Surprisingly, Flynn gave Packers a chance to win

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Surprisingly, Flynn gave Packers a chance to win

By Danny Picard
CSNNE.com

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.

SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Rawls leads Seahawks to 40-7 pummeling of Panthers

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SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Rawls leads Seahawks to 40-7 pummeling of Panthers

SEATTLE - Behind Thomas Rawls bouncing off and through tacklers and a big-play punch from Tyler Lockett, the Seattle Seahawks rediscovered their offensive star power on Sunday night.

It came at a significant cost to their defense.

Rawls ran for 103 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, Lockett took a reverse 75 yards for a score to open the second half and the Seahawks routed the Carolina Panthers 40-7 on Sunday night.

Click here to read the complete story

Curran: Outcome expected, Patriots can still build off win vs. Rams

Curran: Outcome expected, Patriots can still build off win vs. Rams

FOXBORO – So they did precisely what they were supposed to do. Poleaxed a bad team that had come cross-country to get its whipping and then return home.

It’s hard to downgrade the Patriots for that. Not this time. Even though they were facing a rookie quarterback making his third NFL start in Jared Goff, even though the Rams were without wide receiver Tavon Austin, the net the Patriots threw over the Rams offense was so stifling that those qualifiers don’t count.

The Rams went 1-for-9 on third down. They were 0-for-8 before the late conversion. They didn’t get over 100 total yards until their final drive of the game and that required a breakdown by Malcolm Butler on Kenny Britt. Britt, the Rams best offensive player this season, hadn’t had a catch before that.

PATRIOTS 26, RAMS 10

So what if the Patriots used the Rams as their step stool to get to the next rung? So what if they were supposed to do exactly that? They’d had other matchups this season when they hadn’t choked out lesser opponents. This time they did.

And some of the players who figured prominently are precisely some of the players who’ve had their struggles.

Jabaal Sheard, benched two weeks ago, forced a pick and three passes defensed. Logan Ryan, who’s seen his role change and playing time dwindle, had a sack on a corner blitz and had two quarterback hits to go with five tackles. Kyle Van Noy, still fitting into the defense, had a pick, a pass defensed and four tackles. Alan Branch, who hasn’t struggled but had an NFL suspension hanging over his head until the league rescinded it Saturday, was his normal nuisance up front. Chris Long and Shea McClellin, both new to the team this year, had sacks.

“That happens around here,” explained Dont'a Hightower. “The next-man-up mentality has been here for a few years. Guys don’t play early then later in the season, they get right whatever it was that wasn’t right and they come back and we play well. It’s about us playing together.”

Hightower has steadily proclaimed that the defense has the talent and self-belief necessary to get where it needs to be on a consistent basis.  

“I feel like every week should be like this regardless of who we’re playing,” he said. “We had a great week of practice. Everyone was all in the same mindset, the same focus. (Defensive coordinator Matty Patricia) again did a great job of calling the game, mixing it up. We just went out there and executed.”

As the Patriots head into the final four games of their schedule, the caliber of their competition will rise. The next opponent, Baltimore, has won four of five including a 38-6 demolition of the Dolphins on Sunday.

The Broncos are up after the Ravens and that game will be in Denver, never an easy spot for the Patriots to say the least.

The Patriots close at home with the always-annoying Jets and then have to go to South Florida to play Miami in the New Year’s Day finale.  

“We’re just one week at a time,” said Ryan. “You can’t break this season off a couple weeks. Next week, we see what Baltimore [Ravens] just did, they’re a real good team. We know how that’s been in the past so it should be a nice game, a competitive game, competitive atmosphere. We’re just one week at a time, we’re happy we got this game and we’re on to the next one.”

It’s hard to point to this game and say, “All’s fixed.”

It was the outcome expected and there was no letdown. Part of the process.

“It’s December, time to play our best football,” said Devin McCourty. "We’ve been at it for a while now dating back to the beginning of training camp. Things we’ve talked about working on and things we’ve talked about improving, it’s time to start improving on those things and getting them done. Bill [Belichick] said it over and over that who we play each week is not going to matter if we don’t come and fix the things we need to fix and play the way we need to play. I think the whole team understands that and it starts with him, but [also] us echoing it as captains and as leaders. Today I think showed that when we do those things, we go out there and play well.”

The principals in this win – players like Sheard and Ryan – signaled that concerns over buy-in and locker room fissures appearing after playing time was shifted and personnel was shipped out were probably unfounded.

It’s a tough place to play because performance matters and there’s not a lot of, “That’s ok, you’ll get ‘em next time…” with this coaching staff.

It’s mentally challenging.

“That might be an understatement,” laughed Hightower. “But that’s part of the process, that’s part of the Patriot way and we try to adapt to it.”