FOXBORO, Mass. — As the third quarter came to a close Sunday night at Gillette Stadium, the momentum squarely was on the side of the Green Bay Packers.
The score was tied at 17 apiece, but Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers had just completed long passes of 24 and 26 yards to rookie wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling to move his team into New England Patriots territory. The visitors appeared in line to earn at least a field goal, which would have given them their first lead of the evening.
That’s when Lawrence Guy stepped in.
On the opening play of the final quarter, Rodgers handed the ball off to Aaron Jones, and Guy — who quietly has been one of the Patriots’ best defensive players this season — came across the formation to nail the running back from the side.
As he connected, Guy’s gloved right hand made contact with the ball, jarring it loose. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore pounced on it and held on through the ensuing scrum, giving the Patriots possession at their own 24-yard line.
That proved to be the break the Patriots needed, as they dominated the final 15 minutes en route to a 31-17 victory.
“It was exciting,” Guy said after the game. “It was one of those plays that you think about all the time, so I was happy when I did it”
The Patriots scored a touchdown on the ensuing possession, thanks in large part to a trick-play screen pass from wide receiver Julian Edelman to running back James White that gained 37 yards. The Packers went three-and-out on their next drive — capped by a third-down sack split between Trey Flowers and Adrian Clayborn — which set the stage for a 55-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Josh Gordon that all but ended things.
After Jones’ fumble, Green Bay was outscored 14-0 and managed just 21 total yards, their final two drives resulting in a punt and a turnover on downs.
“It was a huge play,” safety Duron Harmon said. “If you just look at where they were at, they were driving the ball and getting into the red area. It was just a great play by Lawrence. We always talk about creating turnovers. That’s the only one we had today but it was a big one. Definitely switched the moment a little bit, and we were able to use that and create a good gap.”
Packers coach Mike McCarthy agreed with that assessment.
“Really, that was the turning point,” McCarthy said. “They made key plays at the end there, and we obviously didn’t in the fourth quarter.”
Safety Devin McCourty said the forced fumble was the result of “pure hustle” on Guy’s part.
“They’re getting to that fringe red area, and LG is coming and hustling,” McCourty said. “That was pure hustle from behind. And we talk about that all the time — if we can get ball-carriers from behind by the D-linemen, the linebackers, it forces turnovers. And Steph did a good job. He kind of got beat up at the bottom of that pile but (held) onto it.”
“It was big,” added Gilmore, who also had another strong showing in coverage. “Lawrence Guy made a great play on the ball. I happened to get on it and cover it up as they were trying to take it from me. It was a great play.”