Best and Worst: Patriots 31, Packers 17
FOXBORO -- It wasn't a classic, but the much-hyped Sunday Night Football battle between Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers -- sorry, between the Patriots and Packers -- lived up to its billing. It was close for quite a while, as in 17-17 at the start of the fourth quarter, but in the end the GOAT prevailed. Here are some of the highs and lows of the Pats' 31-17 victory.
HOW DO YA DO IT?
The Packers were offsides on the opening kickoff.
ALL WHITE EVERYTHING
James White carried three times for 18 yards and caught two passes for 26 on the Patriots first drive as New England motored downfield to go up 7-0 less than four minutes into the game.
DON’T JUMP ADRIAN!
On the Packers first drive, Aaron Rodgers got Patriots veteran defensive end Adrian Clayborn to jump into the neutral zone on third-and-7 turning it into a third-and-2 the Packers then converted.
Patrick Chung got called for a chintzy defensive hold on Packers tight end Jimmy Graham in the first half. Chung did have a handful of Graham’s jersey midway through the route but Graham was never impeded nor did he break stride. The impeding is supposed to be a core portion of the call.
The Packers’ first possession went for three points instead of seven when they took a delay of game in the red zone and Rodgers – feeling pressure – was unable to step into a throw to Davante Adams after he’d broken free from Stephon Gilmore. Gilmore climbed back into the play and broke it up. .
TOUGH PAIR OF PLAYS
On a night where mistakes needed to be kept to a minimum, the Patriots made a pair on back-to-back snaps to short-circuit their second drive. First, Julian Edelman had a drop on a second-and-7 play then on third-and-7 Ted Karras – in for Shaq Mason – let Mike Daniels walk past for an easy sack of Brady.
ALLEY OOP AND FLICKER OF FLEAS
Josh Gordon went up and over cornerback Bashaud Breeland for a terrific 29-yard gain. That play was followed by a flea-flicker to Julian Edelman for another 33 setting the Patriots up in the red zone but they went at breakneck pace that bordered on disorganized and settle for a field goal.
NOT FOR NOTHING
Gordon had another brilliant reception, this one spinning and toe-tapping along the sideline but he was ruled out of bounds even though the replay showed he clearly got one foot down and may have tapped the toe on the other. The Patriots didn’t challenge.
GIT ‘EM KENJON!
Kenjon Barner de-cleated Clay Matthews on a blitz pickup in the second quarter, an eye-opening feat of strength by the little running back.
Cordarelle Patterson carried five times for 51 yards in place of Sony Michel at running back. On one of his more eventful runs, he nearly broke loose from an initial tackle but was snared by the tail of his undershirt. His legs kept pumping as the shirt kept stretching. Meanwhile, away from the play …
Some post-play jostling between David Andrews and Packers safety Jermaine Whitehead led to a miffed Whitehead retaliating for a mild Andrews shove with an open-handed slap to Andrews’ facemask . He was penalized 15 yards and ejected. It was a pretty easy call. You can’t swing on opponents and hit them in the head. Yet in this age of hypersensitivity to the violence of the sport, an astounding number of the folks I follow on Twitter were put off by the ejection.
The Patriots sent a blitz at Aaron Rodgers on the first drive of the second half leaving Jason McCourty 1-on-1 without help over the top on Marquez Valdes-Scantling. It resulted in an easy 51-yard pitch-and-catch.
Rodgers capped that drive with a sudden flick of the wrist to send a touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham from 15 yards away that beat Patrick Chung. Chung actually wasn’t in that bad a spot.
DRIVE TO NOWHERE
The Patriots had a lengthy, 13-play drive down to the Packers 1 that featured a variety of players. But it stalled at the Packers 1 and the Patriots rolled the dice on fourth down and got nothing.
McCOURTY BATTLES BACK
Despite the 51-yarder Jason McCourty allowed, he strung together a parade of plays afterward. A sniffed-out screen, a walling off of Randall Cobb forcing a Packers punt after the failed fourth down then a pass breakup on a well-delivered ball by Rodgers in the fourth.
After forcing the Patriots into fourth-and-21 following two incompletions and a sack, backup tight end Robert Tonyan blasted Ryan Allen, drawing a roughing the kicker play. The Patriots did nothing with it and Rodgers followed with two brilliant throws to get inside the Patriots 40. Then they fumbled it away.
The Patriots ran a little double-pass where Tom Brady threw right to Julian Edelman, who waited for a convoy to join James White. White followed said convoy inside the 5 before White punched in the touchdown that put the Pats ahead to stay.