When the Patriots ran:
Say what you will about Cordarrelle Patterson, but don't question the man's toughness. Playing without Sony Michel for the second straight week, the Patriots ground game was once again in the hands of passing back James White and return specialist Patterson. This time Patterson provided a huge spark that helped New England come away with a key victory. White opened as the lead back and after an early 8-yard touchdown sprint around left end he was thoroughly shut down. Midway through the second quarter he limped to the sideline favoring his left leg, and that's when Patterson entered the picture. He picked up 51 yards on five carries during a scoring drive that broke a 10-10 tie. He picked up gains of 11, 10, 17, 8 and 5 yards, the final one resulting in a touchdown. Even though he slowed considerably after the break, picking up just 9 yards on his five carries while taking a number of big hits, Patterson's ability to break tackles was instrumental in the Patriots halftime lead. He finished with 61 yards on 11 carries for a solid 5.5-yard average. White was stymied on his 12 carries, picking up only 31 yards (2.6-yard average) but he did manage to find the end zone twice. Julian Edelman turned in a couple of productive runs and added 28 yards to the total. Overall New England finished with 123 yards on 31 carries for an even 4-yard average. Without Michel and right guard Shaq Mason, that's outstanding work.
When the Patriots passed:
Tom Brady had some bouts of ineffectiveness, particularly in a scoreless third quarter when the Packers pressure seemed to rattle him a bit. But as is usually the case, Brady was at his best in a tie game in the fourth quarter, leading a pair of touchdown drives to win it. He completed 22 of 35 passes for 294 yards and a touchdown and did not throw a pick for the second straight game. Without Rob Gronkowski, Brady relied on three players to do the bulk of the work as Josh Gordon (five catches, 130 yards, 1 TD), Edelman (six catches, 71 yards) and White (six catches, 72 yards) were all productive. Edelman also hit White on a double-pass screen for 37 yards that set up the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter. Gordon then put the game away with a 55-yard catch-and-run after breaking a tackle as he caught the ball. Brady was not sharp at various points, including a stretch of seven straight incompletions. That was best illustrated during a disastrous goal line possession that saw the Patriots turned away on four cracks from the 1, including the final two on passes. But he rebounded when he needed to, with one huge completion going for 17 yards to Phillip Dorsett to convert a third-and-seven to kick-start the game-winning drive.
When the Packers ran:
Green Bay ran the ball quite effectively in the game, picking up 118 yards on just 25 attempts for a solid 4.7-yard average. Both Aaron Jones (14 carries, 76 yards, 5.4-yard average) and Jamal Williams (seven carries, 34 yards, 4.9-yard average) consistently picked up chunks of yards between the tackles as the Patriots front was normally light, invite the Packers to keep it on the ground. But despite that solid production, the game ultimately turned on one single play, and it was a huge negative one for the Green Bay ground attack. With the game tied at 17 heading to the fourth quarter, the Packers had it first-and-10 from the Patriots 34 after moving efficiently from their own 7. Jones had a nice hold off left tackle and was headed for s sizable gain before Lawrence Guy reached out and knocked the ball away. Patrick Chung recovered at the Patriots 24 and soon New England had the lead. Jones was credited with a 6-yard run, and had he not lost the ball it likely would have been closer to a first down inside the 25. Chances are Green Bay would have kicked a field goal at minimum and taken the lead. Instead, the game was effectively over when the Patriots marched down the field and scored. No amount of production can make up for such a huge blunder. Guy's strip was the play of the game.
When the Packers passed:
This was the best game of the season for the Patriots defense, if not statistically then due to the presence of Aaron Rodgers. The Packers aren't as explosive as they've been in the past but Rodgers showed glimpses of his greatness at times, yet the defense was still up to the task more often than not. Rodgers failed to find receivers quickly enough to avoid the rush and wound up completing only 24 of 43 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns. He was often under duress as the Patriots got aggressive up front and it paid off, forcing several early throws that prevented potential completions. Devin McCourty came free on an early third-down blitz to cause an incompletion, and Trey Flowers and Adrian Clayborn was typically in Rodgers' face most of the night. They combined on a well-executed tackle-end stunt where Flowers lined up on the inside and both ended up tacking down Rodgers for the only sack. But Rodgers was never able to settle into a groove, and the linebackers did a nice job making sure he didn't hurt them with his legs, limiting him to 8 yards on four scrambles. Stephon Gilmore continued his strong play by shutting down the Packers top wideout, Davante Adams, who finished with six catches for just 40 yards. Aside from rookie Marquez Valdes-Scantling's three catches for 101 yards, this was outstanding work from the Patriots defense.
Patterson got the night off to a strong start with a tough 36-yard kickoff return that saw him break a couple of tackles. Green Bay was also flagged for being offside on the play, adding 5 yards to the return. Patterson later took one back 28 yards out to the 31, so he enjoyed a solid night all around. Ryan Allen had a pair of effective punts, sending 53 and 52-yarders out of bounds at the 13 and 21, respectively. Green Bay's Robert Toynan was called for roughing Allen in the third quarter, giving the Patriots a first down. Even though that didn't prove costly initially because the offense failed to pick up a first down, it changed field position and forced the Packers to start from their 7 instead of the 31. The lone blemish in the kicking game came in the third quarter with Green Bay punting out of its end zone. JK Scott's 48-yard punt was covered well by his teammates, and Jonathan Jones was flagged for holding, forcing the Patriots to begin at their 38. Otherwise it was a strong night in the kicking for New England.