If you wanted a game with elite quarterbacks, trick plays, and momentum-changing turnovers, Sunday night football was the game for you. Pats vs. Packers lived up to the hype as the back and forth contest ended with New England earning their seventh win of the season. Here are the highlights from the game:
– I have to put my hand up here and admit that I may have been wrong. After last week’s game against Buffalo, I thought the team needed another option at running back. Cordarrelle Patterson performed admirably but was unimpressive, and I didn’t think he could be a long-term band-aid until Sony Michel returned. He proved me wrong Sunday night. The hybrid player finished the game with 11 carries for 61 yards and a touchdown. That was good for 5.5 yards-per-carry, and the most rushing yards by a Patriots receiver. He ran the football like a returner, making one hard cut through a hole and then bursting through with speed and hard running. I’m not sure he’s a longterm option, but it’s clear that he can handle that role until Michel returns.
– The Patriots offensive line deserves a lot of credit for the success that Patterson had. They excelled in run blocking last night and gave Patterson pretty large lanes to run through. Ted Karras, in particular, deserves a lot of credit. The Patriots backup lineman filled in for the injured Shaq Mason and blocked well in the run game. He made it clear that New England has capable depth along the line.
– James Develin also deserves an incredible amount of praise for the success the Patriots running game had. He is easily the most underrated player on the New England offense. Develin blocks linebackers extremely well, which gives the Patriots runners room to break into the second level. Fullback is a lost art form in the NFL that Develin performs to perfection.
– Pass protection is an area where the Patriots offensive line struggled. They gave up two sacks, and an unusual amount of QB pressures against an average Green Bay front seven.
– The Patriots receivers struggled early but came through in the end. Josh Gordon and Julian Edelman each had uncharacteristic drops in the first half but finished five receptions for 130 yards and a touchdown, and six receptions for 72 yards respectively.
– Speaking of Josh Gordon, he looked like an absolute stud against Green Bay. He had a beautiful catch down the sideline over Jaire Alexander and almost had a toe-tapper down the sideline on a back shoulder fade. Gordon and Brady have mastered their timing on quick slants, which Gordon runs brilliantly. If the two can improve on their goal line connection, Gordon could become one of the most lethal weapons in the NFL.
– The Patriots goal line offense did not impress. Josh McDaniels seemed to outsmart himself. After running well up and down the field in the third quarter, the Patriots tried throwing it into the end zone from the one-yard line three straight times. The team has to be better at punching it in from the one-yard line because giving up easy points against a team like Green Bay could be a disaster.
– Brady finished with a casual 294 passing yards and one touchdown on 22/35 completions. He had more of a pedestrian game for his standards and missed some throws that he usually nails. However, in the third quarter, he hit Edelman across the middle on a throw that won’t get much attention but was easily the best throw of the night. He hit a sliding Edelman right in between two defenders with no room to spare. It wasn’t flashy, but it was a ridiculous throw in terms of accuracy and timing.
– The Patriots defensive line continues to struggle against the run. They gave up 118 yards on just 25 carries to Green Bay. Now obviously it’s not all the fault of the defensive line. However, the Packers runners routinely got into the second level because players like Malcolm Brown couldn’t shed blocks quick enough at the line of scrimmage.
– On the other hand, New England’s defensive line played well in terms of pass rush. Yes, they only finished with two sacks, but those were both important sacks in critical moments. Plus, the most important job for the defensive line was keeping Rodgers contained in the pocket so that he couldn’t extend plays with his legs, and pick up first downs on the run. They did that with extreme efficiency, limiting Rodgers to just two rushes. It was their best performance of the year against a mobile quarterback.
– The story of the game for the Patriots defense is their defensive backs. They held one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL to just 259 yards and two touchdowns on 55% passing. For the most part, they kept the Packers receivers in check and prevented many big plays. Jason McCourty did get beat on a seam route by Marquez Valdes in a third and six situation for a big gain. Other than that, the Patriots secondary did not give up any back-breaking big plays. McCourty had a key pass break up and some impressive passes defended to make up for the third-down conversion. JC Jackson also had his best game to date. The undrafted rookie was penalty-free, and the one memorable route that Valdes caught over him was simply a great play by the receiver. New England’s cornerbacks deserve praise for arguably their best performance of the season.
– Stephon Gilmore once again deserves a specific shoutout. He spent much of the night in coverage on Davante Adams and held the Packers top receiver in check. Green Bay needed screens to get the ball into Adams’ hands because Gilmore prevented him from finding open space down the field. Gilmore continues to play at an elite level this season after a rocky 2017. He looks like a player deserving of the $65 million deal.
– The Patriots scheming also deserves credit. I became concerned when JC Jackson lined up across from Adams because it was a clear mismatch. However, they disguised coverages well because each time Jackson covered Adams, Duron Harmon helped over the top, preventing Rodgers from hitting his top target.
– Patrick Chung was the sole issue for the Patriots secondary. He struggled in coverage on Jimmy Graham. On one play he seemingly left Graham wide open down the sideline. He also gave up a touchdown to Graham on a crossing route that he couldn’t seem to catch up on. To Chung’s credit, most safeties in the league would have been torched much worse. But on a night where the Pats secondary shined, his struggles stuck out.
– Let’s also take a minute and forget about Brady and Rodgers and recognize the most important player from last night’s game: Lawrence Guy. The Packers were driving down early in the fourth quarter with the game tied 17-17. On a run to the left, Aaron Jones broke through the first level. Before he could burst downfield, Guy dove at him from the side and chopped at the ball, knocking it out. Stephon Gilmore fell on top of the fumble and got the ball back for the Patriots offense at their own 24-yard line. New England then went on to score 14 unanswered points to finish the game. Last night’s game went back and forth through the first three quarters. Had the Packers gone down and scored, New England would’ve been down a touchdown and would’ve had to play from behind. Instead, Guy’s forced fumble swung the momentum back in the Patriots favor, and they ran with it to victory. For nearly two decades, the Patriots have been successful because of Brady, Belichick, and unsung heroes making plays when the team needed it the most because of proper coaching.
The scariest thing about Sunday night? The Patriots scored 31 points:
– without Rob Gronkowski
– without Sony Michel
– without Shaq Mason
– after giving up points on the goal line
– having other drives stalled from subpar performances.
If they can figure out their offensive inconsistencies, and continue improving on defense, they will be able to roll through the second half of the season