Understaffed and underdogs, the New England Patriots made their way Lambeau Field. And for more than four quarters against the Green Bay Packers.
But a 27-24 loss would be the result in overtime as kicker Mason Crosby converted from 31 yards away.
Here’s a look back on Sunday as head coach Bill Belichick’s roster looks forward at 1-3.
Hoyer’s 40th career start ends with Zappe’s debut
Brian Hoyer had started 39 career games. He had also lost 11 in a row. Yet the high-ankle sprain that sidelined Mac Jones throughout preparations for Green Bay provided New England’s backup quarterback with another shot two years removed from his last.
Beginning in “11” personnel, the 2009 undrafted free agent out of Michigan State completed 5-of-6 passes for 37 yards before going to the locker room midway through the first quarter. On the heels of a sack by outside linebacker Rashan Gary, Hoyer was ruled out with a head injury.
Former Houston Baptist and Western Kentucky record-setter Bailey Zappe would be active for the first time behind No. 5. His rookie debut brought RPO wrinkles as well as a strip-sack fumble. Zappe settled in by going 10-of-15 for 99 yards. He connected with wide receiver DeVante Parker for his first career touchdown to briefly give New England a 17-14 lead. It stood as the first by a rookie QB around the league this fall. With two minutes remaining and the uprights at the offense’s back, the opportunity to break a 24-24 tie became a punt for overtime.
Rodgers responds after four completions, pick-six in first half
The Patriots hadn’t crossed paths with Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau Field in eight years. He did not look at home there for part of Sunday.
But after completing just four passes by intermission, the quarterback finished 21-of-35 through the air for 251 yards with touchdowns to tight end Robert Tonyan and wide receiver Romeo Doubs to reach No. 500 and nearly No. 501.
With cornerback Jalen Mills scratched because of a lingering hamstring issue, it would be rookie Jack Jones starting in the New England secondary across from Jonathan Jones. The fourth-round pick forced and recovered a fumble by Doubs to halt Green Bay’s initial possession. He was then late to react to a jet sweep by another NFL newcomer in Christian Watson on a 15-yard score. But while the 6-foot-5, 227-pound Allen Lazard also proved difficult to take down along the sideline, so was the 5-foot-11, 175-pound Jones on an interception returned 40 yards for six.
Judon’s sack streak extends to four games
Matthew Judon began his 2022 campaign with sacks against the Miami Dolphins’ Tua Tagovailoa, Pittsburgh Steelers’ Mitchell Trubisky and Baltimore Ravens’ Lamar Jackson.
The outside linebacker then hit home on the NFL’s four-time MVP in the first quarter on Sunday. In the process, Judon became the second player in New England history to record a sack in each of the first four games of a season. He became the first to do so since Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Andre Tippett in 1986.
More hurries followed for the three-time Pro Bowler, who was inches from another sack in overtime as the Green Bay punt unit stepped on.
Patriots without Guy in the gaps against one-two punch
Lawrence Guy has played 2,736 defensive snaps in the regular season for the Patriots. As a result of a shoulder injury, however, Sunday stood as just his third missed game since signing in 2017. The franchise’s All-Decade selection had appeared in 82 out of a possible 84.
New England went forward with a defensive line depth chart featuring Davon Godchaux, Christian Barmore and Deatrich Wise Jr. as starters. They were backed by the likes of linebackers Ja’Whaun Bentley, Mack Wilson, Jahlani Tavai, Raekwon McMillan and downhill safeties.
But Green Bay’s backfield tandem of Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon averaged 8.2 yards per carry in the first quarter alone. They combined to total 183 rushing yards through 33 handoffs altogether while facing a heavy dose of base defense.
Testing the Green Bay run fits
Opponents had averaged 4.9 yards per rushing attempt against the Packers by the time the calendar turned to October.
It was up to the NFL’s top-ranked rushing offense in DVOA to test that rate.
Running back Damien Harris turned 18 carries into 86 yards on Sunday, cutting back for a touchdown in the fourth quarter that gave the Patriots a 24-17 lead. Alongside the starter, sophomore Rhamondre Stevenson handled 14 carries for 66 yards to go with four catches for 23 yards.
2011 fifth-round pick eligible for the New England line
Jan. 4, 2020 against the Tennessee Titans marked Marcus Cannon’s most recent game in a Patriots uniform. The veteran offensive tackle had appeared in 134 games, including postseason, during his initial tenure with the organization and started 80. The next arrived Sunday as a standard elevation from the practice squad.
Cannon served as the lone swingman behind starting bookends Trent Brown and Isaiah Wynn. The latter conceded two sacks to outside linebacker Rashan Gary and was flagged for a false start as well as holding.
Yet Cannon saw the field by the second drive when he reported as eligible on third-and-1 for an unbalanced offensive line. The jumbo looks were leaned upon. They continued after the three-time Super Bowl champion spelled Wynn at right tackle in the third quarter.
Down to four wide receivers and one tight end
The Patriots downgraded Jakobi Meyers from questionable due to a knee injury prior to flying to Green Bay. And without a receiver who has led the team in back-to-back seasons and has now missed back-to-back games, the depth chart went with four.
The aforementioned Parker started out wide along with Nelson Agholor and Lil’Jordan Humphrey. Kendrick Bourne had the football in his grasp by the second play of the opening drive. The target he subbed in for, Agholor, broke free on play-action pickups of 27 and 21 yards from there.
The attrition persisted. New England’s offense was down to one tight end as Jonnu Smith limped into the locker room with his right cleat off in the second quarter. Hunter Henry accounted for the rest of the workload.
Rookie returner tilts the field
New England’s return game was solely in the hands of Marcus Jones on Sunday.
The third-round cornerback shifted the field not unlike he did both at Troy and Houston, returning two punts for 49 yards and four kickoffs for 111 yards versus Green Bay.
Longs of 20, 29 and 37 were among them for the All-American and Paul Hornung Award winner, who ran back nine touchdowns on special teams during his collegiate career.