Green Bay Packers Hold off New England Patriots in Key AFC-NFC Showdown
Sunday's contest between Green Bay and New England lived up to the hype.
The Packers came out on top, beating the Patriots, 26-21. If this game was foreshadowing to a rematch in Phoenix, in February, fans probably wouldn't be disappointed, either.
Green Bay held a 13-0 lead after the first quarter. Mason Crosby kicked two field goals, and Aaron Rodgers hooked up with Richard Rodgers for a 32-yard touchdown pass.
New England got on the scoreboard with 12:59 in the second quarter. Brandon Bolden ran it six-yards for a touchdown run. Next, the Packers had the ball for about seven minutes, but settled for another Crosby field goal. Then the Patriots bounced back, and Tom Brady threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Brandon LaFell to cut the lead to 16-14 with 1:09 in the half. Green Bay got the ball back and wanted more points. And the Packers got them. Rodgers led the Packers on a 55 second drive and threw a pass to Nelson, who ran past Darrelle Revis and exploited the Patriots defense with his speed. Rodgers' touchdown pass to Nelson went 45 yards and left 14 seconds on the clock before halftime. The Packers led 23-14 at halftime.
In that second quarter, the Packers and head coach Mike McCarthy started to figure out the Patriots.
Rodgers and rookie wideout Davante Adams found a mismatch at receiver in the opening quarter. Adams was beating Logan Ryan. But In the second quarter, McCarthy started to play Randall Cobb out the backfield and it worked. Plus, Revis switched to Jordy Nelson and Rodgers was finding Cobb open.
Neither Green Bay or New England scored in the third quarter. With 13:51 in the fourth quarter, Brady found LaFell again, this time for 15-yards and a touchdown. Green Bay's lead was cut to 23-21. Crosby expanded the lead back to 26-21 with 8:41 remaining after Adams dropped a sure touchdown in the red zone for the Packers. Brady and Patriots got the ball back and had a chance to win the game. New England drove the ball down field into Packers territory. Brady passed to Rob Gronkowski in the end zone, but Gronkowski couldn't hold on to the ball and Ha-Ha Clinton Dix played solid defense on the play. Then Brady got sacked by Mike Neal, and the Patriots had to settle for a field goal. But wait. Stephen Gostkowski missed the field goal. The game was in the hands of Rodgers and the Packers. Lacy ran twice, but Green Bay had to convert a third down or was going to give Brady one last shot. Rodgers stood in the pocket and he found Cobb for a first down. The Packers took a knee on the next play and Green Bay escaped with a victory.
Rodgers was 24 of 38 for 368 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Now, Rodgers hasn't thrown an interception at home since December 2, 2012. (That's a full two years to tomorrow).
Brady was 22 of 35 for 245 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
The key stat line for both quarterbacks: Rodgers and Brady had no interceptions. In fact, there wasn't a turnover by either team.
In the run game, Eddie Lacy ran 21 times for 98 yards. On the other side, the Packers run defense was superb, holding New England to 84 yards. The Patriots used all three running back, but didn't have the success they have had in past weeks. LeGarrette Blount ran for 58 yards, while Bolden ran for 17 yards, Shane Vereen ran for six yards and Jonas Gray ran for four yards.
Sunday's game was evenly matched. The Packers play great at Lambeau Field. Rodgers and Brady were spectacular. The defenses were stingy. McCarthy and Bill Belichick called great games. But the Packers beat the Patriots. And it could have gone either way. Perhaps there is a rematch down the road in the postseason.
Green Bay hosts Atlanta on Monday Night Football next week. New England plays at San Diego.
Sam Tastad will have pre-and-post game report for the Packers all season long. Follow him on Twitter @samtastad and email him at email@example.com.