PLAYS OF THE GAME
By converting a fourth-and-3 and a third-and-7, the Patriots appeared to be driving toward the go-ahead touchdown. On second-and-9 from the Packers’ 20, New England went to an empty offensive set against Green Bay’s base 3-4 defense. Flanked out wide to the left was Rob Gronkowski, the fifth-year tight end who had reached 50 career touchdown receptions faster than all but one player in NFL history. He was matched against HaHa Clinton-Dix, the Packers’ first-round safety. Gronkowski had 5 inches and 57 pounds on Clinton-Dix. Clinton-Dix is having a fine rookie season but this looked like an inviting mismatch for Tom Brady.
Clinton-Dix jammed Gronkowski but Gronkowski got a step ahead of him. There was no doubt where the ball was going, with Brady looking at Gronkowski the entire play. Gronkowski almost made a diving catch but, as he landed on his right shoulder and rolled onto his back, Clinton-Dix was able to knock the ball loose.
“I’m the rookie. I’m the youngest one to attack so I knew they were going to try to challenge me and I was up for it,” Clinton-Dix said. “Teammates believed in me, coaches believed in me and I pulled it off.”
That set up third-and-9. The Packers had good pressure on Brady throughout the game but hadn’t sacked him. Until now. Outside linebacker Mike Neal exploded around standout left tackle Nate Solder and got his right arm on the back of Brady’s jersey. That held up Brady just long enough for defensive tackle Mike Daniels to toss aside left guard Dan Connolly. The two combined for a sandwich sack of Brady. One missed field goal by the Patriots and one first down by Green Bay’s offense put the game on ice.
“You had the No. 1 offense in the NFL coming into our house, under the lights, with a very, very dangerous lineup of men, with a coach who’s going to make sure they get after it every single play,” Daniels said. “So, to get a victory against a team that is so well-disciplined, so well-coached, with as many weapons as they have, that’s huge. That’s huge. You’ve got to look at yourself and say, ‘Man, we did a heck of a job. Let’s make sure it’s more definitive next time.’”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Cobb caught seven passes for 85 yards. He caught four passes for 55 yards on a second-quarter possession in which he lined up repeatedly in the backfield. On the first, he ran a wheel route against linebacker Rob Ninkovich for a gain of 33. He used his quickness to beat cornerback Kyle Arrington for 8 yards to convert a third-and-2. On third-and-12, he used his strength to power for 6 additional yards against Arrington and linebacker Jamie Collins to pick up another first down by less than an inch.
Finally, on the clinching drive, he somehow caught a pass between Arrington and standout safety Devin McCourty for a 7-yard gain on third-and-4.
“We’d had some success with our package with basically a tight end and four wide receivers, with Randall kind of moving around,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “You hit him on various routes, out of the backfield and also with motion. We had a call which we liked to the three-receiver side, we had (tight end Andrew Quarless) on a route that he had already caught a first down on, and Randall kind of the option to make a move on his defender. I looked to Randall right away; there was just some gray area there, I moved to the left and kind of just stuck with Randall and felt good about the throw and he made a nice catch.”
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL
Well, there’s no doubt about it now. There’s no longer an asterisk on the Packers’ record because they hadn’t beaten a good team with a good quarterback all season. After beating Brady and the Patriots – a team that had destroyed first-place teams in each of their past three games -- this is an elite team and a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
The only question is whether the Packers can be the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs. Arizona, Green Bay and Philadelphia are 9-3. If the season were to be over today, the Cardinals would be the top seed because of their superior conference record, with the Packers the No. 2 because of their head-to-head win over the Eagles. With a 6-0 record at Lambeau Field, with Rodgers looking like he’s going to win his second MVP award and with an improving defense that held the No. 1-ranked scoring offense to three scores, this looks like an awfully dangerous team.
NUMBERS WORTH NOTING
0: Seconds in which the Packers have trailed in the last four games. In fact, Green Bay has led in 209 minutes, 50 seconds of a possible 240 minutes during those games.
0: Points allowed by the Packers in the first quarter of their last five home games, with Green Bay leading 13-0 on Sunday.
0: Touchdowns in four red-zone possessions by Green Bay. The Packers entered the game with the ninth-ranked touchdown rate of 63.4 percent.
0: Giveaways by the Packers. They are 36-5-1 under coach Mike McCarthy when going turnover-free, including 6-0 this season.
0: Giveaways by the Patriots. They were 6-0 this season when going turnover-free. The Packers, on the other hand, were 3-15 when not forcing turnover under McCarthy. This was Green Bay’s first game with no takeaways this season.
4.00: Rodgers’ career touchdown-to-interception ratio (220 touchdowns vs. 55 interceptions) is the best in NFL history. Tom Brady is second at 2.76-to-1.
8: Giveaways by the Packers this season, fewest in the league.
10.67: Rodgers’ touchdown-to-interception ratio this season, with 32 touchdowns vs. three interceptions. That would be fourth-best in NFL history behind Nick Foles’ 13.50 last season for Philadelphia, Josh McCown’s 13.00 last season for Chicago and Damon Huard’s 11.00 for Kansas City in 2006. Among quarterbacks with at least Rodgers’ 380 attempts, Brady’s 36 touchdowns and four interceptions (9.00) in 2010 is tops in NFL history.
14: Consecutive victories over NFC North teams by the Patriots, dating to a 2002 home loss to the Packers, until Sunday.
31: Touchdown passes since Rodgers’ last interception at home. His two touchdown passes on Sunday extended his NFL record.
32: Consecutive games with a sack by Green Bay’s defense, a streak preserved on its final snap of the game – a key sack of Brady by Mike Daniels and Mike Neal that killed the Patriots’ final drive.
36:35: Green Bay’s time of possession. The Packers have won the time-of-possession battle the past three weeks after losing it in each of the first five games.
79: Points scored by the Packers in the first quarter of their last five home games.
145: Yards after the catch by the Packers out of Rodgers’ 368 passing yards.
360: Consecutive passes at home without an interception for Rodgers. He extended his NFL record with 38 interception-free attempts on Sunday. His last interception at Lambeau Field came on Dec. 2, 2012, against Minnesota.
478: Total yards by the Packers, the most allowed by the Patriots this season. The Patriots had allowed only two games of more than 384 yards all season.
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