Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up

Sunday Night wrap-up: Tom Brady makes plays at the right time

Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore discusses how the New England defense approached Aaron Rodgers and the Packers to come away with a win.

Regardless your feelings about livestock rankings, Tom Brady was certainly the best quarterback on the field Sunday.

The Patriots quarterback was able to out-duel Aaron Rodgers and the Packers for a 31-17 win, their sixth straight.

Brady finished 22-of-35 for 294 yards and a touchdown, and a win that was greater than the sum of its fantasy stats.

And he did it without a perfect situation or supporting cast. Brady was playing without tight end Rob Gronkowski and running back Sony Michel, but was able to improvise as he has so often.

He also did it against a game Packers defense, which seemed to confuse him for long stretches (including a streak of six straight incomplete passes in the second half).

But when it mattered most, they did not. Brady was able to look off the Packers secondary, getting a pair of corners to bite on a quick pass, as he went over the top to Josh Gordon for a 55-yard touchdown.

It was a long con of a play, as Brady was working short and intermediate passes leading up to that point. And Gordon is beginning to look assimilated into their offense, which is good since they were so short on other playmakers.

None of this will end the barroom debates, as some will always prefer Rodgers’ superior mobility and arm strength. But Brady has the trophies, and most recently, the head-to-head bragging rights.

Here are five more things we learned during Sunday Night Football:

1. It’s not that Rodgers didn’t play well.

But for years, we’ve been conditioned to believe he’s enough to make the Packers one of the most competitive teams in the league. That’s not really the case, especially in a loaded NFC field.

The overall base of talent in Green Bay isn’t what it once was, as their depth on the offensive line and secondary was tested. Even when well, they’re lacking the same degree of talent (on offense or defense), which makes it harder for Rodgers to drag the roster along.

They’re promising to be more aggressive in free agency in the future, which is the way you ought to behave when you have a player of Rodgers’ quality. That just doesn’t help them now, as they fell to 3-4-1.

2. Patriots wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson is clearly very fast and can clearly make things happen with the ball in his hands. He has had his struggles over the years with his route-running and his hands.

So rather than beat a square peg into a round hole, the Patriots found a unique way to make him useful.

Lining up as a running back the last two weeks, Patterson has found something resembling a niche, with 10 carries for 38 yards last week and 11 carries for 61 yards Sunday.

He has long shown his ability to make big plays as a kick returner, with six career return touchdowns and 30 returns of 40 yards or longer. While me may not be a good goal-line option (he was stopped short in the third quarter when he tried to back in), but the Patriots have a tendency of finding what guys are good at and doing that. Other teams may have tried, but he won’t be the first guy whose talents were maximized in New England.

3.Marquez Valdes-Scantling has the longest name of any of the Packers’ rookie receivers.

He might also have the brightest future.

The guy who should perhaps be known as MVS finished with three catches for 101 yards.

The fifth-rounder from South Florida has good size, and is showing the ability to make plays in the open field.

Considering the way the Packers churn wide receivers, and with Randall Cobb nearing the end of his run there, he could be the next great unknown player to become a household name.

Even if it would have to be a big household.

4. The Packers were already scrambling a bit at safety, after trading starter Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to Washington last week.

It got worse when Jermaine Whitehead was ejected in the second quarter for his swat at Patriots center David Andrews.

The Packers slid veteran cornerback Tramon Williams inside to start the game, along with 2017 second-rounder Josh Jones. But they were rotating players through the secondary throughout the night. Kentrell Brice suffered a knee injury in the third quarter, adding to the issue, and cornerback Kevin King left with a hamstring injury.

As much as they knew Clinton-Dix was a short-timer, and as much as they like getting something for him now as opposed to nothing later, it left a problem to solve, and they’re still working on the answer.

5. That being said, if Bashaud Breeland’s helmet keeps coming up big, it might not matter.

The recent acquisition at corner truly made a heads-up play in the third quarter, breaking up a fourth-and-goal pass without seeing it at all. That’s because the pass from Brady clunked off the back of his head.

It was Breeland’s first game active since joining the Packers, and he could be a good piece of business for them. He was set to sign a three-year, $24 million deal with the Panthers early in free agency, before a lower leg injury caused him to fail his physical. He was a solid cover player for Washington previously, so it’s not a surprise that he made a play. It’s just a surprise the way he did it.