The game came down to one possession and a play that summed up the entire game. Green Bay held the ball late in the fourth quarter following a rare Stephen Gostkowski missed field goal. Staring down 3rd-and-4, Aaron Rodgers dropped back and threw a laser to Randall Cobb for the first down, effectively icing the game.
On the play, Rodgers had what seemed like ages to throw the ball. It was a scenario that unfolded throughout the game.
The Patriots brought three or four linemen in pressure and allowed Rodgers to dance around the pocket and find his receivers. Allowing a quarterback of Rodgers' caliber to sit back and give his arsenal of weapons ample time to get open is a dangerous wager, and Rodgers made the Patriots defense pay all afternoon.
In weeks past, the Patriots have been able to get pressure with stunts and games, freeing up their linemen at the line of scrimmage and causing a decent amount of havoc in the backfield. It allowed the linebackers to safely drop into coverage and clog the middle of the field. Rodgers' elusiveness and quick feet became the x-factor when faced with this strategy. He was also able to simply slide out of the way on the few occasions that the front four did make an impact, buying himself time to find the open man.
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On the rare occasions that the Patriots brought blitzes, they made it difficult on Rodgers and were able to bring him down. In the second quarter on a 3rd-and-Goal from the six yard line, Dont’a Hightower came on a blitz up the middle and sacked Rodgers, forcing a field goal. As the game hung in the balance, pressure on Rodgers was nowhere to be found. The Patriots rushed three and Vince Wilfork could be seen dropping into coverage.
The Patriots saw Chandler Jones return to practice this week, a positive sign for a defensive line that is lacking a playmaker that can take over a series and even a game. With the additions of Akeem Ayers and Alan Branch, the defensive line is in good position going forward, but they need to get to the quarterback more consistently.