Offense Sees Red Early; Defense turns Brady's Face Red LatePosted:Dec 1st, 2014 3:00 am
As unstoppable as the Packers offense was in the first half, it was the defense in the second half that led the Pack to its biggest win of the season.
Tell the truth, you were bemoaning all the field goals, just like I was, right? I mean four visits to the red zone turned into a grand total of nine points and you figured, 'that's not going to get it done against Brady, Gronk and company.' If you would have told me the Patriots would be 3-3 in the red zone and the Pack 0-4, I would have told you 'there goes the Lambeau winning streak.' But the two long scoring strikes (to Nelson and Rodgers) helped ease that burden.
But the defense was up to the challenge, holding the Patriots to its lowest scoring output since week four. There were moments there in the second half when their running game found its legs, and it appeared the Patriots would take advantage of the Pack's missteps in the red zone and take a lead late in the fourth quarter.
But the Pack's pass rush won the day: when Mike Daniels and Mike Neal sandwiched Brady on a third down play for a big sack with three and a half minutes to play, it forced them to settle for a field goal try (which they missed) and allowed the Pack to run out the clock and escape with a five point victory. It was the Pack's only sack of the day, but they saved it for the perfect time.
It was the kind of game you expected from these heavyweights. There were no turnovers and penalties were not a factor: each team was flagged four times for less than 30 yards. The Packers won the battle of third down conversions, 10 of 17 vs. 4 of 10 and that was really the difference in the game. The Pack was able to extend drives and put points on the board, scoring the first five times they had the ball.
The lack of success in the red zone was frustrating, but a calling card of the Patriots defense is its toughness when teams are knocking on the door. If Davante Adams hangs on to that gimme near the goal line in the fourth quarter, the Pack would have coasted to a nine point win. It was the rookie's only misstep in a career day. With Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb drawing the attention of Darrelle Ravis And Brandon Bronwer, Adams had a favorable matchup most of the day and took advantage of it, to the tune of six catches for 121 yards.
The play of the game clearly was the 45 yard touchdown pass and run to Nelson in the closing seconds of the first half. After a frustrating half that saw the team settle for three field goals, it looked like it was going to be a two point game at halftime. But on third and two Nelson finally got inside position on Revis and Rodgers made him pay. The touchdown gave Green Bay all the momentum heading into the locker room. It was vital, because the Pats would be getting the ball to open the second half.
The second biggest play of the game might have been the sack on Brady, but if it was, the third biggest play was Rodgers' last completion of the day. Third and four from their own 43 with two minutes and change left in the game. New England was out of timeouts, so a first down would end the game. Passing was the right move there: when you have Rodgers at quarterback you let him make a play to end the game. Teams with lesser QBs would run the ball, let the clock tick down to two minutes, then punt and hope your defense can hold them. The dart to Cobb in traffic was the dagger and caused Tom Brady on the sidelines to scream for some fudge.
Watching Rodgers direct the offense in the first half was a thing of beauty. 347 total yards in the first 30 minutes, leaning on Eddie Lacy early and then spreading the ball around and keeping the secondary off balance. Kudos to the offensive line for once again doing a terrific job in pass protection. Rodgers had all day to throw most of the day. His three sacks were coverage sacks, a product of the Pats' secondary doing its job well.
At the three quarter pole, the Packers have everything in front of them. Their final two road tests will be sandwiched around a Monday night home game against Atlanta next week and the season finale against Detroit. The Pack will be favored in all four games and if they keep winning, the NFC playoffs will go through Lambeau. What more could we ask for? They faced the best the NFL has to offer and handled them.
In fact you might even say they looked Super.