The Patriots and Packers have met just five times since the turn of the century with the Patriots winning three of the matchups and one of the most memorable plays from the limited contests has to be Dan Connolly's 71-yard kickoff return that helped spur the Pats onto a win.
With Aaron Rodgers sidelined, backup Matt Flynn was under center for the Pack and led an impressive early effort, tossing a one-yard touchdown pass to Greg Jennings just before the two-minute warning that handed a surprising 17-7 lead to Green Bay. The Packers tried a squib kick on the ensuing kickoff and the ball landed in the arms of Connolly, an offensive lineman by trade who gathered the ball and began to run.
When the Packers finally got the rumbling lineman to the ground he was inside their 5-yard line, setting up a late score for the Patriots that cut the lead to 17-14 at the half. The Patriots would overtake the Packers in the fourth quarter and hold on for a 31-27 victory. It was a classic play that still makes the rounds on social media.
Even today, almost 12 years later, the play still brings a smile to Bill Belichick's face as he provided some further context to how the play unfolded.
"Very unexpected. It's funny though, we just coincidentally had talked about that the week before," said Belichick recalling the kickoff preparation in practice when he had thrown a squib kick at his team. "Then it actually happened in the game. But the whole point of the guy catching the squib kick handles it. The other guys get in front of him. Not stand there and watch him handle the ball. They get in front of him. Then the guys behind him come up in case he muffs it or it gets by him. Then the deep returners come up and protect him. Then they're usually faster than the guy who's getting the ball. So once Dan [Connolly] picked it up, they were able to scoot in front of him and create a little friction between the coverage. Dan just kind of hit the seam and rolled with it, but it was interesting how that play had actually popped up in practice."
Recently, Flynn tweeted how much he enjoyed playing the game, one that helped him land a lucrative free agent deal the next offseason, but added that Connolly's return still gives him nightmares.
Belichick balanced that successful play from Patriots-Packers history with another game that wasn't quite as positive.
"There's been some good memories," said Belichick, adding, "Then there's the memories back in what was it '02, where they had their whole secondary out there. They had like four guys on injury reserve, and two of their guys were hurt and they came in here and [we] couldn't move the ball. [We] Couldn't get a first down."
"It was brutal. It goes both ways."