The Green Bay Packers had the ball in field goal range, on the cusp of breaking a fourth-quarter tie, when Patriots lineman Lawrence Guy knocked the ball out of Aaron Jones’ grasp.
Instead of taking their first lead of the game, the Packers watched the Patriots march to back-to-back scores and put away a 31-17 victory on Sunday night.
Tom Brady completed 22-35 for 294 yards and a touchdown and Josh Gordon notched up 130 yards receiving as the Patriots improved to 7-2 for the season.
Aaron Rodgers had two touchdowns, his second tying the game at 17-17 in the third, but a one-yard rush from James White and Gordon 55-yard score sealed the win for New England.
Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy lamented Guy’s crucial intervention.
“It was obviously a big play in the game,” McCarthy said. “That was a turning point.”
One week after fumbling away a late chance to defeat the then-unbeaten Los Angeles Rams, the Packers blew another fourth-quarter opportunity against the defending AFC champions, and Tom Brady — with some passing help from receiver Julian Edelman — led the Patriots to their sixth straight win.
Jonesy’s had a really nice year for us, so that one play obviously doesn’t lose the game,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said.
“But it’s plays like that — by all of us, myself included — that have just hindered us from finishing games out.”
In just the second match-up ever between Brady, a three-time NFL MVP, and Rodgers, who has won the award twice, Green Bay (3-4-1) played the Patriots even for 45 minutes before Jones’ fumble stalled their best chance to take the lead.
“It’s happening in the worst times,” said Rodgers, who completed 24 of 43 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns.
“When we have to play our best in those crunch times, we haven’t been playing our best.
We’re hurting ourselves with negative yardage plays and missed throws and turnovers at the wrong time,” Rodgers said.
Earlier the Los Angeles Rams suffered their first loss of the season, going down 45-35 to the New Orleans Saints. Drew Brees had led the Saints to a 35-17 lead at the half, but Jared Goff found Malcolm Brown and Cooper Kupp to bring the game level at 35-35 going into the last 10 minutes.
A Will Lutz field goal from 54 yards gave the home side a slight lead before Brees completed a 72-yard pass to Michael Thomas to seal the win.
Patrick Mahomes threw three touchdown passes — two to Travis Kelce — as AFC West leaders the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Cleveland Browns 37-21.
Mahomes continued the best start by an NFL quarterback in 68 years to inflict defeat on the Browns in their first game since the sacking of coach Hue Jackson.
Ben Roethlisberger threw two touchdown passes and ran for a score to help the Pittsburgh Steelers overcome the Baltimore Ravens 23-16.
Julio Jones ended his 12-game touchdown drought while Matt Ryan threw for 350 yards and four scores as the Atlanta Falcons’ beat the Washington Redskins 38-14.
Jones twisted away from Washington defender Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and into the end zone for his first touchdown catch since November last year.
Cam Newton completed 19 of 25 passes for two touchdowns during the Carolina Panthers’ 42-28 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Newton threw passes of 19 yards to Curtis Samuel and 17 yards to Greg Olsen.
Christian McCaffrey also scored twice for the Panthers as they recorded a 10th straight home win.
Rookie linebacker Jerome Baker scored the only touchdown to help the Miami Dolphins beat the New York Jets 13-6.
Jordan Howard scored two touchdowns as the Chicago Bears defeated the Buffalo Bills 41-9, and the Minnesota Vikings beat the Detroit Lions 24-9. Russell Wilson had 235 yards passing, but the Los Angeles Chargers beat the Seattle Seahawks 25-17 and the Houston Texans edged out the Denver Broncos 19-17.