A turnover, a trick play and Tom: How the Pats beat the Pack

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- There was a playoff vibe in Sunday night’s thoroughly entertaining and highly competitive game between the Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots.

And the Patriots sure looked primed and ready for another push to the playoffs in recording a 31-17 victory, in which they scored 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter and that featured some familiar staples.

There was razzle-dazzle on offense in the fourth quarter -- Julian Edelman throwing a cross-the-field pass to running back James White, who ran 37 yards to set up the go-ahead touchdown. Yes, the old Kent State quarterback still can sling it.

"It's always nice to throw a pass. I'm just mad that James didn’t get in [the end zone]. I would have had a better stat line," Edelman cracked. "I definitely felt the crowd get fired up after that. It was a real swing right there."

The play sparked memories of the double pass in which Edelman connected with Danny Amendola on a 51-yard touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC divisional round of the playoffs on Jan. 11, 2015.

Then there was a swarming defense, which bottled up Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in critical situations and helped buy time for quarterback Tom Brady and the Patriots' offense, which struggled for stretches. The play of the game was 315-pound defensive tackle Lawrence Guy hustling down the field to deliver a big hit on running back Aaron Jones to force a fumble in the fourth quarter, which cornerback Stephon Gilmore recovered.

That was the turning point, as the Patriots turned a 17-17 tie into a victory by racing away down the homestretch.

"At that time, it was big for us to have," said Guy, one of the Patriots' unheralded players. "The big thing about it not just knocking the ball out, it’s recovering the ball."

And another hallmark of the win was that the Patriots did it without some of their key players.

Tight end Rob Gronkowski was inactive due to back and ankle injuries. (The Patriots have won both games without Gronk this season, scoring 69 points.)

Also out was starting right guard Shaq Mason (calf), and his absence showed up in the Patriots having some issues in pass protection against the Packers' creative scheming.

And rookie running back Sony Michel (knee) also didn't play, which forced wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson into a second week of emergency duty at running back (his 5-yard rushing TD was impressive). Edelman said it almost feels like Little League football when players are utilized in different roles, which, of course, he knows well from earlier in his career when he played cornerback.

So on a night when Brady wasn't always at his best, it took a complete team effort to help the Patriots improve to 7-2. That helps them keep pace with the 8-1 Kansas City Chiefs -- whom the Pats beat on Oct. 14 -- in the AFC playoff race.

"The defense played spectacular -- 17 points against that offense is great," Brady said. "They made some big stops for us. Offensively, we had some plays we all would like to have done a lot better job on, but we made some plays in the fourth quarter when we needed to. Any time you beat a good football team, it feels good. It was a great team win."