Tom Brady and Patriots offense make impossible look routine against Packers

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Tom Brady and Patriots offense make impossible look routine against Packers

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.


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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Report: Ex-Patriots WR Danny Amendola to re-sign with Lions

Report: Ex-Patriots WR Danny Amendola to re-sign with Lions

Scratch that Danny Amendola-Patriots reunion.

Peter Schrager of the NFL Network reports the free-agent wide receiver is re-signing with the Detroit Lions, where he spent last season and had 62 catches for 678 yards. Former Pats defensive coordinator Matt Patricia will enter his third season as Lions coach in 2020. 

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The 34-year-old left the Patriots after five seasons to sign with the Miami Dolphins in 2018 and may have burned a bridge or two with Bill Belichick. 

It had been speculated that perhaps bringing in a former reliable Tom Brady receiver might be part of a plan to lure Brady back to New England, with a report in late January that Amendola could come along to wherever Brady lands in free agency, but a Brady-Amendola reunion in Detroit isn't happening, either. 

Next Pats Podcast: Will Patriots go mobile at QB if Tom Brady leaves?

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Next Pats Podcast: Will Patriots go mobile at QB if Tom Brady leaves?

There's one big question that New England Patriots are facing this offseason. Who is going to be their starting quarterback in 2020?

For the past 20 seasons, the team hasn't really had questions at the position. It has always been Tom Brady's job. But with the 42-year-old set to hit free agency, the Patriots can't necessarily count on him returning unless they want to pay him what he's worth.

So, now the question for the Patriots becomes, what will life look like if Brady departs?

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On the latest episode of The Next Pats Podcast, which returns for its first episode of the 2020 offseason, Phil Perry is here to explore that question. And really what it all boils down to is what the Patriots are looking for in a potential successor.

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As Perry notes, it's likely to be one of two types of quarterback: The traditional pocket passer or a more mobile athlete in the mold of some of the recent success stories at the position.

Do the Patriots look for the next Brady? Uber-accurate, somebody who's going to sit in the pocket and absolutely dissect every little aspect of the defense that he is looking at. Or, do they go a different route? Do they go with an athlete? Do they get more mobile? Because talking to people this offseason, I'm getting a whiff -- I'm getting a scent that people believe the pocket passer might be dead.

Perry is joined by guests including Pro Football Focus' Steve Palazzolo, Greg Cosell of ESPN and NFL Films, and NFL Network's Kurt Warner to answer questions about Brady's future and what his game has looked like in recent seasons.

For more thoughts about the Patriots offseason, check out the latest episode of the Next Pats Podcast, available as part of the NBC Sports Boston Podcast Network.