Final, Patriots 31-17: No Rob Gronkowski? No Sony Michel? No problem.
The New England Patriots overcame some periodic offensive hiccups Sunday night to secure their sixth consecutive win, taking down Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers at Gillette Stadium.
Hybrid playmaker Cordarrelle Patterson was the Patriots’ leading rusher for the second straight game, finishing with 61 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries.
James White rushed for two touchdowns and finished with 103 yards from scrimmage, while Josh Gordon spearheaded New England’s passing attack with five catches for 130 yards and one score.
The Patriots’ defense surrendered just seven points after halftime, and a forced fumble by Lawrence Guy on the opening play of the fourth quarter helped shift momentum, with the Patriots outscoring the Packers 14-0 over the final 15 minutes.
Next up for the Patriots is a trip to Nashville, where they’ll take on the Tennessee Titans next Sunday.
Fourth quarter, 3:48, Patriots 31-17: Adrian Clayborn bulldozed David Bakhtiari directly into Aaron Rodgers, forcing the Packers quarterback to sail a throw on fourth-and-4. This might be the best game Clayborn has had in a Patriots uniform.
The Patriots take over near midfield after the turnover on downs.
Fourth quarter, 7:20, Patriots 31-17: Aaron Rodgers and the Packers now are staring at 14-point fourth-quarter deficit thanks to a 55-yard touchdown catch by Josh Gordon.
Gordon caught a pass from Tom Brady at the 38-yard line, ran through an arm tackle by Tramon Williams and galloped the final 35 yards into the end zone untouched.
Julian Edelman also picked up 17 yards on an end around earlier in the drive.
Fourth quarter, 8:30, Patriots 24-17: The Patriots followed up James White’s touchdown by forcing a three-and-out.
Jason McCourty broke up a deep pass intended for Equanimeous St. Brown on second down, and Trey Flowers and Adrian Clayborn marauded into the backfield to split a sack of Aaron Rodgers on third down.
Clayborn has 2 1/2 sacks in his last three games, with all of them coming in the fourth quarter.
Fourth quarter, 10:06, Patriots 24-17: After regaining possession following Aaron Jones’ fumble, Josh McDaniels dug into his bag of tricks and pulled out the ol’ Julian Edelman double pass.
This time, the wide receiver connected with James White on a screen pass, with White following a caravan of blockers for 37 yards down to the Packers’ 2. White plunged into the end zone two plays later to give the Patriots the lead.
Phillip Dorsett also made a key 17-yard reception on third-and-7 earlier in the drive.
Fourth quarter, 14:51, 17-17: The Packers picked up 50 yards on two deep balls to Marquez Valdes-Scantling, but Aaron Jones fumbled the ball away on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Lawrence Guy jarred the ball loose, and Stephon Gilmore recovered.
Let’s see if the Patriots’ offense can capitalize.
Third quarter, 2:44, 17-17: The Patriots are looking a bit discombobulated on offense right now.
Two protection breakdowns allowed Packers to fly into the backfield untouched, resulting in an incompletion and a sack. The latter should have forced a three-and-out, but Green Bay was called for roughing the kicker, extending the drive.
The Patriots wound up punting again three plays later, though, after Tom Brady missed an open Chris Hogan on third-and-3.
Third quarter, 5:14, 17-17: Cordarrelle Patterson initially appeared to score his second rushing touchdown of the game, but he was ruled just short of the goal line after officials reviewed the play.
The Patriots then took two shots at the end zone — a rollout on third down and a fade to Josh Gordon on fourth — but both fell incomplete, resulting in a turnover on downs.
Patterson’s goal-line carry came after James White returned to the game. White appears fine after tweaking his knee late in the first half.
The drive also featured a rare Dwayne Allen reception (just his second of the season, this one going for 21 yards), two completions to Gordon totaling 31 yards and a cameo by special teamer Matthew Slater at tight end in New England’s goal-line package.
The Patriots forced a three-and-out on the ensuing possession and will take over at their own 40 following a Jonathan Jones holding penalty on Green Bay’s punt.
Third quarter, 11:18, 17-17: Aaron Rodgers to Jimmy Graham. Tie game.
The big play of the drive was a 51-yard bomb from Rodgers to Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who beat Jason McCourty in man coverage on third-and-6.
The long gain came one play after the Patriots successfully challenged a Davante Adams reception.
Rodgers’ touchdown pass to Graham was a 15-yarder over safety Patrick Chung.
Halftime, Patriots 17-10: Great pursuit by Adrian Clayborn as he stopped Aaron Rodgers short of the sticks on third-and-1 and forced the Packers to punt in the final seconds of the first half.
Green Bay will get the ball to begin the third quarter.
Second quarter, 1:57, Patriots 17-10: Cordarrelle Patterson seems to be getting the hang of this whole running back thing.
After James White went to the sideline with what appeared to be some sort of left leg injury, the Patriots handed the ball to their uber-athletic wide receiver/return man on four consecutive plays. Patterson gained 10, 17 and 8 yards before slicing into the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown that put New England back on top.
We’ll certainly be closely monitoring White’s status. He was not taken to the medical tent or locker room after leaving the field, which can be viewed as a positive sign.
The Packers lost safety Jermaine Whitehead during the drive, but not to an injury. He was ejected for slapping Patriots center David Andrews in the facemask after the whistle.
Second quarter, 4:49, 10-10: We’re all tied up after a lengthy Packers drive that culminated in a 2-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to Davante Adams.
The Packers began to feed Aaron Jones a bit more during this latest drive, with the underutilized running back ripping off runs of 13 and 10 yards. Green Bay did not face a third down until the final play of the possession, on which Rodgers faked an inside handoff to Jones, rolled out to his left and hit Adams, who was covered by slot cornerback Jonathan Jones.
Second quarter, 11:37, Patriots 10-3: Josh Gordon’s foot landed about three centimeters out of bounds, negating what would have been a spectacular catch by the Patriots wide receiver.
The Pats punted after an incompletion to fullback James Develin, going three-and-out for the first time tonight.
Second quarter, 13:50, Patriots 10-3: Three-and-out by the Packers.
Stephon Gilmore broke up a deep ball intended for Davante Adams on second-and-4 (Adams actually looked more like the defender on the play, having to swat away a ball that would have been intercepted), and strong pressure up the middle by Adam Butler on third down forced an Aaron Rodgers throwaway.
Second quarter, 13:50, Patriots 10-3: After an 11-yard run by Cordarrelle Patterson closed out the first quarter, the Patriots kicked off the second with two shots downfield.
First, Josh Gordon outjumped Bashaun Breeland to haul in a 29-yard reception down the left sideline. One play later, New England executed a flea flicker to perfection, with Tom Brady hitting a wide-open Julian Edelman for a 33-yard gain.
The drive later stalled in the red zone, though, forcing the Patriots to settle for a 28-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal.
First quarter, 0:14, Patriots 7-3: A deep pass breakup by Jason McCourty and some powerful pass rushing by Trey Flowers helped force a Packers punt.
Flowers’ bull rush put right tackle Brian Bulaga on his back and forced an Aaron Rodgers throwaway, and McCourty got a hand on a heave to Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Two plays later, his brother, Devin McCourty, came in untouched on a safety blitz, and Rodgers fired an incomplete on third down after an apparent miscommunication with his wide receivers.
First quarter, 3:30, Patriots 7-3: The Patriots’ second possession was much less fruitful.
They picked up one first down on a 16-yard completion to Julian Edelman, but ran just three more plays before punting, with defensive tackle Mike Daniels tearing past replacement right guard Ted Karras to sack Tom Brady on third down.
Ryan Allen delivered an excellent punt, though, pinning the Packers at their own 13-yard line.
First quarter, 5:05, Patriots 7-3: The Patriots’ defense has been great in the red zone during their five-game winning streak, and it held strong again on Green Bay’s opening possession.
Adrian Clayborn, who jumped offsides on third-and-7 earlier in the drive, redeemed himself by making a nice open-field tackle on wide receiver Randall Cobb to force the Packers to settle for a field goal.
Stephon Gilmore also broke up a pass intended for Packers No. 1 wideout Davante Adams in the end zone one play earlier. Gilmore now is up to 12 pass breakups in nine games after recording nine all last season.
Both of these plays came after safety Patrick Chung was whistled for defensive holding on tight end Jimmy Graham, which gave the Packers a first down at the Patriots’ 9-yard line.
First quarter, 11:40, Patriots 7-0: That was a lightning-fast opening drive by the Patriots, who rattled off 10 plays in 3:20 to open the scoring.
James White touched the ball on six of those plays (three receptions, three carries), including an 8-yard touchdown run.
Tom Brady completed 5 of 6 passes for 39 yards and also picked up 2 yards and a first down on a quarterback sneak, bringing him to within 1 rushing yard of 1,000 for his career.
Cordarrelle Patterson, who was used as the Patriots’ primary running back this week, didn’t see any snaps on offense during that opening drive but did give his team great field position with a 36-yard kickoff return.
Phillip Dorsett caught just his second pass in the last four games after briefly spelling Josh Gordon, who went to the sideline with what appeared to be an equipment issue.
First quarter, 15:00, 0-0: The Packers won the coin toss and elected to defer. The Patriots will receive the opening kickoff.
Tonight’s pregame festivities featured an appearance by several members of the Boston Red Sox. They rolled onto the field on a duck boat, World Series trophy in tow.
World Series MVP Steve Pearce did the honors of opening the door to the Patriots’ locker room.
The Patriots also honored the various branches of the U.S. military on “Salute to Service” night. Their honorary captain was a 102-year-old World War II veteran.
6:50 p.m.: The Patriots officially will be without tight end Rob Gronkowski and Sony Michel tonight.
Gronkowski and Michel both are inactive for New England, as are guard Shaq Mason, offensive linemen Brian Schwenke and Cole Croston, tight end Jacob Hollister and linebacker Nicholas Grigsby.
Those absences leave the Patriots very thin at both tight end and running back. Dwayne Allen will be their only active tight end, and James White and Kenjon Barner are their lone backs. Wide receiver/kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson also could reprise his backfield role from last week.
With Mason, Schwenke and Croston all out, the newly promoted James Ferentz will be the Patriots’ only interior O-line backup. Ted Karras will start at right guard in place of Mason, who is missing his first game since Week 1 of the 2016 season.
Marcus Cannon returns to the lineup after a two-game absence and will start at right tackle. Linebacker Dont’a Hightower also is active after sitting out last week’s game.
Wide receiver Geronimo Allison headlines the Packers’ inactive list:
11:55 a.m. ET: Two of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history will square off for just the second time tonight at Gillette Stadium as Tom Brady and the New England Patriots host Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers on “Sunday Night Football.”
Brady’s Pats sit at 6-2 after winning each of their last five games. Rodgers’ Pack enter at 3-3-1 following a narrow loss to the undefeated Los Angeles Rams last Sunday.
On the injury front, New England already has ruled out starting right guard Shaq Mason and reserve offensive lineman Brian Schwenke. Ted Karras will start in Mason’s spot against Green Bay’s talented defensive front, and the Patriots promoted interior O-lineman James Ferentz from the practice squad Saturday to bolster their depth behind him.
Ferentz filled the roster spot that opened when cornerback Eric Rowe was placed on injured reserve this week. Many expected the Patriots to activate rookie corner Duke Dawson off IR to replace Rowe, but he’ll have to wait at least another week to make his NFL debut.
A whopping 13 Patriots players are listed as questionable: tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Jacob Hollister, running back Sony Michel, wide receivers Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon and Cordarrelle Patterson, linebackers Dont’a Hightower and Nicholas Grigsby, offensive tackles Marcus Cannon and Trent Brown, defensive ends John Simon and Geneo Grissom and long snapper Joe Cardona.
The Patriots have “concern” about the status of Gronkowski and Michel, according to a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter. They’ll both be game-time decisions.
If Michel misses his second straight game, the Patriots again would need to make do with James White, Kenjon Barner and Patterson (if healthy) as their only running back options. Gronkowski is having a down season (no touchdowns since Week 1) but remains a major part of New England’s offense.
Edelman, who tallied a season-high 104 receiving yards on nine catches last week in a win over the Buffalo Bills, is expected to play despite an ankle injury, per Schefter.
The Patriots will wear their all-blue Color Rush uniforms tonight for the second time this season. They’ll also welcome the World Series champion Boston Red Sox to Gillette for a special pregame ceremony.
Kickoff is set for 8:20 p.m. ET, but be sure to check back here throughout the afternoon for full pregame coverage and tune in to our “Pregame Chat” live at 6 p.m. on NESN.com and NESN’s Facebook page.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images