GREEN BAY – The Packers survived a back-and-forth affair with the Patriots on Sunday at Lambeau Field, winning 27-24 on a walk-off field goal as the overtime clock expired.
Here are five takeaways from the triumph:
1. Losing this game would've been immensely disappointing.
The Patriots already were starting their backup quarterback, Brian Hoyer, and he lasted just two series before exiting with a head injury. That turned New England's offense over to rookie fourth-round pick Bailey Zappe from Western Kentucky.
Beating a third-string QB did not prove to be easy, however, as an early fumble by rookie receiver Romeo Doubs, a pick-six thrown by QB Aaron Rodgers (just the fourth of his career) right before halftime, and a strong Patriots running and play-action game took this one all the way to the wire.
There were two lead changes and two ties in the second half, with the Packers missing chances to win in regulation and the Patriots failing to seize a key moment in overtime.
Ultimately, a methodical 12-play, 77-yard drive on which running back AJ Dillon carried six times for 25 yards drained the final 6:47 in OT. Kicker Mason Crosby drilled a 31-yard field goal for the win and a 3-1 record.
"You can't be 2-2 losing to a third-string quarterback and not playing great in all three phases," Rodgers said. "So we had to have this one."
Added Head Coach Matt LaFleur: "It's never easy winning in this league and certainly there's a lot of things we need to do better, but bottom line is we found a way when we needed to and we made just enough plays to come out on top.
"Our guys stuck together. They're not always going to be pretty wins and I'm OK with that."
2. Like last week, it was a Jekyll-and-Hyde performance by the offense, just in reverse.
Two early touchdowns at Tampa Bay in Week 3 were followed by nothing. This time, after one score and two turnovers in six first-half possessions, the Packers scored three straight times to open the second half (two TDs, one FG).
The run was jump-started by a diving 32-yard catch by receiver Allen Lazard on the opening third down of the second half, with tight end Robert Tonyan finishing that drive with a 20-yard TD grab. Doubs added a 13-yard TD on third down to tie the game in the fourth quarter on a perfectly executed back-shoulder throw for Rodgers' 500th career TD pass (including postseason).
When it was all said and done, Rodgers threw for 207 yards after halftime, and the Packers rolled up 199 rushing yards on the day, led by Aaron Jones' 110.
"I settled in and usually don't have two terrible halves, so I kind of returned to the form I expect from myself, and we started moving the football," Rodgers said.
3. The defense was having its own ups and downs, but most importantly finished strong.
Led by Rashan Gary's two sacks, including a forced fumble and recovery late in the first half, the Packers' defense had stymied the Patriots after an early field goal.
But a personal foul on defensive lineman Kenny Clark following a shared sack by Dean Lowry and Preston Smith on the Patriots' opening drive of the second half suddenly changed the tenor of things.
From there, Zappe and the Patriots went 50 yards in five plays, and then 66 yards in seven plays, never even facing a third down and scoring two touchdowns to take a 24-17 lead early in the fourth quarter. The TDs came on a 25-yard completion to receiver DeVante Parker and a 5-yard run by running back Damien Harris (18 carries, 86 yards).
Then it flipped again, with New England failing to get a first down on any of its final three possessions, including the key one in overtime. With the Patriots taking over on the 49-yard line and needing just a field goal to win, the Packers got a three-and-out with two run stops and a pressured incomplete pass.
"That was huge," LaFleur said, with the field position well in New England's favor at that juncture. "There was a moment there, I was like, 'Oh, man, this is not looking very good.' Thankfully, our defense came up with a critical stop."
See scenes from the Sunday afternoon matchup between the Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots at Lambeau Field on Oct. 2, 2022.
4. The Packers regrettably blew two chances to win the game in regulation.
On third-and-8 from the New England 40 with just over two minutes left in the fourth quarter, Rodgers hit Doubs on a deep ball to the end zone and Lambeau exploded in cheers.
Only Doubs lost control of the ball as he hit the ground, and the pass was ruled incomplete.
"I was celebrating," Rodgers said. "(Patriots pass rusher) Matt Judon was standing next to me and he goes, 'He dropped it.' I'm like, 'What?' And they showed the replay and he didn't take it all the way to the ground."
That led to an ill-fated decision by LaFleur to challenge the call, which was upheld on replay. The lost timeout proved monumental, because the Packers subsequently pinned the Patriots on their own 2-yard line with 1:52 left, but with only one timeout remaining, Green Bay was not able to get the ball back again until New England punted with just 14 ticks to go.
With one more timeout, the Packers might've forced the Patriots to punt with closer to a minute on the clock, plenty of time for one more drive for the game-winning points.
LaFleur was highly self-critical after the game, calling it a wrongheaded "Hail Mary" to throw the red flag and even admitting assistant coach Connor Lewis advised him from the booth not to challenge the Doubs play.
"I'm not too proud of that moment," LaFleur said. "It's a great learning lesson that you can never make those emotional decisions in the heat of battle. You know better. You've got to survive the ground.
"Thank God our guys bailed me out in that regard, but definitely the worst decision of the day by me."
5. It's on to London.
Packers-Giants from Tottenham Hotspur is up in seven days, a pair of 3-1 NFC teams hopping across the Atlantic Ocean for what promises to be a wild and raucous environment.
"That's a challenge in itself," LaFleur said. "It's the same for both teams, right, in terms of whoever can handle that travel the best typically will go out there and perform the best.
"There's a lot to clean up before we get on that plane to go to London."
But once again, the Packers are working on their faults after a difficult victory, which beats the alternative.
"A win's a win," Rodgers said. "That was an ugly first half, good second half. We're going to celebrate this and now the schedule gets physically demanding as far as travel."