The cheeseheads almost spoiled the New England Patriots’ playoff bye hopes, but New England pulled yet another ruthless fourth quarter comeback for a 31-27 win at Gillette Stadium on Sunday Night Football.
The now 12-2 Patriots got a good scare from the Packers, who faced such long odds on Sunday night without their Pro Bowl quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Tom Brady was surely upstaged in the one-game cameo pro debut of Packers backup Matt Flynn. While Brady got the win on just 15 completions for 163 yards, Flynn was a revelation with 251 yards and three touchdowns.
But Flynn got pick-sixed and fumbled on a last-gasp play, while Brady was clean on turnovers.
“Turnover-less Tom” extended his no-interceptions streak to 292 passing attempts, overtaking Jeff George for the third-longest streak of passing attempts without a pick in league history. Bernie Kosar holds the record for the most consecutive passing attempts without an interception, with 308.
As a team, the Patriots have now gone an NFL-record six games without a turnover.
The Packers came in shooting with some go-for-broke shenanigans, onsides-kicking on the opening kickoff – and recovering it. The young Matt Flynn had a short field and took the Packers down to the Patriots’ 13-yard line, but the Pats’ defense held and kept Green Bay to the field goal.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis uncorked the longest run of his career, a 33-yard touchdown that put the Patriots up 7-3 eight-and-a-half minutes into the game.
Flynn remained composed against the Patriots’ defense. He kicked off the second quarter by pump-faking the Patriots out of their sneakers, then shocking them with a 66-yard touchdown throw to James Jones. The Pack were back on top, 10-7.
Flynn came with more gumption on an 81-yard drive late in the second quarter, putting the Packers up 17-7 just before the two-minute warning. It looked like Sunday Nightmare Football in the making.
But the Packers’ momentum was quickly squelched by the unlikely sight of Dan Connelly fielding and running back a kickoff return 71 yards to a first and goal and the Packers’ four-yard line. It was the longest kickoff return by an offensive lineman in the history of the NFL. Tom Brady zipped an easy touchdown to Aaron Hernandez from there to make it 17-14 at the half.
Then instantly at the beginning of the third quarter, the Patriots re-took the lead on a Kyle Arrington pick-six of Matt Flynn. Arrington snagged the ball at the Green Bay 36, and four different Packers allowed him to slip their grasp as he galloped to the end zone. The Patriots were back up 21-17.
The lead would again prove temporary. The unflappable Matt Flynn commanded momentum back to the Packers, sharply marching Green Bay 69 yards in 13 plays and hitting fullback John Kuhn for a six-yard touchdown.
With nine and a half minutes left in the game, Brady took over at his own 37-yard line and the Pats down 27-24. He went 3-of-3 on an efficient drive, and threw Aaron Hernandez his second touchdown of the night to put New England up 31-27 for good.
Green Bay had a last-minute dash into the Patriots’ red zone, but Tully Banta-Cain stripped Flynn of the ball as time expired.
Joe Kukura is a freelance writer and a fan of the Houston Texans whenever they fight amongst themselves during a game.