The Green Bay Packers did just enough to beat the New England Patriots on Sunday, in what was the marquee game of the NFL season thus far.
Both teams are now 9-3. The Patriots remain the No. 1 seed in the AFC and the Packers remain No. 2 in the NFC, although that’s only because of a tiebreaker. They have the same record as the No. 1 seed, the Arizona Cardinals, and a hell of a lot more momentum.
This is the kind of game that measures where you are as a team. Assuming they are a real contender, the Packers SHOULD have won because they were playing at home. They did and they are.
Here are five more thoughts on the game.
Great game plan
Not sure if we’ve ever uttered that phrase as long as Mike McCarthy has been in town. Yes, it’s true. We like to beat up on McCarthy. We like to call him Buffoon. We think his decision making is usually questionable at best. If you don’t like that, then you can fuck right off. However, we’re also happy to give credit where credit is due. Like if A.J. Hawk ever made a play, we’d be the first to say, “A.J. Hawk, nice fuckin’ play, buddy!” But that will never happen, so we don’t have to worry about that. So, Mike — nice fuckin’ game plan, buddy!
Wow. That still sounds totally weird. However, the Packers did exactly what they needed to do to beat the Patriots on Sunday and they went away from their usual M.O. in doing so. They didn’t rely on the big play. They put together methodical drives and controlled the clock. They ground out a 13-minute time of possession advantage. They ran the ball 29 times. That has to be some kind of record for a McCarthy team.
Amazingly, the best coach on the field on Sunday was Mike Fuckin’ McCarthy. Unbelievable.
Offensively, what’s better?
Would you rather be the team that can move the football at will, but can’t get in the end zone or the team that scores a TD every time they penetrate the red zone? Well, the Packers were the former team on Sunday and the Patriots the latter. The Packers had four trips to the red zone and came away with no touchdowns. The Patriots had three and came away with three.
We said it yesterday, but this game should have been a blowout in favor of the Packers. Of course, settling for field goals inside the 20 will keep the other team in it. The Packers only punted once in the game. Looking at the scoreboard, you would have no idea that was the case.
I suppose you could make a case either way for what’s better, but that’s not the point here. If the Packers have as much trouble scoring touchdowns inside the 20 in the playoffs as they did on Sunday, they probably aren’t going to win many playoff games.
Could this be the merciful beginning of the end for our favorite whipping boy A.J. Hawk? We doubt that is the case, but we can dream!
Seriously, I’ve literally dreamed of the day A.J. Hawk no longer plays linebacker for the Packers.
We bring this up because, where the hell was Hawk on Sunday? I mean, he never does anything of note, but usually you notice him on the field, whether he’s getting run over by a running back, diving on a pile after the whistle or losing his helmet for the league-leading 54th time. Hawk only had one tackle on Sunday.
Although the Packers started Clay Matthews at outside linebacker, he did play extensively inside. It certainly seemed as if Sam Barrington was standing next to Matthews on the inside more often than not. No one mentioned an injury, which leads us to believe maybe Hawk finally got benched.
Good enough on Gronk
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski was one of the keys to this game. He’s a man-child and he’s nearly impossible to tackle, which you probably noticed on occasion on Sunday. The guy is much bigger and stronger than the guys trying to bring him down, which are usually defensive backs.
The Packers used multiple defensive backs to cover Gronk on Sunday. The primary guy seemed to be safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, but there were other guys, including cornerback Tramon Williams, who drew the matchup. Gronkowski had seven catches for 98 yards, but the Packers made sure he didn’t dominate the game. They kept him out of the end zone and gang tackled him when he did get the ball. That’s a win for Green Bay.
Smoke and mirrors
The Packers defense held the highest-scoring team in the NFL to 21 points. They also held Tom Brady under 300 yards passing and the Patriots as a whole to 84 yards rushing. That’s all pretty great.
Still, we have a hard time picking out any defenders who had great games. Clay Matthews was solid, with six tackles. Sam Barrington seemed to get in the mix here and there. Mike Neal created a very timely sack. Julius Peppers knocked down a couple passes.
Certainly no one punched a ticket to the Pro Bowl, though. You could say it was a team effort. You could also point to the time of possession, which kept the defense off the field. That certainly helped the situation. Whatever it was, it was effective, although not very comfortable to watch.