My stomach was churning throughout the entire second half tonight. Yes, the Patriots inability to pull away from the battered Packers definitely played a role, but my indigestion had more to do with the awful announcing occuring in the background.
"Who would have ever thought that Matt Flynn would be having a night like this!"
"I was expecting this game to be a blow-out"
"Nobody was predicting a tight game like this!"
Not true. I knew tonight was going to be an ugly, ugly dog fight of a game. I said so two days ago. If you don't believe me, then scroll down three posts. I knew that with Aaron Rodgers out of the picture, complacency was bound to creep in on this young Patriots team. After two massive blow-outs, they had to be riding high and Matt Flynn was the perfect recipe to set them up for a fall. This was the Cleveland Game Part Deux.
Only this time, the maturing Patriots came out with the win. When Green Bay began throwing punches faster and harder than expected, the Patriots made the necessary adjustments. They stuck to their game plan and got decent pressure on Flynn at key moments. Tom Brady and the offense stayed the course and got rolling at just the right time in the 4th quarter. The Pats came up with some big plays, particularly Dan Connoly's kickoff return and Kyle Arrington's INT TD. And while I'd hardly call the game mistake-free, the Patriots did manage to make it through yet another game without a turnover. Most importantly, when the game was truly on the line during that final drive, this defense, yet again, refused to break. That is now the fourth game this season that this Patriots D has come up big with a team potentially driving down the field towards a win. (Baltimore, San Diego, Indy, and tonight) This unheralded group of youngsters is now a staggering 4-0 in those type of situations.
I'm not overly thrilled with what I saw tonight. The Patriots should have destroyed Green Bay. They should have brought their "A" games and kept their momentum going. But what does bring a smile to my face is the growth that I saw from this team as a whole, and particularly the defense. The Patriots don't win this game eight weeks ago. I'm not even sure that they win it three weeks ago. It took a Herculean effort by leaders Tom Brady and Vince Wilfork to take their struggling teammates and get them back on track towards a victory. Heading into the playoffs it's very reassuring to know that when the going gets tough, the Patriots are able to persevere. Perhaps the complacency is just normal human nature. Maybe the fact that the Patriots were able to dig deep and overcome it is what makes them super-human.
Oh, and by the way… Luke Hanson, 3-0!