By Danny Picard
FOXBORO -- When asked to describe his first career NFL start, Packers quarterback Matt Flynn described it as "a losing performance."
That assessment was correct. The Patriots defeated the Aaron Rodgers-less Pack, 31-27, Sunday night at Gillette Stadium.
But Flynn wasn't giving himself enough credit. Because with Rodgers sidelined after suffering his second concussion of the season last weekend, this game wasn't even supposed to be close.
Put this into perspective: Once Rodgers was officially ruled out, the Packers quickly became 14-point underdogs. Had Rodgers been healthy, the Patriots would have been favored by close to 10 points less.
For it was Flynn's first career NFL start. He came into Gillette Stadium, one week after failing to put up any points in a loss to the Lions after relieving Rodgers, to try and fill in for one of the league's best quarterbacks. And in the process, try and knock off a Patriots team that had been awfully dominant as of late, on both sides of the football.
But after the Patriots took a 7-3 lead in the first quarter, Flynn came out and threw two touchdown passes of his own, giving his Packers a 17-7 advantage with just over two minutes left in the first half. He added two more time-consuming scoring drives, resulting in a touchdown and a field goal, in the third quarter.
Flynn finished the game 24-of-37 for 251 yards, while throwing three touchdown passes and one interception.
"The loss is really the only thing that's on my mind right now," said Flynn after the game. "I feel like we did some good things. Personally, I felt like there were some good things I did. I made a couple mental mistakes on reads, and the ball slipped out, two times, of my hand. But the bottom line is, we didn't make the plays we needed to. And that's what did us in at the end."
Flynn had one final chance to make the biggest play of the game, on 4th-and-1 from the Patriots 15 with 10 seconds left in the fourth quarter. But the Patriots dropped eight into coverage and only rushed three, leaving the Packers' quarterback with no passing options and leading to a Tully Banta-Cain sack with no time left on the clock.
It came just after a 10-yard completion from Flynn, and was awfully close to a first down. Packers coach Mike McCarthy and Flynn were both grilled after the game for possibly having poor clock management in that final possession, but McCarthy defended the way his quarterback handled the situation.
"The third-down completion, you have to find out of it's first down or fourth down," said McCarthy. "It obviously takes time. I think the clock was running . . . We were right at the point, if it was a first down, we would have clocked a play, and then we would have had a set play on second down.
"But it takes the referee time to make a decision. It was a clear 4th-and-1, so you have to get up on the ball, and you have to take a shot at the end zone. I think it's a very clear situation. I think Matt operated it properly. They had a three-man rush, and they sacked us. So the mechanics of it, I thought, was very well done by Matt Flynn."
McCarthy was also disappointed with the loss, along with the rest of the Packers, but everyone acknowledged that Flynn put his team in a position to steal one at Gillette Stadium, something not many thought would be possible.
"It's definitely something Matt Flynn can grow from," said McCarthy. "We came here to win, I want to make that clear. I thought he put us in position time and time to win the football game, but there's a decision or two that he wants to take back. But I thought, for his first start, on the big stage, against a National Football team playing very well, I thought he did a number of positive things, and he gave us a chance to win tonight."
"I was very impressed," said Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings. "We knew what he could do. He's a very poised guy, and he was great in the huddle. He made some great throws and extended some plays, and made some plays for his team. He's a smart quarterback, he's a very solid guy. I told him after the game to hold his head up. I would take him any day of the week. He's going to be a great quarterback."
Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard. You can listen to Danny on his streaming radio show I'm Just Sayin' Monday-Friday from 9-10 a.m. on CSNNE.com.