Gresh's Grades: Packers too much for Patriots
GRESH'S GRADES: PACK ATTACK
By Andy Gresh
Special to CSNNE.com
A fantastic game for any fan to watch and, in my mind, there'll be no long-term damage from this loss. I think the defense will be able to grow because it was guys other than the starters who got beat; watching the film will make them better. I loved the fight in the second and fourth quarters, when the Pats got down and needed to respond. This feels like one of those games nobody lost and you want to see them play again, on a neutral field. A lot of good will come from this.
The third-down percentage actually wasn’t that bad (40 percent). I think falling behind made the coaches shy away from running the ball as much as they should have, which I always complain about . . . and rightfully so. The first two drives put the Pats behind all day. The offensive line had some issues in allowing pressures on the quarterback, and he had a few bad throws along the way. But I loved their ability to respond, and that they didn’t settle for field goals in the red zone.
While Aaron Rodgers played great, Tom Brady was almost as good. He made a picture-perfect throw to Rob Gronkowski in the end zone late in the game that, if Gronk had made a miraculous catch, might have given New England the victory. I thought Brady did a great job at the line of scrimmage and made a great check for the Brandon LaFell touchdown. Third down was a problem, as TB12 had to deal with a lot of pressure in the pocket and at times it got to him. Conversely, he also did a fantastic job of moving to avoid the rush and create throwing lanes. I thought he threw very catchable passes. And his fire is what drives this team.
RUNNING BACK: B
Shane Vereen can’t have the drops he had, especially in the second half. And even though he’s a great story, I don’t want to see Jonas Gray on the field unless the power run game is working and LeGarrette Blount needs a break. Brandon Bolden did a nice job in the second quarter, but his success just isn’t sustainable because he is what he is. Blount did well in the battering-ram run game, once the offensive coordinator finally decided to run the ball consistently. I also want to see TB12 trust Blount in the passing game. There were times he was open underneath, and that’s something the Pats need to work on in practice and then roll out late in the year.
WIDE RECEIVERS: B
Great job of battling by Julian Edelman, coming back from the thigh ding and making a huge catch on fourth down and the game on the line. The Packers made him work for his yards, and in the cold it looked like he didn’t have his full quickness. But he busts his ass, as does LaFell. I love the route LaFell ran when TB12 checked to him for the TD. The issue here is that no one has stepped up other than those two guys. Aaron Dobson’s chance has passed him by.
TIGHT ENDS: A-
While Gronk had some rare issues in the running game against faster, quicker linebackers, I thought he was dominant again in the passing game. And once he got rolling, the coverage followed and others got open. When the run game is working I think it compliments him best in play action, but his ability to play outside and win against corners or safeties is elite. Michael Hoomanawanui had a great sideline catch and showed good feet. The issue here is Tim Wright has to be involved more. One target isn’t good enough. Used properly, he may be able to make up for some of the lack of depth at WR.
OFFENSIVE LINE: C
When allowed to run the ball, they did well. As usual. The issue is letting the opposing defense tee off on Brady. I do think the failed conversion on the third-and-two run with Blount on the first drive shook the Pats' coaches confidence in the run game. There was some consistent pressure on TB12, mainly off the edge but also some missed blocks in the middle around my man Bryan Stork. Mike Daniels was a force against this group, and they had some issues in dealing with Clay Matthews in third-and-long. They also weren't helped by some of the long down-and-distances the offense found itself in. But this film will be a good learning experience for these guys.
I always preach that it’s about points allowed and at the end of the day, they did a great job in the red zone and kept 10 points off the board if not more. The issue is that they stunk on third down, and for the first time all year they allowed multiple 30- and 40-plus-yard plays, with two of those going for touchdowns. The way the first quarter ended was a disaster with 77 yards (and a touchdown) allowed on two passing plays. Bottom line, the ‘other’ pieces of this defense will get better from this experience.
DEFENSIVE LINE: C-
The middle rush wasn’t good enough all day long. Rodgers had the ability to move in the pocket -- up, down, all around -- as the rush wasn’t consistent. I actually thought they weren’t awful in the run game, and when there’s only two down linemen on the field one can only expect so much. The pass rush wasn’t very consistent and this is one of the few games where they missed Chandler Jones. I am starting to wonder if the pass rush isn’t as good when the Pats aren’t playing with a lead.
There were times that Dont'a Hightower was excellent in space and was one of the sure tacklers Sunday afternoon. The job he’s done in the Jerod Mayo role is quite remarkable and his timing on some of the run or delayed blitzes is getting better and better. At times Jaime Collins forgets to wrap ballcarriers and become a hitter, something I like to call the Lawyer Milloy Syndrome. When he wraps, he makes tackles. When he just hits, the results are inconsistent.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: C-
This grade isn’t as much a reflection on Brandon Browner and Darrelle Revis as it is Logan Ryan, Alfonzo Dennard, and Kyle Arrington. Revis got beat and Devin McCourty couldn’t catch Jordy Nelson for the touchdown that probably won the game for Green Bay. But where the Packers killed the Pats was with critical throws to receivers covered by Ryan and Arrington especially. Lots of scissor action created just enough separation for Rodgers to feast upon. And the tackling didn’t keep guys from getting lots of yards after the catch.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-
It was cold so the ball didn’t travel as well as it would even in a cold Gillette Stadium. Ryan Allen did a nice job of dropping punts inside the 20; he also kicked one out of bounds and did what he could in terms of preventing the Packers from getting good field position. Not one kickoff from Stephen Gostkowski was a touchback, and the missed field goal didn’t help at all. In fact, it killed all the momentum the Pats built in the fourth quarter. Danny Amendola did nothing in the return game. All in all, they didn’t decide the game, but they didn’t help in getting a win either.
'IT AIN'T BROKE'
1) The running game. PLEASE JOSH, TRUST THE ABILITY TO RUN
2) Gronk. He’s a legit MVP candidate.
3) Their battle level. They did a nice job in fighting back when down.
'BUT IT NEEDS FIXING'
1) Tackling. Gotta wrap, not hit.
2) The secondary. Time for the ‘other’ guys to grow.
3) Pass rush. They need middle push more consistently
Andy Gresh is a talkshow host on 98.5 The Sports Hub and for 10 years has worked pre- and postgame analysis on the Patriots Radio Network. He is also co-author of the recently released book "The Great Book of Boston Sports Lists." Follow him on twitter @greshandzo.