ReFo: Patriots @ Packers, Week 13
One of the most anticipated games of the season did not disappoint as the Green Bay Packers held off a late charge by the New England Patriots to win 26-21. Both teams have run a similar course this season, overcoming disappointing starts to emerge, perhaps, as Super Bowl favorites in their respective conferences.
Green Bay got out to their typical fast start, scoring the first 13 points before the Patriots chipped away to make it 16-14 just before halftime. However, the Packers responded with one of the game’s biggest plays as wide receiver Jordy Nelson ran away from Darrelle Revis and Devin McCourty on a slant route for a 45-yard touchdown to put the Packers ahead 23-14 at the half.
They held off one last Patriots attempt late in the fourth quarter as a third-down sack by Mike Daniels and Mike Neal forced a field goal attempt by Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski that missed wide and left the Packers one first down away from victory. As was the case throughout much of the game, QB Aaron Rodgers came through with the big play, a 7-yard completion that sealed the game in a great back-and-forth battle that should set the tone for a fun stretch run in the NFL.
Here’s a look at the key players from the game.
New England Patriots – Performances of Note
Dan Connolly, LG: -6.1
Breakdown: While he had some strong blocks in the running game early on, Connolly had a tough time blocking Packers defensive end Mike Daniels who got the best of him for a sack, hit, and two hurries on the day. Connolly surrendered five “official” pressures on 38 pass attempts.
Signature Plays: Q4 14:25: Connolly is knocked about five yards into the backfield by DT Letroy Guion but RB LaGarrette Blount managed to avoid the mess to gain 13 yards. At Q4 3:25, Connolly and LT Nate Solder surrendered the sack that thwarted New England’s comeback attempt.
Rob Ninkovich, OLB: -4.8
Breakdown: This is a great example where role needs to be taken into context with the grading. Ninkovich, essentially a defensive end by trade, was asked to do a lot on Sunday, and that’s not even including his emergency long-snapping duty. He got caught in coverage on two wheel routes that combined to go for 61 yards and when asked to spy Rodgers, he was beaten to the corner on a scramble for a first down. Perhaps it’s unfair to put Ninkovich in such positions, but Rodgers deserves credit for taking advantage of the favorable matchups.
Signature Plays: Despite a solid +0.5 grade against the run, Ninkovich was caught way out of position on a 14-yard run by RB Eddie Lacy at the 7:18 mark of the third quarter. Beyond that, the two wheel routes stick out, though it should be noted that Rodgers was perfectly on point with both throws.
Jamie Collins, ILB: +2.4
Breakdown: It was another solid all-around effort for Collins who continues to emerge as one of the league’s better linebackers. He graded positively in all three phases of the game while finishing with a team-high eight stops.
Signature Plays: Q3 3:52: Collins bullrushes Lacy into Rodgers who sidesteps the pressure, but Collins recovers to take down a scrambling Rodgers for the sack. Q1 1:53: Collins makes a nifty move to avoid center Corey Linsley’s pull block to stop RB James Starks for a 2-yard gain.
Green Bay Packers – Performances of Note
Aaron Rodgers, QB: +5.0
Breakdown: Another classic game from Rodgers as he made a number of “wow” throws throughout the afternoon. His back-to-back throws late in the first quarter summed it up as he hit WR Davante Adams in stride on an out-and-up for 45 yards then came back the next play with a perfect deep crossing route to TE Richard Rodgers for a 32-yard score. Throw in the two perfectly-thrown wheel routes and some key third down passes – including a drop by Adams that likely would have been a game-sealing touchdown at the 8:49 mark of the fourth quarter – and Rodgers showed why he’s the league’s best quarterback.
Signature Stat: Rodgers was 5-for-8 for 171 yards and a touchdown on passes thrown at least 20 yards in the air.
Mike Daniels, DE: +3.8
Breakdown: As mentioned, Daniels gave Connolly all he could handle on his way to a sack, two hits, and a hurry on his 34 pass rushes. His +4.2 pass rush grade was his highest of the season and he supplemented it with a solid effort in the running game at +0.4.
Signature Play: Q4 3:25: While Neal was the first to get into the backfield on the drive-ending sack, Daniels did make quick work of Connolly to get in on the action. Q3 15:00: Daniels’ quick pressure not only got to the quarterback, but also forced a holding call on Connolly.
Tramon Williams, CB: +1.6
Breakdown: Here’s a great example of coverage stats and grades meshing to give a picture of a player’s performances. Williams surrendered catches on all nine of his targets, but the passes only totaled 40 yards and only two of the catches went for first downs (Brandon LaFell’s touchdown included).
Williams did a great job of limiting yards after the catch, surrendering only 12 on the nine catches, while five of his surrendered catches were stops. It was an underrated part of the Packers’ defensive effort as Williams took away a factor that normally fuels the Patriots’ offense.
Signature Plays: On back-to-back first quarter plays starting at the 3:23 mark, Williams closed quickly on a Rob Gronkowksi in-route to hold it to 5 yards then came back to hold a Julian Edelman crossing route to 4 yards on 3rrd-and-5 to force a punt. It was a similar effort with 2:21 to go in the third quarter as Williams broke quickly on a LaFell in-route was limited to 4 yards with nothing after the catch.
PFF Game Ball
It should come as no surprise, Aaron Rodgers was the best player on the field and deserving of this week’s game ball.
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