The Green Bay Packers managed to outlast the New England Patriots, 27-24, in an overtime game that ended on a 31-yard Mason Crosby field goal with just four seconds left on the clock.
Many expected the heavily favored Packers to roll over a Patriots team without starting quarterback Mac Jones and arguably their best wide receiver in Jakobi Meyers. After Patriots backup Brian Hoyer was knocked out of the game with a concussion, any hope New England had should have gone out the window.
The Packers’ offense came to life in the second half, scoring 17 points on their first three drives. The final touchdown to Romeo Doubs tied it up at 24. Doubs dropped another pass in the end zone that would have given them the go-ahead score, and the game went into OT. Both teams traded punts, but the Packers’ offense controlled the clock on their second drive and set up the game-winning kick.
Here are five numbers that tell the story of the Packers’ win over the Patriots.
Patriots running backs Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson ran all over the Packers’ defense, finishing with 152 yards on 32 combined carries. And it was obvious that the Patriots’ offense would rely on the run game with backups under center.
Yet the Packers’ defense couldn’t bring down the running backs with any ease; 105 of the 152 yards came after contact.
With Bailey Zappe in at quarterback, the Packers’ defense sold out to stop the run. Despite this, the running backs still moved the ball downfield. Though the Packers’ defense is still among the best in the NFL, they must be able to make a short-handed Patriots team one-dimensional early in a game like this by taking away the run.
Elgton Jenkins had a rough day, allowing three pressures against the Patriots’ defense. Since returning from a torn ACL, Jenkins hasn’t performed at his customary level. He struggled in both games he’s played this season, posting just a 63.1 blocking grade on PFF.
It was to be expected that it would take some time for Jenkins to get back to form, but nobody expected this level of decline. Last season, Rodgers’ MVP campaign was fueled by having a clean pocket and his ability to work through his progressions and make the correct play. If the Packers want to replicate the regular-season successes of the past, they need to keep Rodgers upright, which means Jenkins has to be better.
The Patriots’ running backs weren’t the only ones chewing up yardage on the ground. Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon combined for 183 yards. With Rodgers starting slowly against this strong New England secondary, the Packers leaned on their running game to ease some of the pressure and control the clock.
Jones was at his best, totaling 110 yards on 16 carries. He yet again proved why he continues to be the Packers’ most valuable player on offense not wearing No. 12. When he and Dillon are on the field at the same time, opposing defenses often get confused trying to pay enough attention to both.
Dillon also played well, tallying 73 yards on 17 carries. Though he wasn’t as explosive as his counterpart, his value might be understated. He made some key plays in the overtime drive that helped control the clock. Both Dillon and Jones proved their value to an offense that still looks shaky with the adjustment of new wideouts.
Rashan Gary had yet another incredible game, recording two sacks. Gary moved up to second in the NFL in total sacks with five on the season, but his impact isn’t just limited to his sack stats. His first sack led to Hoyer’s exit, and his second caused Zappe to fumble the ball. Gary even recovered it. The Patriots were at the Packers’ 22-yard line when this happened, and this play likely saved the Packers at least three points.
The Packers made the right move this offseason in letting Za’Darius Smith go and letting Gary take his spot as a starter. Gary has been one of the best, if not the best edge rusher this season. If he continues at this rate, the Defensive Player of the Year award might be within sight.
Rodgers had his fastest time to throw this season, releasing the ball in an average of 2.26 seconds. The Packers’ offensive line allowed seven pressures on the day, and Rodgers was often forced to get rid of the ball much quicker than he wanted to.
Though we often think of Rodgers moving out of the pocket and making highlight throws under duress, during both of his MVP seasons, he was at his best when the offensive line kept him clean and he could work through his progressions. If the Packers cannot keep the pressure off Rodgers, they will continue to struggle in the passing game and have a hard time pushing the ball downfield.