The Patriots won their sixth game in a row and in impressive fashion defensively downing Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers 31-17. The win, while not quite as big as the one over Kansas City was a big one nevertheless, given the pregame hype that was dropped on this.
Missing three of their key players on the offensive side of the ball, the Patriots defense rose up to play their best game of the year, holding the Packers to their season low in points and making Rodgers and the explosive Packers to earn everything they got.
So, check out our grades and see how the team fared in this week’s close win.
Tom Brady, despite missing Rob Gronkowski, Sony Michel and RG Shaq Mason on offense, and going thru a rough stretch in the third quarter still managed to put up 31 points on offense which should not be forgotten.
After struggling thru the third quarter and with the game on the line, Brady delivered and led the Patriots on two huge drives to get the winning touchdown and then put it away. Facing a 3rd and 7, he whistled a nice 17-yard pass to Phillip Dorsett that got the drive going. It finished up with the James White touchdown to take a 24-17 lead.
On the 55-yard touchdown pass to Josh Gordon, Brady expertly baited the young Packers corners, by staring down Julian Edelman, who waved for the ball. The corners bit and then Brady lasered a pass over their heads to Gordon who was wide open. Once he made the one player miss, it was an easy touchdown reception.
Rather than downplay the meeting of two HOF QBs this week, both Brady and Rodgers embraced it and engaged in a mutual admiration game where it is clear that they both greatly respect one another. Much to the chagrin of the national “Brady may be done” crowd, he outperformed Rodgers going 22-35 for 294 yards, with 1TD for a 99 QB rating.
Running Backs: B+
James White was injured in the 2nd quarter of the game and for a few minutes, all of New England was holding their collective breath. He had 31 yards on the ground and caught 6 passes for 72 yards and after the game seemed fine meeting with the media in the locker room, something the Patriots normally don’t allow if a player is hurt.
Cordarrelle Patterson had another solid game, the wide receiver is filling in for Sony Michel while he’s injured and showcased his tremendous speed while bursting off the line and contributing 61 yards. He scored a touchdown after ripping of a number of impressive runs on a drive where he appeared to be shot out of a cannon. He’s embraced his chance to help out the team and again deserves high marks.
Kenjon Barner had just one carry but on a blitz pickup, he’s sure to get praise from Brady when he leveled Clay Matthews who was coming straight up the A-Gap.
Wide Receivers: A-
The wide receivers had a solid night overall but were led by Josh Gordon. Gordon has given the offense the player that can go high and catch those jump balls that they’ve lacked. He high-pointed a 29-yarder over Bashaud Breeland down the sideline in the first half that was a beauty. He had another that was ruled out of bounds but was one on second glance that the Patriots should have challenged.
In our pregame matchups this week we wrote that this game was tailor-made for Julian Edelman. And we hit the nail right on the head for that one. Edelman caught six passes for 71 yards, he added 28 more on two very well disguised Jet sweeps. And then he dusted off his old Kent State throwing arm and completed a double pass to James White for 37 yards. Simply outstanding all-around effort.
Phillip Dorsett had that huge drive starter for 17 yards with the score tied in the fourth quarter. Chris Hogan wasn’t a big part of the game plan this week.
Tight Ends: B
Rob Gronkowski was out this week with ankle and back injuries and Dwayne Allen was the lone Patriots tight end…again. His value is mainly as a blocker and he’s very good at that and he once again proved his worth there. But on Sunday night, he chipped in with a big 21-yard reception on a pass down the right sideline. That bumped his grade up a bit.
Offensive Line: B
The offensive line had a nice comeback night after their down week in Buffalo. With both teams daring the other to run, the Patriot offensive line was able to open some holes against the Packers defense. They ran for 123 yards without Michel and utilizing a true ground game committee.
The pass protection overall was very good, but they did have their lapses in communication with Ted Karras in there that allowed two sacks.
Defensive Line: A
The defensive line was immense in this one. Despite the fact that the Patriots blitzed very little, they pressured Aaron Rodgers on nearly 50 percent of his throws Sunday night. The coaches moved Trey Flowers inside and he wreaked havoc all night long. Don’t be swayed by the fact that they only had one sack. The pass rush in this one was consistent and effective all night long.
Flowers was everywhere, he topped off his best game of the year last week with an even better one against the Packers. He and Adrian Clayborn combined for a sack, but the overall play of the defensive line was outstanding. Danny Shelton and Malcolm Brown barely played as they went lighter with Adam Butler and Flowers inside trying to create some interior pressure.
With going lighter, they dared the Packers to run and they did …to a degree. But Lawrence Guy provided the turning point of the game with a forced fumble on Aaron Jones which Stephon Gilmore recovered.
The Patriots linebackers initially looked like they were going to be targeted in the passing game, but either thru the coaching of the Packers or solid play, they never became a factor at all. The linebackers were good in run support despite the lighter fronts they were running. But where they truly excelled was in keeping Rodgers in the pocket and not allowing him to scramble for yards.
The containment (which we always harp on) was outstanding. Rodgers ran four times for just eight yards. And when he did attempt to scramble they were contesting everything. The entire front seven made it a very long uncomfortable game for Rodgers.
The secondary had another strong game against a much, much better group of receivers than they faced in Buffalo a week ago. Stephon Gilmore goes to the head of the class. He was squared up with Davante Adams for much of this game and shut him down. Against Gilmore, Adams had 2 catches for 15 yards. Overall he finished with six catches for 40 yards after having over 400 combined yards in his previous three games.
The used the defensive backs to blitz a few times and once it worked perfectly with Devin McCourty forcing Rodgers to unload a wildly inaccurate pass. But the other time, Rodgers recognized Duron Harmon coming, it was picked up and he rifled a 51-yard pass to the blistering fast Marquez Valdes-Scantling who beat Jason McCourty off the line.
Pat Chung had some issues with Jimmy Graham but on the touchdown pass, it was one of those plays where the DL didn’t get any pressure and Rodgers had time to wait for Graham to run down the right side and then cut all the way across the field where he got separation in the left corner of the end zone. With Adams pretty much a non-factor and Graham held to just 51 yards, this was the kind of effort the secondary has been looking for.
Special Teams: A-
The Special Teams also made a huge comeback this week. Stephen Gostkowski was automatic …as usual. Ryan Allen, despite only punting a couple of times had an outstanding game, pinning the Packers twice inside their 20-yard line. He averaged 49.6 yards per punt. The coverage units were much improved.
Cordarrelle Patterson had two solid kickoff returns of 36 and 28 yards to go along with his running back duties.
The Patriots coaching staff aced this test. With the national media in the excuse making department for Rodgers after he failed to get the better of Brady, they pointed to the coaching matchup of Belichick versus McCarthy as the difference. And in reality, Belichick can and did coach circles around the overrated McCarthy.
Josh McDaniels coached a fantastic game offensively, despite spitting the bit on a sequence where the Patriots had a 1st and goal at the one and failed to score any points. However, the decision to come out lightning fast immediately put the Packers on their heels. That was a brilliant move and worked to a tee.
McDaniels has a knack for knowing the exact perfect time to unleash those trick plays and they generally work out perfectly. The flea-flicker and the double pass by Edelman were perfectly executed. The latter had the Packers so confused, it appeared that there were no Packers on the left side of the field where White rolled down inside the five before being caught from behind.
Defensively Belichick and Brian Flores had an outstanding game plan, holding the Packers to a season-low 17 points. Rodgers had 259 yards passing but everything, every yard was contested. He averaged 6.2 yards per pass, had a QB rating of 89 and in the fourth quarter? He completed just 2-7 for 15 yards.