FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Turns out that the most pivotal pass at Gillette Stadium on Sunday night didn’t come from the arm of Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers.
It came from Julian Edelman.
The much-anticipated, rare showdown between the 12s – Brady and Rodgers – certainly didn’t lack for drama that matched the hype. But it was Edelman’s 37-yard pass to James White off a flea-flicker with the game tied early in the fourth quarter that sent the Patriots on their way to a 31-17 victory against the Packers.
The razzle-dazzle connection – Brady threw a long lateral to Edelman, who found his target streaking down the left sideline on the other side of the field — gave New England (7-2) a huge jolt of momentum and set up White’s 1-yard scoring plunge two plays later.
Brady later connected with Josh Gordon for a 55-yard touchdown that provided the final cushion.
It was New England’s sixth consecutive victory and 10th in a row at home. But even with Brady passing for 294 yards and a TD, it was hardly ordinary as the Patriots sought creative measures – such as calling a flea-flicker pass for a former college quarterback – to account for the absence of injured tight end Rob Gronkowski and rookie running back Sony Michel.
Edelman had 136 total yards, including his pass. White had 103 yards from scrimmage. Cordarrelle Patterson led the team in rushing, finishing with 61 yards on the ground and a score.
Simply put, the Patriots find a way.
Rodgers passed for 259 yards and two TDs, but for the second consecutive week Green Bay (3-4-1) came up short on the road against one of the better teams in the NFL.
Three other things we learned:
1. Cordarrelle Patterson is a great match for Bill Belichick’s resourcefulness
No Gronkowski. No Michel. And for a brief time, a hobbling White. Yet no crisis. The Patriots merely found something else for their versatile returner-receiver to do.
After White went to the sideline with an apparent foot injury late in the second quarter, Patterson lined up in the I-formation and ripped off runs of 10 and 17 yards on back-to-back plays. Then he finished the drive by plowing into the end zone for a 5-yard TD that provided the halftime lead.
Patterson has had spot duty in the backfield throughout the season, but his most extensive work – and first rushing TD – came on Sunday night. He’s also scored TDs this season as a receiver (two) and on a kickoff return. Some people wondered whether Patterson, who underwhelmed in Minnesota and Oakland, would flop in Foxborough. It figures that Belichick would find a way to use him.
2. The Packers have another star target on the horizon
Rookie Marquez Valdes-Scantling put up his second 100-yard game in three outings with three receptions for 101 yards. A fifth-round pick from South Florida, he was pressed into duty earlier this season due to a rash of injuries in the recieving corps. Yet with his production and big plays, including a 51-yard grab on Sunday night, he is poised to earn even more snaps.
3. Brady tops Peyton
The Patriots icon didn’t have a classic game, so to speak, but he still managed to leave another marker in the record book. Brady set an NFL record for most total yards, regular season and postseason combined, topping a mark held by Peyton Manning. With a 17-yard completion to Phillip Dorsett in the fourth quarter, Brady raised his total to 79,990 yards.
Follow Jarrett Bell on Twitter @JarrettBell.