FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Are you a glass half-full kind of person, or glass half-empty?

Because depending on how you look at the New England Patriots 31-27 victory over the Green Bay Patriots on Sunday night at chilly Gillette Stadium, it was either a great, comeback win or a fortunate one.

It was either a game in which the Patriots showed their resiliency — again — or one in which they didn’t play well but found a way to win — again.

Yes, Green Bay isn’t that bad. But the Packers were without star quarterback Aaron Rodgers, their version of Tom Terrific, and were not expected to be able to move the ball as easily as they did.

Yet, there were the Packers, with Matt Flynn leading them, sitting within 15 yards of winning the game in the final seconds before Dane Fletcher and Tully Banta-Cain made big plays to help the Patriots survive.

Patriots Coach Bill Belichick saw a lot wrong with the win — but then he usually does.

“We couldn’t handle a lot of the basic things,” he said. “It was disappointing.

“In the end, it worked out, but obviously we’ve got a lot of work to do … We’ve just got to do a better job and obviously that starts with me.”

Belichick says stuff like that a lot. He’s always searching for the perfect game. But before you start worrying, consider this:

The Patriots, as shaky as they were at times, still have control of the AFC East. Heck, with Pittsburgh’s loss to the New York Jets, the Patriots are even closer to gaining control of homefield advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.

Win one of the final two games, against Buffalo and Miami, and the road to the Super Bowl will go through Gillette Stadium.

That this game was closer than anyone expected, considering Rodgers’ absence, only makes the win that much sweeter.

“I think good teams find a way to win,” said nose tackle Vince Wilfork. “Especially in December.

“I’m not worried about how we won. Fact is, we won.”

It was achieved in typical Belichickian fashion, with a lot of guys you probably never heard of — unless you’re a diehard Patriots’ fan — contributing.

How much do you know about Dan Connolly? Or Kyle Arrington? Or Fletcher?

Those three had as much to do with the Patriots victory as did Tom Brady, who threw two touchdown passes and again showed his poise, leading his 31st career game-winning comeback in the fourth quarter.

It was also Brady’s seventh consecutive game with at least two touchdown passes and no interceptions, setting an NFL record that he shared with the late Don Meredith.

But back to the others.

Connolly plays right guard, subbing for the injured Stephen Neal. Earlier this year, he played left guard while Logan Mankins was holding out.

Arrington is a starting cornerback. Earlier this year he was down on the depth chart, but he kept making plays until Belichick had no choice but to start him.

Fletcher is a rookie reserve linebacker.

Connolly made the first big play, Arrington the second and Fletcher the third.

With the Patriots trailing 17-7 late in the second quarter, they needed a spark. And Connolly gave it to them.

Connolly, a blocker on the kickoff return team, received a short kick and returned it 71 yards to the Green Bay 4.

He rumbled up the middle, then broke to the left, outran a coverage man and was caught from behind. Brady threw his first touchdown pass of the game to Aaron Hernandez three plays later to pull the Patriots within three at the half.

Then Arrington stepped up, intercepting a Flynn pass early in the third quarter and returning it 36 yards for a touchdown, shaking off or eluding four would-be tacklers.

That gave the Patriots a 21-17 lead following Shayne Graham’s PAT kick, but the Patriots defense couldn’t slow down Flynn, who completed 24 of 37 passes for 251 yards and three touchdowns. They had plenty of trouble with running back Brandon Jackson, too, as he rushed for 99 yards.

The Packers got the next 10 points, leading 27-21 with 13:49 remaining.

Brady calmly led the Patriots in for a field goal and, after the Patriots defense stopped the Packers, in for the go-ahead touchdown on a 10-yard pass to Hernandez with 7:14 left.

The Patriots had a chance to seal the win with less than five minutes left by running out the clock, but they were forced to punt.

“Our performance was up and down all day, or all night,” said Belichick. “That’s the way it was for all four quarters, we had some good plays, then bad plays, then good plays.”

Green Bay kept the ball the final 4:22 but couldn’t score. Fletcher came up with an 8-yard sack from the 24 — a play that was vital because the Packers ended up a yard short of a first down with no timeouts left and were forced to hurry a final play to try to win the game.

But Flynn was sacked by Banta-Cain to end it.

“We ended up picking up the win,” said Danny Woodhead. “Any time you work during the week, you want to show up Sunday and get the win. It obviously wasn’t the prettiest game, but we got it done.”

In typical Patriots’ fashion.

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

[email protected]


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