Aaron Rodgers sack

Patriots defensive ends Adrian Clayborn, left, and Trey Flowers, right, sack Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers during the second half of Green Bay's 31-17 loss to New England on Sunday in Foxborough, Mass. 

Wisconsin State Journal columnist Tom Oates grades the Green Bay Packers' performance in their 31-17 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday night at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. 

Offense: C

There were too many times when Aaron Rodgers went back to pass and no one was open. The pass protection failed when Green Bay needed it most, in the fourth quarter. Marquez Valdes-Scantling has become Rodgers' top deep threat. Aaron Jones averaged 5.4 yards per carry but his fumble cost the Packers a chance to go ahead late.

Defense: C

Blake Martinez blitzed up the middle to force a poor throw by Tom Brady on fourth-and-goal at the 1, completing an epic goal-line stand. Bashaud Breeland had problems in coverage in his first Packers start. You have to be smarter than that, Jermaine Whitehead. Your lack of self-control handed the Patriots a touchdown.

Special teams: D

The Packers allowed Cordarrelle Patterson to return the opening kickoff 36 yards and had 5 yards tacked on for being offsides. That's no way to start a game. Robert Tonyan's senseless penalty for roughing the punter kept a Patriots drive alive. At least Breeland knows how to down a kickoff in the end zone.

Coaching: C

From the 12-yard line, Jones ran up the middle for a first down at the 2. The Packers then threw three straight passes. Sure they scored, but they made it more difficult than it had to be. Mike Pettine disguised his blitzes well and had Brady guessing. Ron Zook just can't get a handle on special teams penalties.

Overall: C

For the second week in a row, the visiting Packers battled an NFL power on even terms for much of the game, only to come up short. That might be good for the confidence but it's bad for the won-lost record and Green Bay now finds itself in a deep hole if it intends to return to the playoffs after a one-year absence.

Bucky!

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Contact Tom Oates at toates@madison.com or 608-252-6172.

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Tom Oates has been part of the Wisconsin State Journal sports department since 1980 and became its editorial voice in 1996, traversing the state and country to bring readers a Madison perspective on the biggest sports stories of the day.