FOXBORO -- Debating the relative merits of Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers for the past week was a fun exercise, but we should all understand this.
If another quarterback in another city did what Brady and the Patriots offense did Sunday night, they'd be erecting statues, writing songs and putting out commemorative coffee table books.
It wasn't that the Patriots were with the most talented tight end of his generation, Rob Gronkowski. They were also without his backup, Jacob Hollister, and were left with Dwayne Allen (11 catches in 12 games as a Patriot entering last night) as the only tight end.
They weren't just without their rookie running back Sony Michel, who was only the lead ball carrier because Rex Burkhead and Jeremy Hill got hurt. They were -- again -- using wide receiver Cordarelle Patterson as their go-to ball carrier.
Behind an offensive line without its best run-blocker (Shaq Mason), a line that was using a seventh-round pick at left tackle, an undrafted rookie at center, a right guard making his third NFL start in three seasons and a right tackle coming back from a concussion.
WHAT WE SAID BEFORE THE GAME
And still they hung 31 on the Packers and that was done despite coming away pointless on a 13-play drive on which they couldn't score on four plays from the Packers 1-yard line.
They did it not just because Brady is a wizard but because of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels' game plan, which said, in effect, "Screw it, who cares who we don't have, let's throw everything at ‘em and see how they deal with it."
From the outset, the Patriots went turbo up-tempo, feeding James White the ball five times on the opening drive and getting 44 yards and a touchdown from him.
When they bogged down on their second drive thanks to an Edelman drop and a missed assignment by Ted Karras -- the right guard making his third start -- they came back on the next drive by throwing a sideline alley-oop to Josh Gordon followed by a flea-flicker to Julian Edelman.
On their last drive of the half, they rode that running back/wide receiver, Cordarelle Patterson, down the field for another score and a 17-10 halftime lead.
After their drive-to-nowhere at the start of the second half on which Gordon, Edelman and Allen had big gains and a couple of non-productive series, McDaniels dialed up more trickeration with a double-pass to White good for 37 yards. That ended in a touchdown as did the next series when Edelman took an end-around at the start of the drive and Gordon scored on a 55-yard play set up by a Packers busted coverage.
A Packers secondary, diminished by the shuffle caused when they traded safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix earlier in the week, was going against a makeshift offense and still couldn't stop it.
Brady, who finished the night 22-for-35 for 294 yards and a touchdown, will be nitpicked for throws not made but that's the bar this team has set for itself.
On a night when other teams might have taken the field with an air of resignation because of the missing pieces, the Patriots played instead with desperation instead and took the fight to the Packers.
A pieced-together rushing attack got 123 yards on 31 carries -- 11 for 61 from Patterson. Despite not having Gronkowski or Michel, the Patriots still managed 433 yards of offense which is more than the Los Angeles Rams could manage against Green Bay last week even though the Rams had all their parts in place.
For another team, pulling out a win despite all that shuffling would have been a pipe dream. For the Patriots, it was just Sunday night.
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