Patriots (Barely) Hang On to Beat the Packers


The New England Patriots narrowly escaped defeat at home, pulling out a 31-27 victory over the Green Bay Packers after a Matt Flynn clock-management mistake. For most of the game, the Patriot offense was out of rhythm and the defense gave up its usual chunks of yardage and points after seemingly making big strides the previous two games. Big plays by CB Kyle Arrington and RG Dan Connolly (yes, the right guard) kept the Pats in the game before Tom Brady led the team on a game-winning six-play drive in the 4th quarter. Arrington had an interception returned for a touchdown in the second half and Dan Connolly had a 71-yard kick-off return right before the first half ended to put the Pats in position to score before the half.

Statistically, Matt Flynn outplayed Tom Brady, but Flynn’s inexperience came through at critical times while Brady’s experience helped the Patriots pick up the win. Flynn went 24/37 for 251 yards, 3 touchdowns and 1 interception. Brady went 15/24 for 163 yards and 2 touchdowns. Once again, Brady didn’t throw a pick, and he now holds the single-season record for pass attempts without an interception. However, with the game on the line and facing a 4th & 1 at the Pats’ 15, the clock ticked and Flynn didn’t know what play to call. He seemed to be waiting for the sideline to send a call in, and finally got the team lined up and snapped the ball. Still looking unsure, he was sacked by Tully Banta-Cain, fumbling the football and ending the game with no time left on the clock. Had Aaron Rodgers been in the game, he likely would already have a call in mind, got lined up, and run a better-looking play.

Bill Belichick will have plenty of things to chew the team out about when they’re in the film room this week. The Packers opened with an onside kick, which they recovered and turned into points. On the Pack’s first touchdown, Brandon Meriweather ran into Devin McCourty, which allowed James Jones to run 66 yards and score. The Packers were also pretty successful at getting pressure on Ton Brady, sacking him 3 times, including 2 right up the middle by B.J. Raji. Penalties were also an issue, with the Pats garnering 7 accepted penalties for 52 yards, many coming at critical times. For example, the Pack’s final drive was extended after an INT by Meriweather was called back due to a hands-to-the-face penalty on Tully Banta-Cain. The Pats were in the Top 5 for fewest penalties but didn’t show during this game.

On the plus side, Danny Woodhead continues to play well, coming up big during the Patriots’ game-winning drive. For the night, Woodhead gained 59 yards on 9 carries and 1 catch for 12 yards. Aaron Hernandez also had a good game, catching 4 passes for 31 yards and 2 touchdowns. Devin McCourty continues to make his case for Defensive Rookie of the Year with an impressive night in coverage. The James Jones touchdown really wasn’t his fault because Meriweather ran into him. McCourty finished the game with 10 tackles, including 2 for a loss and a sack. He was always running stride-for-stride with the man he was covering, showing good coverage. Eventually, Matt Flynn decided to focus his efforts towards Kyle Arrington’s side of the field, and he ended up seeing more and more passes thrown his way as the night went on.

The win over Green Bay moves the Patriots to 12-2, the best record in the NFL, and puts them in position to lock up home-field advantage with a win next week over Buffalo. If they win next week, they will also clinch the AFC East. Brady set the single-season record for passing attempts without an INT and extended his record for consecutive home wins. BenJarvus Green-Ellis currently has 824 rushing yards, meaning he will have to gain at least 88 yards over the next two games to gain 1,000 yards on the season. Dan Connolly’s 71-yard kick-off return is the longest in NFL history for an offensive lineman.