Coming off a defensive showdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers where the offense struggled mightily to close out the game, the Green Bay Packers hosted the New England Patriots who were without Mac Jones this week as he recovers from a high ankle sprain he suffered in their loss to the Baltimore Ravens the previous week. The Packers entered this week looking to find some consistency on offense and possibly finally have a complete game with little to no mistakes. The defense, despite being without corner Jaire Alexander, hoped to have a field day against a battered Patriots offense captained by backup Brian Hoyer. The QB situation for the Patriots would once again change early into the game as Bailey Zappe came in for Brian Hoyer who left the game with a head injury. A favorable matchup for the Packers, lets look at how they fared.
In what was a complete reversal of last week in Tampa, the Packers offense struggled in the first half, and arguably looked worse than they did in the second half last week. On only their second play, the Packers offense turned it over due to a Romeo Doubs fumble. This offense would only manage one score in the first half, a 15-yard touchdown run by rookie WR Christian Watson for the first score of his career. The defense picked up right where they left off and dominated the injury-riddled Patriots in the first half, only letting up a field goal on the opening drive of the game. The defense was great at limiting big gains and pressuring the Patriots rookie QB the whole half, including a strip-sack by Rashan Gary. However despite this strong performance by the defense, the Packers went into the half down 10-3 thanks to a 40-yard pick-six thrown by Aaron Rodgers, only the fourth of his career.
The second half was a different story for the Packers. The Packers offense came out looking a lot better, Rodgers began playing like we all know he can. On the opening drive of the second half that featured a 4th-and-one conversion, the Packers scored on a 26-yard touchdown pass to Robert Tonyan, his first of the year. The defense would struggle in the second half, giving up back-to-back touchdown drives, showing a weakness to the run, allowing 5.1 yards per carry. Yes, one of those touchdowns, the 25-yard pass to DeVante Parker, should not have happened as the refs missed an egregious delay-of-game; however, Parker was wide-open, which the defense simply cannot allow. The offense would respond to these touchdowns with scoring drives of their own, a 38-yard Mason Crosby field goal and a Rodgers connection to Doubs to tie the game at 24. With the game on the line, the defense would lock in, sacking Zappe on the ensuing drive to force a punt and give the ball back to Rodgers to break the tie. Despite being gifted prime field position at mid-field, the Packers offense couldn’t get anything going and a deep shot to Doubs in the endzone to seal the game was dropped as he hit the ground. The Packers would punt and, thanks to Keisean Nixon, would down the Patriots at their own one yard line. Another forced three-and-out by the defense and a failed attempt to lateral the ball around on the Packers next offensive drive would send the game to overtime.
The Packers would win the coin toss and start with the ball but would quickly go three-and-out, and a 20-yard punt return would set the Patriots up at mid-field in prime position to win the game and dash the hopes of Packers fans across the country. However the defense came to play, letting up only five yards and forcing another three-and-out. Given one more chance, Rodgers would make sure to end the game on his own terms, and with the help of Allen Lazard, AJ Dillon, Randall Cobb, and Romeo Doubs would drive the Packers down the field and set up the game-winning 31-yard field goal by Crosby.
Players of the Game:
Spearheading the Packers defense this game was Rashan Gary. Gary single-handedly kept the offense in this game by limiting the Patriots offense from getting much going in the passing game. Recording seven tackles, one tackle for a loss, two sacks, two QB hits, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery, Gary in continuing to prove that he is an elite pass-rusher and completely took the game over.
In probably his best game since his 146-yard performance against the New Orleans Saints back in 2020, Allen Lazard would lead the team in catches and receiving yards, posting 116 yards on 6 catches. Despite not finding the end zone, Lazard would be responsible for keep multiple drives alive with three 20+ yard gains and was undisputedly the number one option for Rodgers this game.
Strong Safety Adrian Amos left the game early in the first quarter and was evaluated for a concussion. He was promptly ruled out for the remainder of the game.
What was supposed to be an easy game for the Packers turned into a shoot-out they narrowly escaped from with a victory. Once again the Packers offense struggled to play a complete game, but when they got hot, they looked unstoppable. The only issue is they couldn’t consistently look good. Rodgers started slow, passing for a mere 44 yards in the first half, missing receivers on several occasions, and gifting the Patriots a free six points. Mistakes that simply cannot be ,ade against teams that aren’t down to their 3rd-string QB. It’s not out of the question to believe the Packers would’ve lost this game if they were playing nearly any other team.
This game was the first of a four game stretch where the Packers will have favorable matchups, setting them up for multiple chances to figure out the best way to run the offense, so long as the defense continues to play to the level we know they can with all of that talent. Hopefully we will see the return of Jaire Alexander and Adrian Amos next week. The Packers head across the pond next week to take on the New York Giants (3-1) in London, England.