Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Lambeau Field. It had all the makings of an instant classic yesterday afternoon for the Green Bay Packers.
For once, it was a game that lived up to the hype. The Packers beat the Patriots 26-21 that saw Rodgers and Brady trade touchdown passes before a crucial late fourth quarter sack of Brady and a missed field goal ended the game.
The Packers never trailed in the game but thanks to having Brady on the opposing sideline, no lead felt safe. Green Bay uncharacteristically struggled in the red zone, going 0-4 and settling for four Mason Crosby field goals. Normally that wouldn’t be enough against New England but thankfully the Packers defense was finally up to the task against an elite quarterback.
Here is what went right and what did not for the Packers during their win over the Patriots in another edition of Game Balls and Lame Calls.
QB Aaron Rodgers
After the slightest of jitters early in the game, Rodgers calmed down and went blow for blow with Brady and eventually came out on top.
Rodgers finished the day 24/38 for 368 yards and two touchdowns. He took what he could get against a Belichick defense and once of the league’s best secondaries.
Rodgers also firmly seized the lead in the MVP race and left Belichick gushing about his play after the game.
That’s hard to do. Just another day at the office for Mr. Rodgers.
WR Davante Adams
I’m not going to hold his late drop of what likely was the game-sealing touchdown. The rookie from Fresno State had a career day yesterday.
With Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner zeroing in on Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, Adams became Rodgers’ go to guy as he finished with six catches for 121 yards. With Nelson and Cobb blanketed almost the whole game (Nelson’s touchdown being the exception), it was Adams’ time to shine and he met the moment brilliantly.
He will be sick over the dropped touchdown, but he earned even more trust from Rodgers in this game. He will get plenty of other chances.
Head coach Mike McCarthy
You have to give McCarthy credit. He was up against the ultimate strategist head coach and crafted a brilliant game plan that beat him.
The Packers’ coach is given nowhere near the amount of credit he is due, from both the national media and many Packers fans. He should get plenty from both parties after this game.
McCarthy had the team ready to play and now with wins over the Eagles and Patriots, the whole “the Packers haven’t beaten anybody” argument can finally die.
LB Sam Barrington
The move of Clay Matthews to inside on some plays might have signaled the beginning of the end for A.J. Hawk, but the emergence of Barrington is even more indicative.
The former seventh round draft pick came to play against the Patriots and their vaunted rushing attack. He was instantly on the ball carried and immediately wrapped them up. His speed and fundamentally sound tackling are things Green Bay has been lacking at inside linebacker since the departure of Desmond Bishop.
The position is still one of need for the Packers but they might have one to build around in Barrington.
CB Tramon Williams
Williams got abused by Brady all game. He was constantly out of place and was also unable to make the tackles he needed to make.
He’s been a much better player this season, but in a game of this magnitude Williams has to be the best cornerback on the field like he was in 2010 alongside Charles Woodson and he wasn’t .
This game was hyped all week and (with the exception of the Wisconsin market) CBS failed to get to Packers/Patriots until there was just over 12 minutes to go in the first quarter. Many non-Wisconsin based Packers fans saw their team in the red zone but had no idea how they got there.
You need to pay the bills CBS. I get that, but don’t do it by screwing over the viewer experience
Ed Hochuli and the officiating crew
This was a strangely called game and it affected both sides.
Adams got away with a major push off on one of his catches but the Patriots got a very late call before that after Julian Edelman begged for a flag and he finally got one….about seven seconds later.
The Patriots also were initially flagged for 12 men on the field before Belichick reminded them how to count.
It was just an embarrassing game overall for the officials.
LB AJ Hawk
As mentioned earlier, the beginning of the end seems to be at hand for Hawk.
He didn’t even start the game with Barrington and Matthews lined up at inside linebacker on the Patriots’ first drive. When he was on the field, he was invisible.
Hawk may be good at calling the plays in the huddle, but he’s not the answer for the Packers at inside linebacker. With Barrington flashing potential, it might be time for the Packers to move on after this season or at least relegate Hawk to the bench.——————
Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke