The Green Bay Packers leaned on their defense to hold off the Patriots 26-21. In the highly anticipated contest for the best record in the National Football League, Green Bay made just enough plays to fend off the Patriots. The Packers got off to a great start scoring on each of their first five possessions to build a 23-14 first half lead.
Aaron Rodgers tossed two touchdowns. The second was a 45-yard pass to his favorite wide receiver Jordy Nelson. Nelson beat Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis on an in-route and rolled the rest of the way to the end zone. Nelson’s touchdown capped an 81-yard drive on five plays that took just 55 seconds.
New England was able to make the defensive adjustments at halftime. The Patriots’ defense was able to hold the Packers to just three points the final two quarters. Rodgers threw for 368 yards but majority of his success came in the first half.
Nelson only had one other catch besides the big touchdown at the end of the half. Revis and fellow Patriots cornerback Brandon Browner did an effective job keeping the ball away from his hands. Rodgers turned to rookie wide receiver Davante Adams along with Randall Cobb. Adams caught six receptions for a game-high 121 yards. Meanwhile Cobb had seven catches for 85 yards. Rodgers did a great job of taking what the defense gave him. When Nelson was covered he fed off Adams and Cobb. Still it was Nelson’s touchdown catch that proved to be the difference in the Packers holding off the Patriots.
That is thanks to the Packers’ defense. They responded by slowing down Tom Brady and the Patriots’ offense just as well, if not better. Brady finished the game completing 22 of 35 passes for 245 yards and two touchdowns. But the Green Bay defense kept the usual New England big play from happening. Even when the Patriots appeared to mount some momentum, Green Bay was able to stop it with stout defense.
Brady fought through the limitations on offense. His favorite target Rob Gronkowski caught seven passes for 98 yards. Yet, the Packers did a great job keeping him out of the end zone. Still Brady had a chance to rally as Rodgers cooled off. Brady found Brandon LaFell for a 15-yard touchdown with 13:51 remaining in the game to close the gap to 23-21.
Rodgers responded on the ensuing possession. He drove the Packers 65 yards and took 5:51 off the clock. He looked for an opened Adams for a game-sealing touchdown but the ball fell right through Adams’ hands to force fourth down. Green Bay settled for a 28-yard field goal from kicker Mason Crosby . They led 26-21 with 8:41 remaining, giving Brady plenty of time to complete the rally.
Brady started to take advantage of Adams’ dropped pass by marching the Patriots down to Green Bay’s 20. But the drive stalled when Mike Daniels and Mike Neal combined to sack Brady on a pivotal third down. That forced a 47-yard field goal attempt by kicker Stephen Gostkowski. Unfortunately he missed, handing the ball over to the Packers with 2:40 remaining.
The missed opportunity proved costly, as the Packers were able to run the clock out to hold off the Patriots. After two runs from Eddie Lacy, Rodgers completed a pass to Cobb for seven yards and the first down. The Patriots were out of timeouts and out of chances. The win moves Green Bay to a record of 10-2. The Patriots’ loss drops them to 9-3, snapping their seven-game winning streak.
Commentary by King Motley
Photo by Mike Morbeck – Flickr License