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Patriots vs. Packers: Fan Notes from the Game

Notes, musings, and observations from the New England Patriots’ 31-17 victory over the Green Bay Packers.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at New England Patriots Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

How about those Patriots?

What a wild week in the NFL. The last undefeated team has fallen, offenses are scoring points faster than the stats geeks can register them, and Nathan Peterman continued his campaign to go down in history as the worst QB to ever play the game. In this topsy turvy world of professional football, it’s nice to have the stability that comes with being a Pats fan in October and November. With their win over the Green Bay Packers, the Patriots improved to 7-2 on the year and reminded everyone once again that losing your mind over a few bumps in the September road might come back to make you look foolish down the line.

Life is good.

  • Thank Tebow that was the last primetime game of the season. With the past few Patriots games combined with the Red Sox, I feel like I haven’t gone to bed before midnight in over a month.
  • To make matters worse, Daylight Savings time is officially over, which means it now gets dark at 2PM and the game started later than my internal clock would like. I didn’t get to bed last night until 1, which is 2AM for my body. Luckily for me, I wasn’t planning on getting any work done today anyway.
  • I think what I find most sad about the end of Daylight Savings time isn’t the constant darkness, or the oncoming cold weather, or those looming months of January and February, which just suck your will to live; it’s that I used to LOVE the night they set the clocks back, because I would always be out at a bar and it meant we all got an extra hour to stay hydrated. Those days are gone, alas, and now I find myself grumbling about how I have to use more electricity now that it’s going to be dark nonstop for a few months. Getting old sucks.
  • Just don’t tell Tom Brady that, because absolutely nothing about aging applies to him in any way, other than that old “men get better looking as they get older” stereotype.
  • In what was a much-hyped game between to all-time great quarterbacks, I’m going to go ahead and say that neither Brady nor Rodgers blew me out of the water yesterday. Tommy B’s stat line - 22 of 35 for 294 yards and a score - was fine, and Rodgers didn’t fare any better. The Patriots are a better team than the Packers, especially on defense, which is what led to the win, but unlike the Brady vs. Manning games of years past, I don’t think either QB should be the subject of discussion today.
  • Of course, that won’t stop the idiots from chirping though, will it? To be honest, I thought that the Brady vs. Manning debate was stupid, and they played each other at least once a year. Comparing Brady and Rodgers is nothing more than a bunch of hypotheticals, deep stat dives, and incessant what-iffery that will never have an answer. So let’s just call it what it is: sports talk can’t just be a bunch of people sitting around agreeing with each other, so someone needs to present another talking point. Rodgers is the closest thing the NFL has to a non-Brady GOAT at this time, so he’s the guy. If Brady were to eclipse Rodgers in every category, get another ring or two, and suddenly find himself able to make the kind of throws Rodgers does, suddenly Patrick Mahomes would be the GOAT over Brady because he “completely revolutionized the game.” There’s always going to be someone.
  • And it’ s not like I don’t love Aaron Rodgers; he’s amazing. Some of the throws he makes just make you shake your head. And if you want to call him the greatest of all time, go for it - these are the conversations that will never end. But people on both sides of any GOAT discussion should always admit that they’re going to be completely ignoring the other side’s argument in favor of their own confirmation bias that is likely never to change.*
  • *Unless you’r one of the people who picks another QB over Brady. Then your bias will change to another QB as soon as Brady ruins your argument with additional records and rings.
  • What I find most interesting about the comparison, though (last note on this, then we’ll get to the game, I promise), is that when the pundits were trying to make the case that Manning was the better quarterback, they always pointed to the numbers and the stats, and said that Brady’s greatness lay more in his intangibles. Now that Brady has the bulk of the numbers and stats, folks are talking about Rodgers’s intangibles to make a case for him. Part of me wishes that Brady and Rogers met more often; it’s always a blast to watch the best in the business at work. But on the plus side, we only have to suffer through the coverage once every four years, and we may never see these two on the same field at the same time again
  • New England has two coin toss wins on the year. They have lost seven. What the hell.
  • One thing I hear from the fee-ants all time: slow down. Don’t go so fast. Doing it that quickly never gets the job done right. It isn’t all about you, you know, I have to be satisfied as well. But dammit I just don’t like to clean, and so I just want to get it finished as quickly as possible so I can go back to watching TV. Luckily for me, the next time she says that, I can point to New England’s first drive of the day as proof positive that moving fast is the way to go.
  • In a series that lasted just over three minutes, the Pats moved the ball 59 yards on 10 plays and only needed one third down to do it. As usual, it was the James White show, who motioned in and out of the backfield like Marla Hooch in the batters box. Brady kept the defense unstable at all times and it was probably the best drive of the season for this team thus far.
  • My initial theory was that the Patriots started so fast because they wanted the Packer defense exhausted as quickly as possible, as they knew the Patriots defense wasn’t even going to come close to stopping Rogers. However, the Patriots did a phenomenal job overall defensively, with only a few hiccups here and there. And here they all are:
  • New England’s base defense seemed to be a wide-gap nickel, focusing on the pass, inviting the run, and trying to keep Rodgers in the pocket. The problem with that is when you have a cerebral QB who can diagnose a defense with the best of them, all that really does is open up the underneath routes and allow receivers to work against the inside contain. At least I hope so, because if they Patriots weren’t deliberately conceding the A gap in the running game, that’s a huge problem.
  • This was also a game in which missed tackles continued to be a problem. Watching Aaron Jones break tackles and fall forward for three yards after contact every single time was frustrating.
  • Other than that, though, not much negative to say. Stephon Gilmore was transcendent, as was the rest of the Patriots secondary. You knew that Rodgers wasn’t going to turn the ball over, and over-committing on the pass rush would just send him up the gut with the QB keeper, so it was a delicate balance of applying pressure, but not too much pressure - which meant that the secondary had to cover for three to five seconds longer than any reasonable secondary should have to.
  • The good thing about this game, from a stress perspective, is that I no point was I expecting the Patriots to sack Rodgers. Usually when there’s that play where the defense has a player dead to rights in the backfield but he somehow manages to evade the pressure and escape to turn posituve yards, I go through a intense range of emotions. But with Rogers, you just kind of wait around for the next play.
  • So glad NBC decided to go to commercial when the Packers punted with 20 seconds left in the first quarter. If they didn’t and the Patriots were able to run those two plays to close it out without a break, I wouldn’t have learned that there’s a movie called Ralph Wrecks the Internet coming out at some point that I don’t care about and how important having a flannel shirt tied around your waist is in pickup touch football games.
  • Speaking of commercials: he’s not there yet...but that Subway kid who flips the water bottle may be soon overtaking the lead singer of the Kars-4-Kids band as the most annoying person on television.
  • It’s very important to keep in mind just how limited the Patriots have been offensively over the past few weeks. It’s easy to overlook, but they played last night’s game without their best guard, their best between-the-tackles running back, and their best tight end. Their leading rusher over the past two weeks has been a gadget receiver on his third NFL roster. They had to worry about interior penetration as Ted Karras got pusdhed backwards several times. They can’t bring Gronk into to pass protect when Tommby B sees blitz. And yet they’re still finding ways to move the ball, force defenses to respect the play-action, and put points on the board. I feel like Josh McDaniels is an 80’s tag team wrestler who sees his partner getting worked around the ring, desperately extending his hand, knowing that as soon as he gets the tag, he can unleash hell.
  • That said...the playcalling on goal to go from the one, that saw a weird rollout and a botched fade to Gordon was absolutely atrocious. I don’t care that Michele is out and Patterson isn’t a goal-line back. Give it to Develin - or better yet, put Danny Shelton in the backfield and have him William Perry it into the end zone. Even with a healthy Gronk, this team needs to work on it’s efficiency inside the 5. In 2018 I find myself resigned to a field goal and am pleasantly surprised when they turn it into six.
  • Josh Gordon had 130 yards and a TD on five grabs yesterday. He probably could have had a sixth, but he was close to the sideline on a remarkable grab and I don’t think there was enough evidence to overturn the call had Belichick challenged. That puts him at 23 receptions for 423 yards and 3 TDs since coming to New England, which is already his best season since 2013.
  • Two things in particular stood out to me about Gordon yesterday (well, three. But I don’t want to talk about how ripped he is coming of the weekend I had. I almost rocked myself back to sleep trying to get enough momentum to roll out of bed this morning): one, this was the first game where Brady didn’t throw the ball where he thought Gordon should be, but Gordon didn’t make the read. and two, he’s a fantastic blocking receiver. One thing that Bill Belichck has always coveted in his receiving corps, from Gordon to Deion Branch to Jabar Gaffney to Troy Brown, is an ability to hold blocks downfield.
  • However - I’m also going to go ahead and make the hot take that Josh Gordon is slow. Prove me wrong, somebody.
  • While I’m speaking about blockers, Dwayne Allen really deserves more credit. He’s an absolute nonfactor in the passing game (but how about that catch and run yesterday!!! Eh? Eh?), but as a blocking tight end, I’d put him up there with anyone in the league.
  • Whitehead ejected? I think he bumped into the ref.
  • I’m going to need to go back and figure out why Cordarrelle Patterson had so much more success this week, other than the fact that Green Bay is a worse defense than Buffalo. At first glance, it seems like the Patriots set up his runs to mirror his return game more closely, in that he could get up some steam, make one cut, and go. He isn’t a running back, so reading blocks and attacking the correct gap isn’t really in his skill set. But by getting him to the outside with toss plays and stretch runs, Patterson is able to make his move and go. Great adjustment from the coaching staff.
  • The most depressing commercial on TV right now is that kid who dreams of getting a Mercedes Benz for Christmas every year, only to get one when he is a dad himself. yeah sure, it’s cute...but the dad only gets his dream car when he’s more excited about an SUV than a two door coupe.
  • I’ll tell you one that I found myself liking though, in spite of my gruff exterior: that diamond commercial where the man asks his girlfriend’s son for his blessing. That’s pretty awesome.
  • And I once again need to apologize and admit I was wrong about Adrian Clayborn. He’s starting to register sacks now, but even before that he was collapsing the pocket and forcing early throws. I misjudged his early contributions to the team
  • I’ll tell you who I was most decidedly not wrong about, though: Trent Brown. The man run blocks better than Bobby Boucher and has the agility of a man half his size - aka James White.
  • One thing I have to ask: is Kenjon Barner a terrible running back? He’s averaging almost four yards per carry and had one of the best blitz pickups - on Clay Matthews no less - that you’ll ever see. They must really not trust him.
  • I’ve never seen a team as determined not to let Tommy B eclipse 1,000 yards against them as the Packers were last night. And if he keeps having to kneel down to close out games, he may never get there.
  • Aaron Rodgers was two of seven for 15 yards in the fourth quarter. The Patriots D held yet another good offense to 17 points or less. They were perfect in October. Tommy B is now 20-11 against future Hall of Fame QBs in his career. His closest competition, Drew Brees. is .500. He is also the only player in NFL history to eclipse 80,000 total yards in his career.
  • But please...let’s talk some more about how well Aaron Rodgers throws on the move.
  • Dammit. I said I wasn’t going to go there again. Sorry.
  • Julian Edelman has a pretty amazing QBR. That James White screen was as close as the NFL will ever get to the almighty Flying V.
  • That play looked so easy...but it could have gone wrong at so many junctions and the fact that it picked up 37 yards makes it even more remarkable. The linemen had to stay in the center of the field to block on the lateral without crossing the line of scrimmage, otherwise they would be ineligible receivers downfield. Chris Hogan and Josh Gordon had to stick their blocks perfectly to give Edelman time to look off the safeties ( I love that I just wrote about Julian Edelman looking off the safeties). The linemen then had to time their swing out in front of White perfectly so as not to get flagged for OPI. They did this while simultaneously forming a perfect wedge for White to run behind. The Patriots are the most disciplined team in the NFL and draw the fewest flags for a reason. They don’t get favored by the refs. If you make that argument you’re intellectually dishonest and lazy.
  • That said...not sure about that roughing the kicker call. I’ve watched it a few times now, and it really could have gone either way.
  • I’m also hearing that Jermaine Whitehead bumped a ref whole complaining about the Personal Foul call he drew. I don’t know if that’s true or not - but if it is, that explains a lot.
  • My defensive game ball goes to Patrick Chung. Yes, he gave up a TD to Jimmy Graham, but that wasn’t on him; he was asked to cover a very slow developing play that should have been stopped by the front four. Jimmy Graham is a good tight end, and other than that TD pass, Graham was held to three catches for 36 yards.
  • Offensive game ball is James Develin. I may even just go ahead and give him the midseason MVP award, to be honest. It sounds absurd, I know, but what he brings to this team as a run blocker, gap reader, emergency receiving outlet, chip blocker, jumbo tight end, and veteran can’t be overstated.
  • The real game ball, though, should go to Norman Tache. Mr. Tache celebrated his 102nd birthday last night in style as a guest of honor and gust coin tosser. Tache served as an Air Force Sargent in WWII, and by the looks of him, he may have singlehandedly ended that war. What a cool way for a hero to ring in an amazing birthday.

Off to Tennessee, then a much needed week off with a firm grip on the division. Back-to-back road games at Miami and Pitsburgh are on the horizon, but one game at a time.