Sunday night’s matchup between the New England Patriots and the Green Bay Packers was, to put it mildly, highly-anticipated. It was deemed the ‘Battle of the GOATs’ (or Greatest of All Time, for those who may need help with the acronym.) If only to enhance the drama, the NBA’s (undisputed) GOAT, Michael Jordan, even narrated a pregame hype-video proclaiming that only one could ultimately be called the ‘greatest.’
The stage was set.
It was New England’s Tom Brady versus Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers.
One would stand…One would fall.
However, when the dust had settled from this early November showdown in Foxboro, Massachusetts, it would be the hometown team’s total effort that would capture the national spotlight.
Playing in primetime for the second straight week, Brady threw for 294 yards and one touchdown, as running back James White ran for two of his own. It would prove to be more than enough to lead the Patriots to a 31-17 victory over the Packers on Sunday night.
With tight end Rob Gronkowski out with a back and ankle injury, as well as leading rusher Sony Michel out for the second straight week with a knee sprain, the Patriots had their work cut out for them. Yet, as history has shown time and time again, the Pats are not shy about getting creative.
Once again, wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson helped to carry the load in the backfield. The speedy makeshift running back rushed 11 times for 61 yards and touchdown . He worked in tandem with White to keep the Packers defense guessing, and the strategy was essentially successful. As a result, White had greater success in finding space to turn short completions into first downs.
The creativity continued in the Patriots passing game, as well. New England receiver Julian Edelman hit White on a 37-yard flea-flicker—turned catch-and-run—to set up his eventual one-yard touchdown run. On the Patriots next possession, Brady connected with Josh Gordon for a 55-yard TD. Gordon, who turned in yet another stellar performance, caught four passes for 115 yards. It was the 12th 100-yard receiving game of his career.
Pats Defense gets a GOAT of its own
As for Rodgers, he put in a serviceable effort, completing 24 of 43 passes and two touchdowns. However, the Patriots defense applied consistent pressure on him for most of the night.
Latest From FPC on SportsCastr
Rodgers was largely on-target in the first half. He was typically elusive in the pocket and extended plays with his feet, showing little-to-no rust from a leg injury through which he has been playing since Week 1. In doing what he does best, Rodgers and the Packers kept the Patriots’ secondary off balance long enough to create space downfield for some big gains.
In an attempt to shift the momentum decisively in Green Bay’s favor, Rodgers completed a 51-yard pass to Marquez Valdes-Scantling in the third quarter. This gain eventually helped set up a 15-yard TD pass to Jimmy Graham that tied the game at 17.
However, the much-maligned Patriots defense made a poignant statement under the bright lights of the national stage. They were able to collapse Rodgers’ pocket by hitting him six times and sacking him once.
Perhaps their biggest moment came early in the fourth quarter when Lawrence Guy stripped Green Bay running back Aaron Jones. The fumble was recovered by Stephon Gilmore on the Patriots’ 24.
The Patriots quickly capitalized, using four straight completions by Brady and the aforementioned 37-yard pass from Edelman to get to the Packers’ 2-yard line. White eventually scored to put the Patriots back in front 24-17.
The Patriots’ defense once again shined by tightening even more on Green Bay’s next drive. The tight coverage and pressure culminated on third down when Adrian Clayborn and Trey Flowers dropped Rodgers for a 9-yard sack, this forcing a costly punt.
On the ensuing drive, Brady found Gordon over the middle for the 55-yard touchdown to push the lead to eventual final score of 31-17.
The Patriots secured their sixth straight victory and improve to 7-2 on the season.
A World-Class Visitor
The Patriots honored the World Series Champions, the Boston Red Sox, with a pregame, on-field appearance. Team owner John Henry, manager Alex Cora and several players including World Series MVP Steve Pearce, J.D. Martinez and Brock Holt stood atop a Boston Duck Boat hoisting their championship trophy, as they were driven onto the field before kickoff.
The Patriots travel to Tennessee for a showdown with the Titans at 1pm on Sunday, November 11, 2018.
-Mike D’Abate is a Managing Editor and National Columnist for Full Press Coverage Sports Media. He covers the New England Patriots and the NFL. Follow him on Twitter @mdabateFPC