Patriots' New Blood takes Rodgers and the Pack to the Brink
Wouldn’t say I’m a complete believer in the concept of moral victories, but occasionally, some circumstances arise to where that is applicable. Taking the Green Bay Packers to triple zeros on the clock in overtime with a third-string QB could very well fit into that category. Even so, the New England Patriots now fall to 1-3 for the second season in a row, and just the third time since 2001. Much like in the season opener in Miami, Aaron Rodgers, Rashan Gary and company made just a few more impact plays, and those decided things. But if you told me that the Packers won on a field goal with no time left on the clock in overtime, I would have probably taken that.
With Brian Hoyer going down with a head injury early on, 2022 Fourth Rounder Bailey Zappe out of Western Kentucky saw real NFL action for the first time in Lambeau Field. If you want to talk about a high-leverage situation to kick things off, it doesn’t get much tougher than that. Although things were largely kept conservative for Zappe here and he wasn’t perfect by any means, it's hard not to feel impressed with how he played as a whole.
Maybe the most stunning statistic of this entire season was that Zappe became the first rookie quarterback of this class to throw a touchdown pass. Not Kenny Pickett, who made his NFL debut today as well, not Desmond Ridder, not Malik Willis. Additionally, the play it came on was a badly missed delay of game, but that’s obviously on the officiating crew for not getting that in real-time (delay of game is unreviewable). Zappe’s job was to give New England a shot to win, and he did just that. He has some work to do especially if he is going next weekend, but a lot to like. On a side note, Zappe’s nickname from here on out is Raichu as in the Pokemon. Any variation of Zapper is null and void, plus it still fits the general vibe, and nothing is more important than vibes.
To the Bench
Something that became apparent in the first half is that Isaiah Wynn was flirting with disaster as it related to his playing time. Sure enough, after a horrendous first half featuring two allowed sacks, both blocking Rashan Gary, including the play that knocked Hoyer out. In addition to a rough false start and holding penalty as well. The Patriots began to roll in old friend Marcus Cannon in on some jumbo sets near the end of the first half before he took over at right tackle for Wynn from there on out.
Seeing as Wynn is on the last year of his rookie deal and the start to the year he’s had, I wouldn’t be shocked in the slightest if he is a name floated as a potential trade deadline piece. Given the money on the books for this year and this being it for this deal, the return may not be much, but you could argue it would be more than what they’d get for a comp pick.
The Jones Show
Jonathan Jones of course has been a huge piece for the Patriots so far, and that continued Sunday with some overall good play. However, there are two other Jones in the cornerback room, Jack and Marcus, who came up massive in this matchup. Jack (fantastic name by the way), making his first career start with Jalen Mills out, showed off that he can be a true playmaker in the secondary. He forced two turnovers, a fumble from Romeo Doubs that he recovered, and then later a Pick-Six off Rodgers, which has seldom happened in Lambeau Field over the years.
Marcus, at long last, got his feet wet in the return game for both kickoff and punts and started out with a bang. In his six total returns, he averaged 26.6 yards per, on top of one 37-yard kickoff return. If you’ve seen what Jones did at the University of Houston, this isn’t much of a shocker, but Jones is a weapon in the return game. Barring him being inactive/hurt, there is no reason he shouldn’t be returning kicks for the foreseeable future.
Red Sleeves is Red Hot
He only showed up on the box score for one sack, but Matt Judon was once again a menace off the edge for the fourth week in a row. He made Elton Jenkins, a 2020 Pro Bowler, look like a second-string tackle repeatedly, consistently applying pressure on Rodgers as a result. Maybe his best play was coming in unchecked off the edge, just missing out on a sack, but forcing a 3rd down throwaway from Rodgers on the Packers' first drive of overtime. A sack would have looked better, but the result ended up the same. A sack of game would also get Judon to 17 on the year, which wouldn’t be too shabby. Additionally, he has matched the pace of Andre Tippett's 1986 season in New England, with a sack in his first four starts.
Pound the Rock
The Patriots' run game was expected to be a focal point this week, and that rang especially true when Hoyer got sent to the locker room. Luckily, Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris were well up to the challenge and kept the Patriots in the game. Both averaged just south of five yards a carry, with the carry distribution being close to 50/50 once again. Packers may have a better duo with the thunder and lightning of Aaron Jones and BC Legend AJ Dillon, but Stevenson and Harris aren’t that far off, or won’t be for too much longer anyway.
Detroit Rock City
Next up for New England is a home matchup with Dan Campbell and the gritty Detroit Lions. A couple of surprising notes on them through four weeks of action, firstly they are the worst overall defense in the NFL statistically by a good margin. They’ve averaged 444 yards a game against so far, a league-low, in addition to being ranked bottom five in pass and run defense in the league. A surprise given some of the names on that defense, cornerback Jeff Okudah for example, who has broken out in his third season.
As for the Lions' offensive, which has been the top scoring unit in the NFL so far, the Patriots may not be seeing their top weapons. Specifically running back D’Andre Swift who is dealing with an ankle injury. In addition to lights out second-year wideout Amon-Ra St. Brown, who was out yesterday, also with an ankle injury. If you have him in fantasy, you know that he is for real, but he isn’t just a fantasy point guy, he had Pro Bowl/All Pro potential down the road.
Final Score: Green Bay Packers 27, New England Patriots 24 (OT)
Gaffney's Three Stars:
1st Star - Jack Jones (1 Pick-Six, 1 FF, 1 FR)
2nd Star – Marcus Jones (4 Kickoff Returns for 111 Yards, 2 Punt Returns for 49 Yards)
3rd Star – Bailey “Raichu” Zappe (10/15 for 99 Yards and 1 Touchdown)