…Really impressive opening drive of the game by New England. Patriots OC Josh McDaniels clearly wanted to exploit perceived mismatches his offense had against Green Bay’s defense, and he did this by going no-huddle for virtually the entire 10-play drive.
The personnel included QB Tom Brady, RB James White, WRs Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, and Josh Gordon, tight end Dwayne Allen. Your five offensive linemen were the usual group of left tackle Trent Brown, left guard Joe Thuney, center/co-captain David Andrews, and right tackle Marcus Cannon. Only right guard Shaq Mason was missing due to a calf injury. Versatile veteran Ted Karras took his place.
Other than the first play from scrimmage, the only other play that came from a huddle was the fourth one, and only because Gordon, after trying to chase down a deep pass from Brady, had one of his cleats partially come off and he had to go to the sideline for assistance from the equipment staff. WR Phillip Dorsett came in for him.
White saw the bulk of the touches on that drive, catching three passes and running three times, including his 8-yard scoring scamper to close out the drive, which was as fast as any these Patriots have put together this season, or in any season, perhaps. It was crisp and efficient, save the long incompletion to Gordon.
It would be nice to see New England attempt this every game, to put opposing teams on their heels from the get-go.
…When the Pack took over on offense, the Patriots did a nice job of applying pressure on QB Aaron Rodgers with four-man pass rushes. Rodgers’ athleticism and pocket awareness allowed him to dodge the danger and release the football most of the time, but New England’s front made it difficult for him – a theme that would repeat throughout the night.
…DL Adrian Clayborn made a nice tackle of WR Randall Cobb in the open field on 3rd-and-14 to force a Green Bay field goal. The pass to Cobb was a screen, and were it not for Clayborn’s effort, he might have been able to pick up the necessary yardage because he had several blockers ahead of him.
...An uncharacteristic drop by Edelman on a shallow post that would have given New England first-down yardage on 2nd-and-7. The Patriots punted after Brady was sacked on the very next play. Karras and Andrews were beaten rather easily by d-lineman Mike Daniels on that play. It appeared Daniels was able to slip between them because neither was sure whose responsibility he was.
…Beauty of a punt by Ryan Allen to pin Green Bay back at its own 13-yard line.
…Nice job by New England’s corners to break up a couple of big-play passes in the opening quarter. Stephon Gilmore swatted down a would-be touchdown to Davante Adams in the end zone on the opening Packer drive, and Jason McCourty used great technique to disrupt a long pass down the Packer sideline intended for Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
…Devin McCourty’s well-executed safety blitz on 3rd-and-6 from the GB 44 forced Rodgers to throw an errant pass downfield, leading the Pack to punt the ball away.
…Gordon made two tremendous receptions in the second quarter, one of which didn’t count because he was just barely out of bounds. He continues to show great hands, however, and it’s no surprise that Brady continues to look for him in key spots to make big plays down the field.
…RB Kenjon Barner didn’t see much action against Green Bay, but one memorable play he had came in the early second quarter. Packers LB Clay Matthews came strong up the middle to blitz Brady, but Barner picked it up beautifully and knocked Matthews to the turf, allowing Brady time to unload the ball and not get touched.
…Were this any other QB but Rodgers, New England might have had a several sacks in the first half. A number of different Patriots had legitimate chances to take him down, but his quickness allowed him to escape. Good job by the Patriots, though, to keep brining the heat with just four rushers.
…Cordarrelle Patterson was the beneficiary of some wonderful blocking when he came into the game in the second quarter to spell White at running back. Patterson’s touchdown run, for instance, was aided in part by Brown, the left tackle, taking out a pair of Packers before Patterson ran through two other defenders as he crossed the goal line from five yards out.
This was Patterson’s second straight week in that role, and he looked even more comfortable carrying the ball. He also returned a couple of kickoffs and caught a pass. New England is fortunate to have someone with his versatility, especially when the team is thin at running back.
…Once again, Clayborn used his surprising speed in the open field to track down Rodgers as the QB was trying to run for a first down. Clayborn caught him from behind and knocked the ball loose before Rodgers could cross the yard marker at the end of the half. Green Bay was forced to punt as a result. Nice hustle by Clayborn.
…Looked like Jason McCourty was beaten in part by the speed of rookie Valdes-Scantling on a 51-yard reception at the start of the second half. It also didn’t help McCourty that his teammates on D were showing blitz at the snap, then backed out of it, but not in time. There was no safety help deep down the middle of the field as a result.
Remember, McCourty’s brother, Devin, left the middle open when he pressured Rodgers earlier on a blitz, which caused an incompletion, but this time, Rodgers took advantage of the expansive real estate in the middle of the field.
…New England continued getting into the Packer backfield, but couldn’t bring Rodgers down, and this came to hurt them when Rodgers hit TE Jimmy Graham for the tying touchdown on the opening drive of the second half.
Because Rodgers had time enough to wait for Graham to run his crossing route to it fullest, the tight end outraced safety Patrick Chung to the far left corner of the end zone, where there was a big vacancy. Meanwhile, fellow safety Duron Harmon wasn’t quick enough to react to the pattern and help out Chung.
…Gordon needed to get a couple of fingers taped together on his left hand after making an slant catch during New England’s first possession of the third quarter. Didn’t seem to affect his ability to hold onto the ball, but just something worth noting.
…I appeared the officiating review was correct in overturning Patterson’s second rushing touchdown. Patterson’s backside hit the turf before he was able to stretch the ball over the goal line.
…Definitely looked as if Gordon slipped in the end zone before the ball arrived when the Patriots went for it on 4thdown two plays later. Maybe that would have made the difference in the pass sailing out of bounds.
…Next play from scrimmage, LB Elandon Roberts should have tackled RB Aaron Jones in the end zone for a safety, but Roberts whiffed on the play.
…White appeared to be late recognizing a Green Bay blitz that allowed LB Antonio Morrison to shoot into the backfield untouched and sack Brady on 3rd-and-10.
…Wonderful effort by DL Lawrence Guy on the first play of the 4th quarter. With Jones running to the other side of the formation, Guy pursued him downfield and swipe at Jones’ ball-carrying arm to jar the football loose. Gilmore recovered for New England just outside the Patriots’ red zone, thwarting a would-be go-ahead drive for the Pack. Game-changing play by Guy.
…Ensuing Patriots possession, McDaniels calls for another Edelman double-pass. We haven’t seen one of these in a while, and he called it at the perfect time.
It appeared that White wasn’t Edelman’s first read, but rather TE Dwayne Allen, who was running a post pattern from left to right. Allen was covered, though, so, Edelman went to White, who had a convoy of blockers ready to lead the way.
…The Patriots finally sacked Rodgers thanks to great teamwork by Clayborn and DE Trey Flowers, which forced a three-and-out punt on Green Bay’s next drive. Flowers lined up over the left guard, with Clayborn on the tackle. At the snap, Flowers shot through the gap between those two linemen, and Clayborn stunted inside to get around them. Flowers and Clayborn arrived at Rodgers at the same time to share the sack credit.
…Should be noted that Allen had a fantastic day punting, the Patriots improved in terms of special teams coverage, specifically on kickoffs, and Stephen Gostkowski continues his fine kicking form.