The Green Bay Packers held the ball for five minutes more than the New England Patriots on Sunday night and ran three more offensive plays, but they were out-gained by 65 yards and outscored by 14 points as the Patriots won 31-17. Even a 6-for-13 performance on third down couldn’t get the Packers over the hump in this game.
It was certainly a much more even distribution of snaps in this game than a week ago against the Los Angeles Rams; that game saw LA hold an eight-minute time of possession edge as they ran 26 more plays than the Packers. However, both the Packers and Pats were in the 70s, in part due to New England’s frenzied pace on offense.
That pace may have contributed to some injury issues for the Packers’ defense, which saw three players miss significant time. Two of those absences were due to injury, while the third was the result of a questionable ejection.
Here’s a look at the snaps in Sunday’s game.
OFFENSE (74 plays)
Aaron Rodgers 74
Once again, Rodgers’ completion percentage was below the 60 mark, as he hit on just 24 of 43 passes for a rate of 55.8%. He also tied a season-low in yards per attempt at 6.02, a week after tying his season-high at 9.53. And this all came with what was expected to be better mobility in and out of the pocket, as he ditched his knee brace for the game.
His scrambling ability was not on display much in this game, however, as he ran the ball four times for just eight yards.
Aaron Jones 43, Jamaal Williams 31
With Ty Montgomery out the door, this is probably a decent enough split of snaps that should keep Packers fans satisfied down the stretch. Jones doubled Williams’ workload on the ground, with 14 carries to Williams’ seven and 76 yards to Williams’ 34. Both players had two receptions, Williams going for 20 yards and Jones for 10. However, it was Jones’ fourth-quarter fumble that was arguably the most notable play for either back.
Hopefully he works on his ball security this week and Mike McCarthy doesn’t banish him to the bench next week.
Davante Adams 71, Marquez Valdes-Scantling 60, Randall Cobb 56, Equanimeous St. Brown 15
Before the bye, Adams had a stretch of three games with 14, 12, and 16 targets. Last week against the Rams he only saw seven passes, and this week he had nine targets, catching six for 40 yards and a score. After the game, Rodgers said that he should have fed 17 the ball more, which jibes with the success the team has had moving the football in those games.
MVS had another big game with three big plays. He saw six targets, catching three for 51, 26, and 24 yards for a total of 101. He’s now over 20 yards per reception on the season. Cobb caught five of six passes, but for only 24 yards as he was usually targeted in the flat or on receiver screens.
Jimmy Graham 59, Lance Kendricks 26, Marcedes Lewis 7, Robert Tonyan 2
Graham caught his second touchdown of the year to tie the game just after halftime and hauled in four of six targets for 40 yards. That touchdown was a great throw by Rodgers but a nice deep cross by Graham. However, one thing is becoming clear about Graham: he does not have the instinct to work his way open when Aaron Rodgers extends the play. Both in the red zone and on scrambles between the 20s, Graham failed to recognize when he needed to break off his route and either come back to the quarterback or find an open spot in the defense to give Rodgers a place to throw the football. His big frame does help on contested balls, but Rodgers has relied for so long on Jordy Nelson, Cobb, and Adams working their way open on broken plays, something Graham has not been doing.
Kendricks continues to get work all over the field, but sees several snaps per game as a fullback in an I or split-I formation. Lewis finally caught a pass on Sunday, his first of the season, which went for five yards. Meanwhile, Tonyan’s one notable play was on special teams, when he was flagged for roughing the kicker on a fourth-and-21 play. NBC rules analyst Terry McCauley argued that the call should have been only running into the kicker, which would not have given the Patriots a first down.
David Bakhtiari 74, Lane Taylor 74, Corey Linsley 74, Byron Bell 74, Jason Spriggs 52, Bryan Bulaga 22
The Packers were forced to insert Spriggs at right tackle in the first half, as Bulaga aggravated a knee injury and was forced to leave the game. The unit allowed only one sack of Rodgers, which was more due to his ability to navigate pressure and willingness to throw the ball away when under duress than due to good pass blocking. Indeed, Rodgers was pressured 19 times, a season-high.
DEFENSE (71 plays)
Kenny Clark 49, Dean Lowry 49, Mike Daniels 43, Tyler Lancaster 20, Montravius Adams 13
Daniels’ terrific season finally got another sack in the stat sheet, as he cashed in early in the game by bringing down Tom Brady. That’s his first sack since week one and his second of the year, but those numbers do not do justice to how good he has been week in and week out all year.
Lowry and Lancaster set season-highs in snaps this week, with the former tying Clark for the most snaps at the position on Sunday. Clark led in tackles with three (one solo and two assisted), while Lowry, Daniels, and Lancaster had two apiece.
Clay Matthews 46, Kyler Fackrell 36, Reggie Gilbert 30, Nick Perry 29
One of the continuing issues for the Packers this season is the incredible vanishing pass rush. The Packers got a grand total of one hit on Tom Brady from their edge rushers (credited to Matthews), while Perry has been the invisible man all season long. The entire unit combined for just five total tackles — one solo for Matthews and one assisted tackle for each of the four players.
If I were Brian Gutekunst, I’d be on the phone with Bruce Irvin’s agent the moment he clears waivers. Actually, scratch that. I’d be putting in a waiver claim for him to take Drew Kaser’s roster spot (no offense to the emergency punter).
Blake Martinez 56, Antonio Morrison 31, Oren Burks 15
Burks started the game next to Martinez, but the Pats moved at hyper-speed on the opening drive and isolated him in coverage on James White. It didn’t go well despite Burks’ athleticism, and the Packers went away from that afterwards, plugging Jermaine Whitehead in at linebacker.
However, Whitehead was ejected — more on that in a moment — which forced Morrison and Burks back onto the field. Then Martinez rolled his ankle in the third quarter, going to the locker room on a cart and scaring Packers fans into worrying about his long-term status. Morrison took over from there, but Martinez was thankfully able to return to action late in the game.
Morrison did have a few solid plays, including a third-down sack of Brady on an unblocked blitz.
Tramon Williams 71, Josh Jones 51, Kentrell Brice 23, Jermaine Whitehead 15
As mentioned above, Whitehead was ejected in the second quarter on what was equal parts a foolish decision by him and an absurd one by the referees to toss him. After being shoved after the whistle by lineman David Andrews, Whitehead gave him an open-palmed slap across the facemask, which drew a 15-yard penalty — warranted — and the ejection, which was widely met with scorn by NFL writers and fans alike.
That forced the Packers to shuffle the linebacker position, as well as limiting some of the team’s flexibility on the back end at safety. Williams played primarily free safety throughout the game while Jones replaced Brice in the first half and stayed on the field for the rest of the contest.
Jaire Alexander 71, Bashaud Breeland 68, Josh Jackson 41, Kevin King 24
The Packers’ nickel package started out with Alexander, Breeland, and King, but Jackson came on in relief when King left with a hamstring injury. It continues to frustrate that King cannot seem to go more than two or three games without some sort of injury popping up, and it’s at least a relief that the team has a player of Jackson’s ability to sub in for him.
Breeland’s Packers debut was largely negative, however; he did rack up eight total tackles, but he struggled in coverage and gave up a few notable receptions. Meanwhile, Jackson was credited with the Packers’ only two pass breakups on the night and Alexander followed up his exceptional week eight game with a relatively quiet game in Foxboro.