Instant Analysis: New England Patriots Trail the Packers 23-14 at the Half


Nov 30, 2014; Green Bay, WI, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick reacts during the game against the Green Bay Packers i the first quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The 9-2  New England Patriots traveled to frigid Green Bay to face the 8-3 Packers in a battle of heavyweight offenses and both sides landed a number of big punches. A late defensive breakdown by the Patriots before halftime killed the momentum of a couple good offensive drives as the teams went into the break with the Packers leading 23-14 and New England in line to be receiving the second-half kick-off.

After falling behind 13-0 after the first quarter the Patriots fought back to get into the game. The key in the early going was the Patriots’ secondary keeping the Green Bay big guns under control for most of the first half and then the defense buckling down and holding the Packers to negative yards on their trips into the red zone in the first half.

The Packers went five-for-five on offense as New England struggled to stop the passing game. Aaron Rodgers threw for 282 yards and two touchdowns in the first half with a 45-yard touchdown to Jordy Nelson and a 32-yard touchdown to Richard Rogers. The Patriots, after two weak drives to open the game, had methodical drives down the field capped by a six-yard touchdown run by Brandon Bolden on the first scoring drive and then a two-yard touchdown grab by Brandon LaFell.

Nov 30, 2014; Green Bay, WI, USA; New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) runs with the ball while Green Bay Packers strong safety Morgan Burnett (42) attempts to make the tackle during the first half at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

In the first quarter, the Patriots defense was determined to take away wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. With that they succeeded , as the duo had no receptions. However, third wide receiver Davante Adams had three receptions for 90 yards and a big 45-yard reception burning cornerback Logan Ryan. The Packers had early production running the ball with Eddie Lacy on their first drive of the game, but he was swallowed up quickly afterwards as the defensive front adjusted. The Packers got in the end zone on a 32-yard reception by back-up tight end Richard Rogers made it three first quarter scoring drives and a 13-0 lead after one quarter.

The New England offense looked out of sync early in the first quarter. LeGarrette Blount and Shane Vereen were non-factors and other than an early completion to Brandon LaFell on the first play of the game, the Patriots could not convert a first down. The offense failed to convert a third-and-two and a third-and-five after getting great field position after a kickoff out of bounds started the drive at the 40-yard line.

The Patriots got on the board on their first second quarter drive to cut it to 13-7. As usual, it was Rob Gronkowski lighting a fire for the offense with a big 29-yard catch and rumble. A nice grab on the sidelines by back-up tight end Michael Hoomanawanui for 23-yards had the Patriots in the red zone. As usual with the Patriots offense, it was a different running back. This time it was the unheralded Brandon Bolden with a twelve-yard run and then a six-yard touchdown.

Nov 30, 2014; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams (17) can

The problem for New England was getting a stop on defense. The Packers drove down the field in each of their first four drives with little resistance.  However, Green Bay had a 32-yard touchdown and three trips in the end zone on those drives. Normally, that is a disaster for most teams. But with the Patriots defense tightening up inside the 20-yard line, the Packers had to settle for three Mason Crosby field goals.

The Patriots again got the ball back and embarked on another long drive. Brady swung the ball around finding Tim Wright, Julian Edelman, Shane Vereen, and Rob Gronkowski on the drive before ending it with a two-yard touchdown pass to Brandon LaFell to cut the Packers lead to 16-14. It was a 12-play, 80 yard drive with Gronkowski with the critical third-down-and-three conversion right before the two-minute warning and extend the drive rather than settle for a field goal.

The Patriots left 1:05 on the clock for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers took advantage. Green Bay marched down the field in 51 seconds with a big 28-yard reception by running back James Starks beating linebacker Rob Ninkovich in coverage and Jordy Nelson getting away from Revis for a huge 45-yard touchdown to put Green Bay ahead 23-14 at the break.