By: Denny Hackett
After a close first three quarters, Brady and the Patriots were able to comfortably beat the Packers after a strong fourth quarter.
Surrounding the Sunday night showdown between the Patriots and the Packers was the debate over who is the best quarterback ever: Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers? Even NBC helped to fuel the debate with a promotional video for the matchup featuring NBA legend Michael Jordan. And, much to the chagrin of those hyping up the matchup, the game ended up being a defensive battle for three quarters that didn’t see both quarterbacks pass for 500 yards and ten touchdowns each.
On paper, the quarterbacks played an even game with the slight edge going to Brady. He finished with 294 yards and a touchdown in the win while Rodgers finished with 259 yards and two touchdowns. However, it was Julian Edelman that bested both in terms of quarterback rating with a 118.8.
Going into the game, the Patriots were going to be without running back Sony Michel for the second straight week and star tight end Rob Gronkowski for the second time in three weeks.
For much of the first half the Patriots took the ball out of Brady’s hands and let the running backs handle most of the work. In the first and most of the second quarter, James White was the lead back before he eventually exited the game with an injury late in the second before coming back for the second half.
With White and Michel both out for the moment, gadget player Cordarelle Patterson was thrust into the backfield for the Patriots. He stepped right into the role, rushing five times for 51 yards and a touchdown in the late stages of the second quarter alone. The Patriots first tested Patterson in a more expanded role as a running back last week against the Buffalo Bills when he rushed ten times for 38 yards. Oddly enough, the next actual running back on the roster, Kenyon Barner, saw little playing time against the Packers.
Late in the second quarter there was a bit of controversy after a Packers defensive back was ejected for slapping Patriots’ center David Andrews in the head. Typically players are ejected for throwing punches, but in this case it was more of an open hand slap. It gave the Patriots a lucky break by giving them 15 yards after a near first down from Patterson, before they ultimately scored a touchdown to take a 17-10 lead.
All game long Josh Gordon dealt with multiple injuries. On the Patriots’ first drive of the game he appeared to injure his hamstring before returning for the last play of the drive, White’s first touchdown. Then in the third quarter he was in and out on the Patriots’ first drive with what appeared to be a hand injury. However, Gordon finished the game and effectively iced it after a 55-yard touchdown reception to put the Patriots up 31-17 with seven minutes to go.
As has been the case for most of the season, the Patriots put the ball in the hands of the running back for most of the first half before opening up the field for the passing game in the second half. Former quarterback Julian Edelman also got another chance to throw the ball when he threw a double pass to White on the opposite side of the field to set up first and goal for the Patriots.
As many Patriots’ fans will remember, Edelman threw a touchdown pass to former Patriots’ receiver Danny Amendola during the divisional playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens four seasons ago.
It took three quarters, but by the final frame the Patriots defense finally came alive. On the first play of the quarter, Lawrence Guy forced a fumble from Packers’ running back Aaron Jones to start the Patriots’ first scoring drive of the quarter. Adrian Clayborn and Trey Flowers combined for the Patriots’ first sack of the game to set up Gordon’s touchdown.
The Patriots will hope to get Gronkowski and Michel back on the field for next Sunday’s game against the Titans down in Nashville.