Mission Accomplished, Role Players Shine
The New England Patriots pulled out a tough victory over the Green Bay Packers 31-17 on Sunday Night Football in only the second meeting between Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, and perhaps the last.
Both quarterbacks looked excellent at times and struggled at others. But Brady rallied his team in the fourth quarter with two touchdown drives and the Patriots pulled away after forcing a fumble where it appeared Green Bay would take the lead.
Defense/Gilmore Steps Up:
The Patriots defense,much-maligned by the fans on social media actually played a very strong game, holding Rodgers and the Green Bay offense to just 17 points. The game plan was to mainly use Stephon Gilmore to shut down Davante Adams. Adams this week, proclaimed for all to hear that he didn’t believe anyone could cover him. And who could blame him? His last three games, he’s had 133, 140, and 132 receiving yards.
Well, Gilmore just put that thought to bed. Gilmore blanketed Adams to where the talented wide receiver was becoming frustrated to the point where the Packers were trying to force the ball underneath to him, just to get him involved. Adams finished the night with 6 catches for 40 yards. Mission accomplished.
The Patriots pass rush had only one sack but were getting good pressure on Rodgers all night long and his mobility didn’t allow him to make as many plays as we’ve seen in the past. Trey Flowers was outstanding and Adrian Clayborn had his best game in a Patriots uniform. Rodgers final numbers? 24-43 for 259 yards with 2 TDs with an 89.2 passer rating. Not bad but not great either. But Rodgers 4th quarter numbers? 2-7 for 15 yards. That is pretty impressive for the Patriots defense against any QB. Much of the talk pregame was “who gets the ball last will win”, well the defense put that to bed as well. Mission Accomplished 2.
Brady and Co. Keep the Packers Off-balance:
Brady finished 22-35 for 294 yards with 1 TD with a passer rating of 99.0. Julian Edelman had one pass and completion to James White for 37 yards. With Rob Gronkowski, Sony Michel, and RG Shaq Mason out, the Patriots had to get creative offensively…and they did. A Flea Flicker, a double pass and using WR Cordarrelle Patterson as a tailback again were just some of the things we saw. Patterson is quickly proving to be much more than the one-trick pony kick returner that the team signed this spring. He carried 11 times for 61 yards and had one touchdown and another taken away when the review showed him down just short of the goal line.
Josh Gordon, dislocated his fingers early in the game but played on and had five catches for 130 yards and a touchdown to ice the game. Julian Edelman had six catches for 71 yards, James White had six for 72 and added 31 yards rushing.
The Patriots got the opening kickoff and went on a blistering pace where they were moving faster than Han Solo when he did the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. They moved easily down the field where the Packers’ defense was having trouble even getting set and never able to catch their breath. James White took it in from the 8-yard line for the first of his two TDs on the ground.
Rodgers answered and led the Packers on a 62-yard drive but only came away with three. It was clear, that although Rodgers and the Packers could move the ball, the Patriots defense was making them earn their way down the field and nothing was coming easy.
The Packers would tie it at 10-10 when Rodgers hit Adams with a 2-yard pass on 3rd and goal after he scrambled away from pressure. But the Patriots answered the bell and Brady led them on a 7-play, 69-yard drive, nearly all of which was on the ground, with Patterson battering his way into the end zone from 5 yards out and the Pats went into halftime up 17-10, because there were no heroics by Rodgers at the end of the half. The defense did their job.
Rodgers and the Packers took the third quarter kickoff and went 76 yards to tie the score. The big play was a 51-yard bomb from Rodgers to Marquez Valdes-Scantling. The rookie has incredible speed and cleanly beat Jason McCourty and Rodgers dropped the ball in the bucket. On 2nd and goal from the 15, Rodgers had a ton of time and that allowed Graham to run all the way across the field where Rodgers lasered a pass in the back of the end zone. That tied the score at 17.
Brady drove the Pats down the field but they were stuffed on four attempts after getting a first and goal at the one. The Packers played some incredible defense but the play calling in that sequence was a bit curious, to say the least.
After trading possessions, Rodgers had the Packers moving at the end of the third quarter. After back-to-back great plays by Rodgers and Valdes-Scantling for 50 yards, the Pack had the ball at the New England 34. Aaron Jones carried for six yards, but Lawrence Guy coming up from behind, punched the ball loose where Gilmore recovered. Crisis averted and the momentum switched back to New England.
Brady and the Patriots went 76 yards for the go-ahead score. On a 3rd and 7, Brady hit Phillip Dorsett with a huge 17-yard catch to move the chains. Then they dusted off the double pass from Edelman to White for 37-yards. White powered it in and the Pats had the lead they would not relinquish.
On the ensuing drive, Rodgers was sacked by Flowers and Clayborn to force a three and out. On 2nd and 10 at the New England 45, Brady faked out the Packers DBs, by staring down Edelman in the flat. Two defenders raced up as Edelman waved his hand for the pass. Brady then looked downfield and hit Gordon who was wide open. He loped easily for a 55-yard touchdown. That was it, game over, thanks for coming and ensure your trays are locked and in the upright position. Mission accomplished 3.
So who stood out in this big team win this week? Lots of people but we’ll narrow it down to just three…
Stephon Gilmore – The Patriots paid Gilmore last year like one of the top CBs in the league. After a slow start to his career here, he was excellent in the second half of the season. This year, there is no doubt the Pats paid the right corner as he’s been simply outstanding since the spring.
Gilmore had the big task of shadowing Adams for much of the night and he did so frequently without any help. And he was outstanding. Adams had over 400 yards in his last three games and had 40 tonight. That is Ty Law/Revis territory folks.
Trey Flowers – This guy is really turning it on the past few weeks. And he was simply overpowering at times tonight. Despite being held frequently, Flowers was a disruptive influence all night long. He did a great job of setting the edge and getting pressure on Rodgers, on one play, beating his man and then a double team before forcing Rodgers to throw the pass off-target.
Flowers is the gaudy stat machine some edge players are…but he’s no less valuable to this defense than any of those players are to their respective teams. Perhaps even more so. He’s going to get paid.
Josh Gordon – Gordon had his fingers get dislocated a few times during the game, but toughed it out, had them jammed back in and kept going. That alone deserves praise. But his ability to go up and grab contested passes is something no other receiver other than Gronkowski is really able to do.
He put the dagger in the Packers with the 55-yard TD catch and run and had his first really big game in a Patriots uniform with 130 yards and a score.