By Chris Havel
Special to Event USA
New England handles Green Bay, 31-17, in “Brady vs. Rodgers” battle
GREEN BAY, Wis. – It was neither the famous quarterback from Michigan with the runway model wife, nor the QB from Cal with the ex-race car driver girlfriend, who came up big.
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It was the diminutive Kent State quarterback-turned-receiver, Julian Edelman, who made the throw to steal the show.
On what was vintage Patriots’ trickery, Edelman caught a backward lateral from Tom Brady and then threw back across the field to James White for a 37-yard gain to the Packers’ 2.
White scored three plays later to break a second half tie and send New England to victory over Green Bay Sunday night at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass.
The Packers’ offense struggled on and off, intermixed with signs of resurgent efficiency, on a night when Aaron Rodgers was merely very good, but not excellent.
Rodgers hit 24 of 43 passes for 259 yards, two touchdowns and a 89.2 passer rating. He was only sacked once, but harassed regularly and never really got into a rhythm. Either he would miss a throw, or a receiver would run a poor route, or there would be a penalty or two to stall the drive.
It isn’t always the same thing, but it’s always something, or so it seems.
“The consistency,” Rodgers told reporters. “We’re not hitting on all cylinders. (We’re) hurting ourselves with negative-yardage plays and missed throws and turnovers at the wrong time.”
The Packers (3-4-1) weren’t blown away by New England (7-2). They were in the game in the fourth quarter, as they were last week against the Rams, but couldn’t quite do enough to get over the top.
That’s how it feels when the Packers’ offense misses chances in the red zone, fails to establish the run and commits a fumble at a crucial time.
The Packers’ defense is far from blameless, but let’s concede that they were devastated by injuries once again.
Tramon Williams did a credible Ha Ha Clinton-Dix fill-in, but made a big mistake missing a tackle on Josh Gordon, who raced 55 yards for a touchdown to give the Patriots a two-touchdown win, effectively sealing the Packers’ fate.
Aaron Jones looks like he has a very bright future with this team, and is a play maker that the Packers sorely need to use more frequently, but his fumble at New England’s 34 in a 17-17 game was a blow. Jones’ turnover came after Rodgers hit ascending rookie receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling for completions of 24 and 26 yards to end the third quarter.
Jones’ fumble was a momentum killer.
“It doesn’t help when you hurt yourself with things like that, whether it be penalties (the Packers had seven for 63 yards) or turnovers,” Packers’ receiver Davante Adams said. “Nobody’s out there trying to turn the ball over. We’re going to do what we do to try to protect it and put ourselves in a better situation as we move forward.”
Rodgers had erased a seven-point halftime deficit with a 51-yard bomb to MVS that set up a 15-yard touchdown toss to Jimmy Graham to make it 17-17.
But after that, the wheels came off and it was all New England.
Brady completed 22 of 35 passes for 294 yards, one touchdown and a 99.0 passer rating. His touchdown toss to Gordon is about as easy a throw as Brady is likely to get.
Cordarrelle Patterson, the ex-Vikings receiver/return man, is a jack-of-all-trades with New England. He returns kicks, covers kicks, catches passes and even plays a little running back. When White went out with an injury, Patterson stepped in and rushed 11 times for 61 yards and a touchdown.
It’s another example of Patriots head coach Bill Belichick relying on a player’s skill set and versatility.
Belichick, like most coaches with a defensive background, is OK with dusting off a trick play if the occasion suits it. The mindset, as a defensive guy, is this: If we hit the big play, great. If we don’t, we play defense and make them go three-and-out.
On Sunday night, the backward lateral to Edelman set up the Patriots’ go-ahead touchdown.
“I say all the time, every year, you have to learn how to win,” Rodgers said. “And we have to learn how to win on the road. We haven’t won yet.”
While the Packers’ offense is trying to find itself, the defense continues to make a play here or there, but it seldom makes the difference. There are far too turnovers forced and, as we saw last night, when they are riddled with injuries it’s hard to put the outcome of the game on the shoulders of the D.
Mostly, the Packers’ offense is what drives the team. But they definitely came up short last night.
Right now, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy appears to be searching for something, anything, to get his offense on track. Here’s hoping that he finds it, and soon.