FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – For the second consecutive week, a combination of miscues, penalties and turnovers resulted in Green Bay coming up shy of toppling one of the league’s elite.
Traveling to Gillette Stadium to face the red-hot New England Patriots, the Packers controlled the tempo at several intervals of Sunday night’s matchup before falling in a 31-17 defeat.
Similar to last week’s 29-27 loss to the then-undefeated Los Angeles Rams, the Packers had a chance to take the lead in the fourth quarter after driving into Patriots’ territory with back-to-back completions to rookie receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling, totaling 50 yards.
With the game tied at 17 and in striking distance at the New England 34, running back Aaron Jones saw his streak of 153 consecutive touches without a fumble come to an end when former Packers defensive lineman Lawrence Guy punched the ball out with the Patriots recovering.
It was a sour note to end on for Jones, who had 14 carries for 76 yards to helped spark the offense in what marked his third consecutive start of the season.
“Good defensive play, looking at it on replay,” Jones said. “He punched the ball out. It’s my mistake. I’ll correct it.
“You just have to shake it off and move on to the next play. Know that’s not me. Just shake it off. Everybody makes mistakes.”
Green Bay’s defense had played through several adverse moments in Sunday’s game prior to Jones’ fumble, particularly in the third quarter.
After Aaron Rodgers tied the game at 17 with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham, Tom Brady and the Patriots marched all the way down to the Green Bay 1 before the Packers’ defense stalled them with four consecutive goal-line stops.
Green Bay forced a three-and-out on its next series with an 11-yard sack from a blitzing Antonio Morrison, but was summoned back on the field after a roughing-the-punter penalty on tight end Robert Tonyan gave New England a fresh set of downs.
The Packers’ defense responded by forcing another quick three-and-out to set up the offense’s late third-quarter drive. With Green Bay needing one more stop after Jones’ fumble, the Patriots went back to their well of trick plays.
Facing second-and-6 from the Green Bay 39, Brady threw a pass behind the line of scrimmage to receiver Julian Edelman, who then found running back James White for a 37-yard completion, which set up a White 1-yard touchdown to regain the lead.
The Packers’ defense practiced against flea-flickers and deceptives in the lead-up to the game, knowing New England had those plays in its repertoire, but the Patriots still came out firing.
“They actually didn’t catch us off-guard, but they ran a lot of them,” defensive back Tramon Williams said. “Most of the time, you may get two trick plays at that. But they had it plotted out, man. New England comes to win. That’s what you’ve got to respect about them.”
The Patriots’ defense forced the Packers to go three-and-out on their next offensive possession and Brady used the opportunity to connect with Josh Gordon on a 55-yard touchdown pass on the next series to put New England up by two scores.
Green Bay won the battle for time of possession and third-down efficiency, but had twice as many penalty yards (seven for 63 yards) as New England (five for 30). The Packers also had to finish the game without safety Jermaine Whitehead, who was ejected in the second quarter after a dust-up with New England offensive lineman David Andrews.
The Packers, now sitting at 3-4-1, will look to regroup next week at home against the Miami Dolphins, who picked up a narrow 13-6 home win over the New York Jets Sunday.
“We need that game. Next week, we need it,” receiver Davante Adams said. “We’re running out of games to keep saying we need that game, but we definitely need it at this point. Guys got to step up. ’Quez did a great job capitalizing on his opportunities today, but we need that from everybody. Both sides of the ball. Special teams. All that.”