Senior writer jclombardi highlights headlines about close loss to Patriots.
Despite Packers’ loss, Flynn played like a winner: Green Bay Packers quarterback Matt Flynn can look himself in the mirror and have nothing to be ashamed about. Making his first NFL start for the injured Aaron Rodgers (concussion), Flynn played well, threw for 251 yards and three touchdowns and had the Packers poised for a huge upset over the Patriots. With the game on the line and time running out, however, Flynn wasted precious seconds getting the Packers lined up on the Patriots’ 15-yard line, then was sacked and fumbled on the final play of the game. And so the Patriots held on to win, 31-27, extending several impressive streaks: six consecutive victories. “He pushed the envelope a little bit too much a couple times tonight,” said Packers coach Mike McCarthy. “He did a lot of tremendous things tonight. He gave us a chance to win. “It’s definitely something Matt Flynn can grow from. There’s a decision or two he wishes he had back. For his first start on a big stage, he did a number of positive things.” Flynn completed 24 of 37 passes for 251 yards and three touchdowns. He threw the one interception and was sacked five times. He finished with a rating of 100.2 and was not outplayed by Brady (163 yards, two touchdowns). Overall, Flynn performed admirably against perhaps the best team in the NFL and in one of the toughest stadiums to win. “I’m speechless,” said Packers receiver James Jones. “He came in and took control of this team. He played flawlessly, besides the turnover, which was my fault. He came in and stepped up. He’s a great quarterback and he’s got a bright future in this game.”
Clock runs out on Packers, who absorb another close loss: Chalk up another close loss for the Green Bay Packers. Like their previous five defeats, the Packers will walk away knowing the result would have been different if not for one or two plays. This time, it was a long kickoff return by an offensive lineman – yes, an offensive lineman – and an interception return for a touchdown that ultimately doomed the Packers. Tom Brady’s 10-yard touchdown pass to tight end Aaron Hernandez with 7 minutes, 14 seconds left in the game helped the New England Patriots rally for a 31-27 victory over the Packers at Gillette Stadium. The Packers (8-6) are now 2-6 in games decided by four points or less this season. Their six losses this season have been by a combined 20 points. Afterward, the fact his team, a 14½-point underdog, had given the Patriots (12-2) everything they could handle was of little consolation to Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy. “You’re supposed to be in every game,” said McCarthy, who is now 5-16 in his career in games decided by four points or less. “I don’t think I’d feel better if we lost by 21 points. We compete every week in this league. Every time we line up, we expect to win, period, and we didn’t get it done tonight.”
No moral victories: So what did matter to the Packers (8-6), if it didn’t qualify as a moral victory to nearly knock off the Patriots (12-2) with Matt Flynn under center in a place where his counterpart, Tom Brady, has been downright invincible? The fact that they had just lost their sixth game of the season by four points or fewer, dropping coach Mike McCarthy’s career record in such games to 5-16, including an 0-7 mark during the team’s 6-10 swoon in 2008 and 2-6 this season. “We didn’t get it done, once again,” veteran cornerback Charles Woodson lamented. “We’ve got to win a close game. And we haven’t done that – we haven’t shown that we can do that yet. “We’ve got to win a close one. The games, they never get any easier. We’ve got to win a close game.” And while this one might have been against an upper-echelon opponent – as opposed to last week’s loss to Detroit (3-10) or earlier losses to Washington (5-9) and Miami (7-7) – that was of little consolation. “You’re supposed to be in every game. I don’t think I’d feel better if we lost by 21 points,” said McCarthy, whose record in close games is significantly worse than that of his predecessor Mike Sherman (14-12) and iconic coaches Mike Holmgren (13-14) and Vince Lombardi (19-14-4). “We compete every week in this league. Every time we line up, we expect to win, period. And we didn’t get it done tonight. “I don’t care what you guys think. We came here to win. We’re nobody’s underdog. We’re 8-6. We need to get ready for the Giants and we need to get our ninth win.” Regardless of Sunday night’s loss, the Packers will still make the playoffs if they can just hold serve at home the next two Sundays against NFC playoff contenders the New York Giants (9-5) and the NFC North-leading Chicago Bears (9-4). With the Packers’ loss, the Bears can clinch the division title with a win over the Vikings (5-8) at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Monday night.
COMMENTARY: ESPN Dilfer assessed the late season Packers. He praised the Packers as one of the better teams in the NFC. Dilfer contends the Packers’ offensive line is the team’s weak link. “Ultimately for the Packers it seems one thing constantly fails them at the ends of games,” Dilfer said. “And that’s their offensive line. They did a pretty good job against the New England Patriots. But you saw the big sack on the last drive, a pass protection breakup on the right side. If you go back, all these close games on offense, when they stall, whether it’s Aaron (Rodgers) or Matt Flynn, that offensive line has to sustain game-winning drives in those must-win situations. They definitely need to fix their offense line.” However, Dilfer sees Green Bay ending its regular season on an upswing. “I’ve learned a lot about the Packers this year,” Dilfer said. “(Sunday night) doesn’t really change my perception. I think they are better than they were last year. Their record at 8-6 is a little bit of an underachievement. But I like this team and I think they will bounce back. I think they will win these next two games.”