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UPDATE 3:50pm: GAME PATRIOTS
VINNY Sighting. After the Patriots' last score, Matt Cassel was handed the reigns a to run the clock out. Cassel handed the ball off on two of his three plays; he was sacked on the third. The Patriots were forced to punt.
The Packers continued their offensive ineptitude by fumbling the ball back to the Patriots. Mike Vrabel put the hit /sack on Rodgers, and DL Mike Wright recovered for New England. After a couple of plays by Cassel, Vinny came in to run the clock out from the 2-minute warning on.
GAME: Patrios 35 - Packers 0
UPDATE 3:30pm: TOUCHDOWN PATRIOTS
Three plays after a great return by Kevin Faulk, the Patriots score again.
Faulk fielded a punt at the NE 41 and returned it 36 yards to the Packers 21. Faulk made a quick move to evade the coverage and then took off upfield getting a few key blocks to get to the crease.
Two plays later, Brady found Laurence Maroney in the left flat. Maroney put a move on the linebacker to freeze him and scoot 19 yards around the left end for the score. It was Brady's 4th TD of the game, tying a career high.
Score: Patriots 35 - Packers 0
UPDATE 3:15pm: TOUCHDOWN PATRIOTS
It didn't take long into the third quarter before Tom Brady pulled the trigger again. After a failed 4th-and-5 on the Patriots 40 by the Packers, the Patriots took over.
6 plays and 60 yards later, the Patriots went up by four touchdowns.
Key plays: 21-yard strike to Chad Jackson on the first play to put the ball into Packer territory. Brady's perfectly thrown ball to Ben Watson in the corner of the end zone was the second key. If Brady's shoulder is hurting, it's hard to think he'd be able to show that kind of accuracy.
Score: Patriots 28 - Packers 0
Notes: the Patriots are putting pressure on Aaron Rodgers continuously.
UPDATE 2:50pm: At the HALF
Tom Brady 13/18 for 158 and 2 TDs
Laurence Maroney 9 car. 30 yards
Corey Dillon 5 car. 15 yards, 1 TD
Reche Caldwell 2 rec. 63 yards 1TD
Ben Watson 2 rec. 40 yards
Brett Favre 5/15 for 73 and 0 TDs
Aaron Rogers 0/2
Ahman Green 6 car. 5 yards
Donald Driver 1 rec. 38 yards
Greg Jennings 1 rec. 26 yards
Notes: Troy Brown is playing at corner in obvious passing situations. He was flagged for a hold on one play, but it was declined after his man Donald Driver made a big catch and run.
S James Sanders is the starting safety. Chad Scott is playing corner. The injuries to the Patriots secondary continue to force unusual Patriots' alignments and personnel groupings.
The Packers have less than 10 yards on the ground and have found no room to run the ball. They were ranked as the 7th best offense overall (6th pass, 16th run) vs a New England defense ranked 9th overall (23rd pass, 3rd run)
FIRST HALF NOTES:
Patriots: they have managed to handle everything the Packers try to do. The Packers' blitzes have not reached Brady, and the veteran signal caller has been able to spread the ball to 7 difference receivers from dump offs to long passes.
New England has been able to run the ball fairly well, at least well enough to make the Packers pay attention to the run and the play-action pass.
Packers: Their offense has let them down. The inability to get the ball downfield against a weakened secondary has really hampered their efforts to win the game. The Packers' inability to score when given opportunity has been the story of the game.
Packers special teams haven't taken advantage of a Patriots unit that has given up big plays on a regular basis against nearly every opponent the Patriots have played.
Keys To the Seond Half:
Patriots: Just grind out the ball. If New England can continue to use the run to setup the pass, the game will continue to reflect the dominating performance they showed in the first half.
Get pressure on Aaron Rodgers. With Rodgers likely subbing for Favre for the rest of the game, the Patios can be expected to bring the heat.
Packers: Get anything going on offense - The Patriots have a weakened secondary, and not to take advantage of that would be a travesty. Short passes setup the run, but the Packers haven't been able to get much going yet. They need to get the ground game established to setup the play-action, but a score is imperative to prevent the game from getting away.
UPDATE 2:45pm: FAVRE OUT
Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre was knocked out of the game. The Patriots were able to get pressure on Favre with a blitz. Tully Banta-Cain grabbed Favre's ankles to wrap him up as Tedy Bruschi came in to seal the sack. Favre's elbow took a hit in what appeard to be Banta-Cain's helmet.
Favre has been carted off to the locker room, and his return is listed as questionable.
UPDATE 2:30pm: TOUCHDOWN PATRIOTS
Again. The Patriots find a hole in the Packers' defense and it's a big one. Apparently the Packers forgot to cover Reche Caldwell on a deep ball.
Green Bay has been unable to get anything going on offense. Players have been open, but the passes have been off target. The Patriots defense has done a decent job of getting to Favre.
Key Plays: Defensive holding negating a sack by the Packer's defense on first down of the drive. The one key was the 54-yard pass to Caldwell over the deep middle.
Score: Patriots 21 - Packers 0
UPDATE 2:05pm: TOUCHDOWN PATRIOTS
12 plays 66 yards later, the Patriots score again. The New England offense, while having problems of the past, seems to have found a cure for their ills, and it's called the Green Bay Packers.
With more than adequate time to throw the ball around, Tom Brady has found receivers in every corner of the field. Laurence Maroney has had some opportunities to run the ball, but the Packers' run defense has done a good job of stopping the run. What they haven't been able to do is to stop the pass.
Key plays: Heath Evans run on Fourth-and-1 at the Packers 39. Pass interference against the Packers in the end zone. TE Dan Graham was on a fade route in the right dcorner, but was held. Put the ball on the 1-yard line.
Patriots 14 - Packers 0
UPDATE 1:45pm: PATRIOTS FUMBLE
On a bumbled handoff between Corey Dillon and Tom Brady, the ball bounced around and the Packers recovered at the NE 30. With a perfect opportunity to get right back in the game, the Packers went three-and-out.
The Packer lined up for a 44-yard field goal attempt. The kick was wide right, giving the Patriots the ball back in better position than when they fumbled it away.
Update 1:30pm: TOUCHDOWN PATRIOTS
The Patriots took their first opportunity and made the most of it. 7 plays 63 yards.
Right after the Packers took the ball and went three-and-out, the Patriots took over at the NE 37. Tom Brady lined up and started slinging the ball against the Packers defense a defense rated as one of the worst in the league (31st vs the pass).
Key Plays: Deep pass to Ben Watson at the Packers 11. Fumble and recovered by the Patriots. No. 10 Jabar Gaffney helped Watson cover up the ball. The strip by Green Bay's Brady Poppinga almost turned the tide for Green Bay early.
Score: Patriots 7 - Packers 0
UPDATE 1:00pm: Pregame news
Keys to the game:
Get to Brett Favre: If the Patriots want to force Favre to make mistakes, they need to get pressure on the future hall of famer. He's been known to make bad decisions on the run, and the Patriots need Favre to feel uncomfortable, or the New England secondary will have real problems.
Prevent the big play: Green Bay has made significant progress on the big plays with their receivers racking up yards after the catch. The Patriots need to keep the Packers at bay, and if they give up the big play it could let the Packers score easily.
Turnovers: New England has had a lot of trouble with turnovers. Fumbles and interceptions have given points to the opponent. Those points were more than the margin of victory in both of the Patriots past two losses.
Wilson's injury was expected, but Samuel's injury is new and will force more shakups to the defensive secondary that is already riddled with injury. Although it's not as bad as last year at this time, the Patriots are experiencing significant losses to their depth in the secondary for the third year in a row.
OL Gene Mruczkowski was resigned earlier this week to add depth to the offensive line that was having its own set of injuries, but Russ Hochstein was back in action last week, and should be available this week.
OL Stephen Neal was back at practice this week and should be available for today's game.