Final Score: New England 31, Green Bay 27
Foxboro, MA (Sports Network) - Green Bay quarterback Matt Flynn threw for
three touchdowns in his first career start and had the Packers in position for
a big win, but a hectic final minute allowed New England to come away with
a 31-27 victory.
Flynn was playing in place of Aaron Rodgers, who sat because of a concussion
suffered last week, and looked like a veteran quarterback at times. He
completed 24-of-37 throws for 251 yards and had the Packers deep in Patriots
territory inside the final 60 seconds.
But an apparent failure to get organized with time winding down left Flynn
with one last shot, and Tully Banta-Cain sacked him from behind to force a
fumble and end the game. Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said he thought
Flynn operated the final play properly.
"The mechanics of it I thought was very well done by Matt Flynn," McCarthy
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady passed for 163 yards and two touchdowns,
including the go-ahead score to Aaron Hernandez in the fourth quarter, to help
the New England (12-2) earn a sixth consecutive victory.
The Patriots, who have already clinched a playoff berth, weren't able to
secure the AFC East because the Jets edged Pittsburgh earlier Sunday. New
England did, however, maintain its two-game lead over New York and control of
The Packers (8-6) suffered a second straight defeat and are now in danger of
missing the playoffs altogether. Their loss means Chicago can clinch the NFC
North by winning Monday night's game against Minnesota, and Green Bay is also
currently trailing New Orleans and the New York Giants in the wild card race.
But for Green Bay to have changed that meant it would have had to overcome
long odds. The Packers were facing a Patriots team that had won 15 consecutive
regular-season home games and 21 of its last 22 contests against NFC clubs.
They were facing Brady, who had won his last 26 regular-season starts at
Gillette Stadium. On top of that, they were led by a third-year quarterback
who had never before started an NFL game.
Yet only 71 seconds into the fourth quarter, Mason Crosby kicked a 19-yard
field goal to give Green Bay a 27-21 lead.
The Patriots, though, got the points back on Shayne Graham's 38-yard try with
11:05 to play, then got the ball back after forcing a Packers three-and-out.
Brady led New England 63 yards in six plays, completing first-down passes to
Danny Woodhead and Deion Branch before Woodhead ran for 13 yards to bring the
Patriots to the Green Bay 10-yard line. On the next play, Brady threw a short
pass to Hernandez on the left side of the field, and the tight end broke a
tackle before strutting into the end zone with 7:14 on the clock.
After the teams traded punts, Green Bay started a drive at its own 43 with
4:22 to play and two timeouts.
The Packers looked like they were doomed on the second play, when safety
Brandon Meriweather intercepted Flynn's deep pass for Greg Jennings. However,
Banta-Cain was flagged for illegal use of his hands, giving Green Bay a first
down at the New England 47.
Three consecutive running plays resulted in a first down at the two-minute
warning, and Flynn kept the chains moving with his passing. Faced with a 3rd-
and-4 at the New England 29, Flynn connected with Donald Driver for five
yards, and Green Bay called its second timeout with 1:05 left.
But rookie linebacker Dane Fletcher likely saved the game for the Patriots on
the next play, sacking Flynn for an eight-yard loss. Not only did the play
move Green Bay backward, it forced the Packers to use their final timeout with
53 seconds left.
When Flynn got back under center, Green Bay faced a 2nd-and-18 and needed to
pick up yardage quickly. He passed to James Jones for seven yards before
completing a pass to Driver cutting across the middle.
Pat Chung's ankle tackle left Driver a yard short of the first down, though,
meaning Green Bay wasn't able to spike the ball. Flynn and the Packers
struggled to get a play called, and by the time he took the snap, there were
only five seconds left. Flynn searched for a receiver until Banta-Cain snuck
up from behind for the sack and fumble. Vince Wilfork recovered to secure the
"They gave us all we could handle tonight, so you give them a lot of credit,"
Brady said. "They played from the opening kickoff to the last play of the
game. It took all 60 minutes."
Green Bay posed a challenge from the start, beginning the game with a
successful onside kick. Crosby kicked a 31-yarder to open the scoring, and
the Patriots followed with a 33-yard touchdown run by BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
Flynn put the Packers back in front on the first play of the second quarter,
when he connected with Jones for a 66-yard touchdown.
Green Bay made it a 17-7 game later in the half thanks to a long drive. The
Packers went 82 yards in 13 plays while taking nearly 6 1/2 minutes off the
clock. Flynn capped the march with a one-yard pass to Jennings with 2:17 left.
However, Patriots lineman Dan Connolly returned the kickoff 71 yards to set
New England up at the Green Bay four. Three plays later, Brady hit Hernandez
for a two-yard touchdown to get the Patriots within 17-14 at the break.
"It was an unbelievable play," Brady said of Connolly's return. "I can never
imagine anything like that is going to happen, and that really was a big play
in the game. So if it happens, we've got to take advantage of it ... They
won't be kicking to him anymore, I'll tell you that."
New England took the lead three minutes into the third quarter, when Kyle
Arrington picked off Flynn and returned the ball 36 yards for a score.
Green Bay responded with another long drive, a 13-play progression that Flynn
ended with a six-yard pass to fullback John Kuhn, giving Green Bay a 24-21
Brady completed 15-of-24 passes and has thrown 292 consecutive passes without
an interception. He is 16 attempts shy of matching the NFL record, set by
Cleveland's Bernie Kosar from 1990-91...Brady's two TD passes increased his
career total to 256, moving him past Sonny Jurgensen for 11th place all-
time...The Packers' Brandon Jackson recorded a game-high 99 rushing yards.
Jones led all receivers with five catches for 95 yards...Green Bay out-gained
New England, 369-249.
12/20 02:36:15 ET
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