The Green Bay Packers entered Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots as 9.5-point favorites, expected to win handily against backup quarterback Brian Hoyer. Instead, Hoyer’s day was done after just two drives and the Packers had their hands full with the Patriots’ third-string quarterback, Bailey Zappe.
The Packers needed all 60 minutes of regulation plus a full ten-minute overtime period to put away the scrappy Patriots, as a combination of questionable officiating, self-inflicted wounds, and a leaky run defense kept New England in the game until the end. The Packers turned the football over twice, once on an early fumble by Romeo Doubs and again on a pick-six by Rodgers just before the end of the first half, which gave the Patriots a 14-10 lead at the break.
Rodgers would bounce back after halftime, however, throwing a pair of touchdown passes to reach 500 for his career (regular season and postseason). His second, a 15-yarder to Doubs, tied the game at 24. It looked like he had a third late in the fourth, a perfect rainbow to Doubs to take the lead, but the rookie couldn’t hold on to the football as he made contact with the ground and the game headed to overtime.
There, the two teams traded possessions early before the Packers had their longest drive of the day. Green Bay took up the final 6:47 of the game clock on a 12-play, 77-yard drive to set up Mason Crosby for a 31-yard game winning field goal as time expired on the extra period. Crosby’s kick pushed Green Bay to 3-1 on the season before they head to London next week to play the New York Giants.
The Packers’ defense once again gave up big chunks of yardage on the opening drive, yielding points to start the game. However, like last week, the group stiffened up in the red zone, forcing an early field goal from Patriots kicker Nick Folk. They took the field again after just two plays from the Packers’ offense, however; after a 24-yard gain to Allen Lazard on the first play, Romeo Doubs fumbled near midfield, and the Patriots recovered. A sack by Rashan Gary on a third and ten — his fourth in four games — kept New England out of field goal range and forced a punt that went for a touchback.
That sack forced Brian Hoyer out of the game with an apparent concussion, bringing third-string quarterback Bailey Zappe into the game for New England on the next drive. Also lost on that series was Packers safety Adrian Amos, who also suffered an apparent concussion one play before the sack.
Following a 20-yard run from Aaron Jones that featured a bonus 15 from a facemask penalty, the Packers stalled out near midfield and punted, with Pat O’Donnell placing another kick nicely inside the 10-yard line. Zappe’s first drive was unsuccessful, with New England punting away quickly after a three-and-out.
The Packers finally found the end zone on the ensuing series, with rookie Christian Watson getting his first Lambeau Leap. A pair of ten-yard runs from Aaron Jones set up Watson for a jet sweep, and he took the football around the right end and into the end zone for a 15-yard score.
The two teams traded punts for a while through the second quarter, but New England got a big return into Packers territory just before the two-minute warning. Shortly thereafter, however, Rashan Gary struck again. He dipped neatly around right tackle Isaiah Wynn and crushed Zappe, stripping the football and recovering to give the Packers a chance to score before the half with a minute and two timeouts. But instead, it was New England who claimed the lead back. On third down with the clock winding down, Rodgers tried to hit Allen Lazard on a comeback near the first down marker. Cornerback Jack Jones jumped the route, picking off Rodgers’ pass and taking it 40 yards to the house for a go-ahead touchdown.
Coming out of the half, Rodgers threw a pair of incomplete passes to set up a third and 10, but he then hit Allen Lazard with an excellent hole-shot play for a big gain to move the chains. That was a key play, as the offense got going and found the end zone to retake the lead. After getting across the Patriots’ 30 mainly via the run game, the Packers set up for a 4th-and-inches and a counter toss play to Jones worked to perfection. Jones picked up a big 17-yard gain behind a Lazard block to move the chains and get Green Bay into the red zone. After a David Bakhtiari holding penalty pushed the Packers back a bit, Rodgers struck with a perfect seam throw to Robert Tonyan at the goal line for a touchdown, giving the Packers back the lead at 14-10.
The Patriots took the lead back on the ensuing series, however, amid some controversy. A sack by Preston Smith and Dean Lowry appeared to set the Patriots back early, but Kenny Clark was flagged for unnecessary roughness after the play, giving New England a jolt. They drove down the field behind their running game, reaching the Packers’ 20. After a delay of game penalty, the Patriots failed to get the snap off a second straight play when the play clock hit zero, snapping the ball at least two full seconds after that point. However, the referees missed the play clock on that second play, and Zappe hit a wide-open DeVante Parker for a 25-yard touchdown and a 17-14 lead.
But Rodgers appeared to be in a groove at that point, spurred on a bit by his throw to Tonyan. He found Doubs and Lazard for big gains on the next series to get into field goal range, but the running game bogged down a bit to bring on Mason Crosby for a 38-yard attempt. Crosby drilled the attempt to tie the game at 17 with five seconds remaining on the clock in the third quarter.
Joe Barry’s defense continued to have no answers for the run game in the fourth quarter, as the Patriots picked up gains of 12, 5, and 17 yards on the first three plays of their ensuing drive. They then worked off play-action to get a 21-yard gain to Nelson Agholor to get inside the Packers’ 10-yard line. Two plays later, Damien Harris bulldozed into the end zone for a five-yard touchdown, pushing New England back in front 24-17.
A third-and-six conversion by Randall Cobb early on the drive kept the offense on the field, as Rodgers found him with a pinpoint throw for 24 yards. After some big gains on the ground, Rodgers found Romeo Doubs with a perfect back-shoulder throw at the goal line for a 13-yard touchdown, the receiver’s second of the season and his first at home. That tied the game at 24 with just over six minutes remaining and was Rodgers’ 500th NFL touchdown pass.
After getting a stop, the Packers had their chance to take the lead, but Romeo Doubs’ questionable hands cost them the go-ahead score. Facing a third-and-8 from the Patriots’ 40, Rodgers launched a perfect deep ball to Doubs in the right corner of the end zone, but after appearing to make the catch, the ball came free as he made contact with the ground and the play was ruled incomplete. That forced O’Donnell out for another punt, which was once again downed by the Packers inside the five thanks to his excellent placement and the play of the fliers, Rudy Ford and Keisean Nixon.
The Packers’ defense finally forced a three-and-out, however, getting a stop after the Patriots ran the ball three straight times. Green Bay might have had a chance at a Hail Mary at the end of regulation if not for a block in the back penalty on Tariq Carpenter, which pushed the offense out beyond Rodgers’ range, and the game went to overtime.
Green Bay won the overtime coin toss and started with the football, but it didn’t help. Rodgers and company went three and out with two runs and an incomplete pass that probably should have been a sack allowed by Elgton Jenkins. But the Green Bay defense got a stop of their own, forcing the Patriots to punt away from near midfield.
Starting from their own 10, the Packers would give Mason Crosby a chance to win it at the very end of overtime. Allen Lazard picked up a big 22-yard gain to the 35-yard line, then Randall Cobb converted a third down for 11 yards. Rodgers ran a pair of RPO tosses to Romeo Doubs with soft coverage that went for 8 and 9 yards, then AJ Dillon did the rest, powering down inside the 15-yard line to set up Crosby for a 31-yard game-winning attempt.
Crosby drilled his kick straight down the middle of the uprights, giving Green Bay a 27-24 victory to move to 3-1 on the season.
After a brutal first half, Rodgers rebounded to finish the day 21-for-35 for 251 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception, with a passer rating of 89.1. The Packers got 16 carries for 110 yards from Aaron Jones and 73 yards on 17 rushing attempts from AJ Dillon, while Allen Lazard led the way with 116 receiving yards on six catches.
While Zappe had his moments, he finished the day 10-of-15 passing for 99 yards and one score. Damien Harris led the way on the ground for New England with 18 carries for 86 yards and a score.
The Packers will take their longest road trip in franchise history next week, as they head to London to play the New York Giants. New England will return home to host the Detroit Lions.