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Monday, December 20, 2010

Patriots play like garbage but still win, gotta be a good sign


Every season in the NFL, your favorite team will undoubtedly have a what the fuck type of game. Last night, it was the New England Patriots' time to play terrible yet still limp away with a bizarre 31-27 win over the Green Bay Packers at Gillette Stadium.

Who could have predicted that with star quarterback Aaron Rodgers out and Matt Flynn starting that Green Bay (8-6) would give the Patriots (12-2) everything they could handle? That is before the third-year backup predictably choked when it mattered most.

Without question, no play summed up this strange game more than a 71-yard (NFL record) kickoff return by Patriots offensive lineman Dan Connolly. Yeah the Dan Connolly that is like 315 pounds and a nondescript backup lineman. That play (which is unlike anything we'll ever see again, even if we figure out how to live forever) fired up the Pats and helped them cut it to a 17-14 deficit at halftime.

In truth, this was a game that the Packers deserved to win. They had a nearly flawless gameplan, controlling the clock for 40:48 and keeping Tom Brady (15 for 24, 163 yards, 2 touchdowns) off the field. Where they failed is that they had to depend on Flynn (24 for 37, 251 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception) to thrive in situations he hasn't faced in a real game since his college days at LSU.

You knew Green Bay was playing for keeps when they attempted and recovered an onsides kick to start the game. New England held them to a 31-yard field goal by Mason Crosby but that showed the Packers wouldn't be deterred with their leader on the sidelines in one of those ugly camo team jackets.

On New England's first drive, BenJarvus Green-Ellis broke loose for a career-long 33-yard touchdown run.

Brandon Meriweather did what he does best - screwing up plays - as he ran into Devin McCourty (10 tackles) in coverage and allowed James Jones (5 catches, 95 yards) to catch a 66-yard touchdown to start the second quarter.

Greg Jennings' 1-yard touchdown catch gave the Packers a 17-7 lead with 2:17 left in the second quarter but that's when Connolly struck. If the Patrots win the Super Bowl, you know that improbable play will be front and center. It was insane. Not only did he throw a stiff arm, he also found the edge on the sideline and went all the way down to the 4-yard line.

Brady hit Aaron Hernandez for a 2-yard touchdown with 1:08 left in the half.

Another invisible player made a game-changing play for the Patriots early in the third quarter as Kyle Arrington picked off a terrible pass by Flynn, broke four tackles and returned it 36 yards for the score.

Down 21-17, you had to think maybe Flynn and the Pack would start to fold then but to their credit they didn't. They left that to the more epic moment.

John Kuhn's 6-yard touchdown catch gave Green Bay a 24-21 lead in the third quarter then Crosby added a 19-yard kick early in the fourth quarter (not going for it on fourth-and-1 proved costly).

Shayne Graham hit a 38-yard kick to cut it to a 27-24 Green Bay advantage. Then the Patriots defense finally got a three and out Brady hit Hernandez for another touchdown (10 yards).

The ending was ugly (how else would it be?) but a Dane Fletcher sack and a Tully Banta-Cain sack and forced fumble (recovered by Vince Wilfork) ended it.

Brandon Jackson had 22 carries for 99 yards as the Packers ran much better than they should with the bums they used.

Danny Woodhead led New England with 59 yards rushing on just nine carries. Green Bay was the first team to shut down both Wes Welker (3 catches, 42 yards) and Deion Branch (2 catches, 33 yards).

Jerod Mayo led the Patriots defense with 16 tackles.

With two games left (at Buffalo and vs. Miami), the Patriots just need one more win to clinch the AFC East and home-field throughout the playoffs.

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