you’re giving up a lot of yards, at the end of day, it’s about field goals versus touchdowns, and that was obviously a big part of this game.”

The Chargers (2-4) have lost games in the final moments in back-to-back weeks, and three of their losses were by no more than seven points.

“Gosh, I don’t know, you have to laugh to keep from crying,” said Rivers, who set team single-game records for completions, attempts and yards. “Another one. Another one that was tough. And as good as we played, in a lot of ways, we left plays out there that we normally make. …

“We should’ve scored 40. We should’ve. And that’s what’s frustrating because our defense played their tail off.”

What we learned about the Packers:

1. Even at 6-0, the Packers are a team in need of a bye. They entered the game with four injured starters on the inactive list — receiver Davante Adams (ankle), safety Morgan Burnett (calf), outside linebacker Nick Perry (shoulder) and defensive tackle B.J. Raji (groin) — then lost rookie receiver Ty Montgomery to an ankle injury. “I don’t think I’ve ever said the bye week wasn’t healthy or come at the right time, but this is definitely (the right time). We need it,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “We’re beat up. Just talking with Mike McCoy before the game, they’re in the same boat, too. Winning in the NFL is tough and just really the physical part and staying healthy is frankly the biggest challenge. This bye week is well-needed.

2. The Packers have an excellent one-two punch in the backfield. With starter Eddie Lacy limited to four carries for 3 yards, James Starks carried the load with 10 catches for 112 yards. He scored two touchdowns — a 65-yard run and a 5-yard reception. “It’s really that we’re a one-two punch team. It’s really no different than the way we’ve operated. We went with James first, frankly, because he’s been playing extremely well and Eddie’s been a little banged-up. James obviously had a huge day.”

3. The defense gave up 503 passing yards to Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers. San Diego piled up 548 yards and had a 16-minute advantage in time of possession. But the Packers held the Chargers to 20 points. The key was keeping them out of the end zone on four of their six red-zone possessions as this defense against picked up the slack for an offense that’s not firing on all cylinders. “We knew we were going to have our hands full, but I don’t know if we would’ve anticipated the numbers he put up,” linebacker Clay Matthews said. “It really came down to a couple of those red-zone stops and a couple of those key third downs, and fortunately we were able to make the plays when we needed to.”

Etc.:

–QB Aaron Rodgers went over 30,000 career passing yards during the fourth quarter. He did it on his 3,652nd career attempt — the fewest attempts in NFL history. Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas held the old mark with 3,695 attempts. However, the usually high-flying Packers offense is in a three-week slump. “We’re 6-0, but there’s room for improvement,” he said. “We had 49 plays tonight, that’s far below our standard. They had the ball for 38 minutes. At this point, we don’t need to win pretty every week. We’d like to and we’re going to get graded to that standard. You set the bar pretty high with the pretty wins. But when you have a game like tonight, 49 plays, the inefficiency in the passing game, it’s not going to be the best meeting room coming back next Monday. But they all count the same. We’ll take them all.”

–RB James Starks had the first two-touchdown game of his career and his 65-yard touchdown run was the longest by a Packers runner since DeShawn Wynn’s 73-yard dash vs. Detroit in the 2008 finale. That was critical with Eddie Lacy limited to four carries or 3 yards. Lacy has battled an ankle injury but he said that wasn’t a factor. “Oh, no, Starks got on a roll early, and when the guy gets hot like that, you want him to keep going, and he was able to keep performing. Even though he was dinged up, he played through it, and I’m happy for him.”

–CB Damarious Randall was the hero of the game. The first-round pick made a hard break on Philip Rivers’ fourth-and-goal pass, knocking it away just before it got to RB Danny Woodhead for the potential game-tying touchdown. Randall was part of a Packers secondary that was victimized for 503 yards by Rivers. “It’s tough, because if I was out there against a rookie, you’re going after him,” Packers QB Aaron Rodgers said. “The game on the line, he knocked it down, and he made some good plays on the ball down the field. He’s got a lot of confidence. He knows the ball is going to come his way. Really proud of him. It’s a big confidence booster for him — not that he needs a whole lot of confidence boost because it’s already pretty high for him.”


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