It’s not tennis. It’s not golf. It’s not darts, or bowling, or long-distance running. Football requires a full team.
Perhaps the most positive outcome of New England’s 31-17 besting of Green Bay came in the display of timely team contributions. The offense started with a more overwhelming pace than the opening of ¡Sabado Gigante! to put pressure on the visitors. When New England’s O seemed to falter, the defense provided a pick-me-up (literally, with a fumble recovery), leading to two unanswered touchdowns and a safer-by-the-minute lead.
Just a strong overall team win for New England, now at 7-2.
Aaron The Side Of Caution: A team win, but you wouldn’t know that possibility existed during the ramp-up to this showdown. Can’t we just like both Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks? Does there have to be a battle-for-our-very-souls-level argument whenever we mention Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady? Rodgers had a solid game, completing 24 of 43 (56 percent) for 259 yards and two touchdowns, offering up more scrambles than a breakfast diner, allowing receivers to get open in physics-defying ways (the time he gave himself to sling a TD pass to Davante Adams was, from a Patriots perspective, infuriating). In the end, New England’s pass rush got to Rodgers, killing a couple of late drives (there’s that team concept again).
Brady led his squad on a 10-play opening drive that had Green Bay’s defense looking as frazzled as racquetball team vs. the Williams sisters. The Patriots got off four plays in the first minute, including a 14-yard pass to James White along the left sideline that went to the Packer 35. Brady found Phillip Dorsett twice (wondering where he’d been) and White again before an 8-yard White run got the home team on the board with 11:44 left in the first quarter.
Though Brady had his less-than-productive moments in part due to a Packers defense that was willing to mix it up more than a toddler with a new paint kit (Note: semi-autobiographical), his best pass came in the fourth quarter, when he looked the defense toward a potential bubble screen, only to fire the ball downfield to Josh Gordon, who managed to dart toward the ball, run through the tackle, and gallop into the end zone 55 yards away.
If this really were a QB-on-QB matchup, you could say Brady had the better night, considering New England lacked starting running back Sony Michel and All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowsi, as well as starting right guard Shaq Mason. Our Tom completed 22 of 35 passes (63 percent) for 294 yards and one touchdown. In any case, it remains an impressive win for this group to build upon during the second half of the season.
License To Gilmore: Once again, cornerback Stephon Gilmore did great work, holding opponents to a mere two catches and allowing the rest of the defense to double and help out where necessary. Lined up vs. the at times spectacular Adams, Gilmore gave up two catches for 15 yards. It just makes such a difference if a defense can play the “you get that guy” scheme and focus on 10 other players. It’s like babysitting a big family with that one child who can go play in her room quietly for hours. A damn godsend, that kid.
I will not make a Malcolm Butler comparison here. But if you’d care to click on this link, I will not stop you.
Just Josh-ing: Don’t go apple picking with Gordon, because that guy will snap up everything within his condor-wing-span reach. Even a long incompletion along the sideline where he snapped up the pass in traffic and kinda-sorta-coulda gotten a toe inbounds qualified as a highlight. Five receptions for 130 yards and a touchdown. As difficult as it may have been to imagine him on the team weeks ago, it’s even tougher to think of this offense without him. Plus, that jacket!
Go Fourth And Prosper? I agreed with going for it on fourth down. However, even though low-to-the-ground runner Michel couldn’t play, and despite left guard Joe Thuney’s tendency to get pushed backwards like a blocking sled, I did not agree with passing. The play resulted in one of Gordon’s few stumbles of the night (again, literally) and he couldn’t turn and plant in time for a back-shoulder throw from Green Bay’s one-yard line on fourth down. That qualified as a Turning Point That Wasn’t, in part because of one Gigantor-sized turnover.
Aaannnd … segue!
What A Guy: Sweet play by defensive tackle Lawrence Guy to knock the football from the grasp of Packers running back Aaron Jones, ending a drive that looked more likely to wind up in the end zone than turf paint. Jones averaged 5.4 yards per carry (14 for 76) and had even gained a good chunk of yards before fumbling, but Guy’s hustle put an end to the scoring threat and turned the game around.
Getting Everything Down Patterson: Receiver/running back/athlete/kitchen sink Cordarelle Patterson ran like he’d just gained new powers on Pandora, shaking and slamming his way to 61 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown. His most important playing time came near the end of the first half. After a short rush by Kenjon Barner, a pass to Julian Edelman, and a rush by White where the back came up limping, New England began the Patterson show starting at their own 45. The back-of-all-trades slashed Green Bay’s defense for 25 yards up the middle. After a 15-yard Packers penalty, Patterson’s runs of 17, eight, and five yards got the Pats into the end zone. (You can watch the SNF broadcast of that drive here.)
Who needs Michel? (Note: this team does, but it’s still cool to watch how they use Patterson).
White Night: Once again, White had a remarkable night, catching six throws for 72 yards (out of seven targets) and rushing for two touchdowns . He seemed to keep the Packers’ defense off-balance, getting drives started with big chunks of yardage after the catch and also keeping them alive with first-down catches. Don’t tell me his ginger steps off the field didn’t elicit more deep inhales than break time at a Burning Man drum circle. Right now, White looks like an offensive co-MVP with Brady.
I enjoy the Sunday Night crew on NBC. Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth do good work. Sure, they sometimes get sucked into the pre-game narrative and let it shape their commentary a little too much throughout the broadcast, but they do seem genuinely excited about games like this. One strong example of Collinsworth’s analysis (with the replay to back it up) came on the aforementioned TD pass to Gordon. Collinsworth pointed out the defense, who went for the fake like an amped-up labrador playing fetch, giving the QB a clear path to his receiver downfield. Also, good job diagramming Green Bay’s defense when they went to a tight D-line formation to prevent Patterson’s runs up the middle.
No big problems with SNF, as usual. Have to think it’s the best football broadcast out there right now. Two quick criticisms:
• I would have loved to see another replay of Davante Adams’ punch on Gilmore from a different angle. Considering defender Jermaine Whitehead got kicked out of the game (and eventually let go by Green Bay) for a Scarlett O’Hara slap, Adams’ closed-fist swipe deserved another viewing.
• Quick note to NBC: when you indicate a flag being thrown, the right side of your score bug glows yellow. That’s a good visual that’s helpful to the viewer. However, when a play ends, you often show a swipe of yellow for no apparent reason (maybe this was a specific a Green Bay color reference?). That’s a bad visual for the viewer that’s angina-inducing. Just use yellow on penalties only, please.
They Call Me Melifonwu: Quite rightly. Some exciting moves by the Patriots this week (at least, exciting in that “new guys with potential” kind of way). They signed safety Obi Melifonwu, a UConn and Grafton High grad whom we mentioned in our “That Guy” draft column as a “Freakishly Athletic Guy” after his outlandish 2017 combine performance. He had the best jumps, skying 44 inches and broad-ing 11-foot-9. He also ran a 4.40-second 40 at 6-4, 224 pounds. Ludicrous.
Sure, Patriots fans might remember Melifonwu from last year’s game vs. the Raiders at Mexico City, when he got flambéed by Brandin Cooks. But, you know: better coaching, more positive surroundings, etc., etc.
Also joining the roster? Linebacker Albert McClellan (6-2, 235), a longtime Baltimore Raven special teams player who missed last season with a knee injury. Linebacker depth! Let’s do this!
Netflix Note Of The Week: Hey, you like your movies to start with 20 minutes of back story? Do you enjoy it when multiple characters get introduced one after the other so you can’t tell who the protagonist is? How about a beautiful, heavily-accented Interpol agent who doesn’t really do much? And do you like your Nicolas Cage extra Cage-y? Boy, have I got a movie for you!
The film 211 (the code for a bank robbery, this movie leads me to believe) is a small-town heist picture hidden within a convoluted mess, but it does involve Nic Cage, plenty of shootouts, and a mix of acting ranges. Plus, it wraps up in a tidy 87 minutes. We’re all winners!
You’re My Boy, E: I’d like to put a pause on Pats talk for a sec, sort of. In the past 16-plus years, whenever a Boston team won a championship, I’d call my buddy Eric. Every time, he’d forego a regular hello and get right to the joy.
The Pats in New Orleans. The Sox in St. Louis. The Celtics in Boston. The Bruins in Vancouver (a big deal for E, one of the staunchest B’s fans I know). I’ve lost track of how many other times I called over this amazing run, giddy with anticipation at hearing those words.
Over the past several months, I had known Eric was sick. I knew his latest treatment hadn’t provided the wanted results. But, up until a little over a week ago, he was still working. Living near Chicago, he’d taken his family to the Pats/Bears game two weeks prior. When the time came, despite our knowledge of his condition, it all happened quickly, somehow.
Some of Eric’s last texts showed his displeasure with a certain local curly-haired reporter’s slipperiness in tone, how the scribe had wavered from doomed after Game Three to champ-destined after Game Four. The day after the series, I sent info about the MLB Network broadcasting the duck boat parade Tuesday. He replied with what would end up as his final text to me.
This column and every one after it goes out to my friend Eric and his family. I discover more and more each day how much I miss him, how I want his opinion on Sunday’s results, next week’s chances, other Boston teams, upcoming movies, Weezer’s take on “Africa,” everything. Godspeed, E., and go Pats.
Chris Warner believes that every time you see Aaron Judge on camera you should talk like Pete Puma, because Eric would have wanted it that way. Chris is on Twitter @cwarn89.