The New England Patriots’ prime time matchup versus the Green Bay Packers lived up to its pregame hype and as opposed to last week’s Monday nighter in Buffalo was entertaining from start to finish. New England’s 31-17 victory saw many noteworthy performances, and without the benefit of a film review, let’s take a look at some of them – for better or for worse:
Winner: The pass rush
Over the first eight weeks of the season, the Patriots’ pass rush has had its ups and downs. Against the Packers and quarterback Aaron Rodgers, however, it was magnificent. Headed by standout defensive edge Trey Flowers, the group finished with a sack and six hits but its impact goes far beyond the stat sheet: Rodgers was moved off his spot on multiple occasions and was oftentimes unable to get into a rhythm.
Winner: RB James White
While he missed some snaps late in the first half because of an issue with his knee, James White was his usual productive self and a reliable presence in a New England backfield that missed Sony Michel. Once again the former fourth-round draft pick led the Patriots in carries (12) and receptions (6) and finished with a combined 103 yards and two touchdowns. At this point, output like this can be labeled “business as usual” for White.
Winner: RB Cordarrelle Patterson
Other offensive skill position players may have gained more yards or scored more touchdowns, but Cordarrelle Patterson still had as big a role as anybody in New England’s victory. Finishing the day with 61 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries, and one 7-yard reception, the former first-round draft pick led the Patriots ground game against Green Bay. Patterson’s ability to create yards and serve as a serious threat from the offensive backfield kept the defense honest and opened up opportunities for the passing game.
Winner: P Ryan Allen
He did not have a lot of work on the day, but when he was needed Ryan Allen delivered. Overall, New England’s punter kicked the football three times for a very good net average of 49.7 yards. Furthermore, his ball placement was outstanding and helped the Patriots win the field position battle. After some inconsistencies over the first eight weeks, Allen had his best performance of the year on Sunday night.
Loser: The late down offense
Even though the Patriots played their most complete game of the season versus the Packers, not all was perfect. One area of improvement that can quickly be identified is the late down offense: New England found itself in third or fourth down a total of 12 times but converted only three of the attempts. Whether it is play calling or execution, the Patriots need to find a way to keep drives alive.
Winner: Brian Flores
Earlier during the season, de-facto Patriots defensive coordinator Brian Flores said that his unit played well in pockets but needed to string together positive plays on a more consistent basis. Against Green Bay this is exactly what happened. Part of it had to do with players limiting mental or technical errors, but the play calling and game plan of Flores’ crew also contributed to the positive outing.
Winner: WR Phillip Dorsett
After catching only one pass over the last three games, Phillip Dorsett had a comparatively busy Sunday night. While he played only 12 snaps as the team’s fourth option at the position, he still was targeted three times and finished with three catches for 30 yards. Not necessarily an outstanding statistical performance but a step in the right direction for the former first-round draft pick.
Winner: WR Josh Gordon
Two weeks ago, we wrote that the Patriots being able to acquire Josh Gordon for just a fifth-round draft pick can be considered a steal given his recent performances. Against Green Bay he had another impressive outing — his best of the season so far: as one of New England’s top-two wide receivers, Gordon caught five passes for 130 yards and a touchdown. He did all that despite dislocating his finger in the third quarter, by the way.
Loser: The pass protection
As noted above, not all was perfect against the Packers. And even though it might be nitpicky to list the offensive line’s pass protection as “losers”, this area of the game can be improved upon: Tom Brady was sacked twice on the day and hit sixth more times as the blockers up front — including skill position players — at times were unable to properly handle Green Bay’s creative blitz packages. It was not bad performance by any means (just look to Detroit to see bad pass protection) but on a night when most everything else worked well, the pass blocking did not quite live up.
Winner: The run blocking
The Patriots were outstanding in the running game: despite the aforementioned Michel being out, New England registered 27 carries for 125 yards (not counting kneel-downs). Part of it was the hard running by James White and Cordarrelle Patterson, but a big part also was the performance by the offensive line — one that missed its best run blocker (Shaq Mason) — as well as by tight end Dwayne Allen and fullback James Develin. They all helped the Patriots control the pace of the game and attack Green Bay’s run defense.
Winner: CB Stephon Gilmore
No matter who he lined up against, Stephon Gilmore was again dominant and had another outstanding day. The second-year Patriot — mostly going against Davante Adams and Jimmy Graham early, and later on also Marquez Valdes-Scantling — played a huge role in helping the Patriots slow down a potent Packers passing game and finished the contest with just two receptions for 15 yards given up on four targets. Furthermore, Gilmore was able to pick up the momentum-changing fumble on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Winner: WR Julian Edelman
After being limited in practice all week long, Julian Edelman showed no signs of rust. The Patriots’ number one wide receiver finished the day with nine touches an was dangerous as a receiver, runner, and passer: the veteran caught six passes for 71 yards, had two rushing attempts for 28 yards and threw a beautifully executed pass across the field to allow James White to gain 37 yards. A busy but successful day for Edelman.