BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots did not play their best game on Sunday afternoon — not even close — and as a result, they suffered their first loss in two full calendar months.

Still, despite some breakdowns on defense, disorder on offense and one bad special teams play, the Patriots only lost by five points to arguably the NFL’s best team in arguably the NFL’s most difficult stadium for visiting opponents. So while the loss is never a positive result, Sunday’s setback shouldn’t lead New England to suddenly lose hope on the season.

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With that in mind, here is a run-through of the Four Ups and Four Downs from the Patriots’ loss.


Brandon LaFell
The Packers punted just once all game, whereas the Patriots punted four times. The reason the Patriots were able to hang with the Packers on the scoreboard? The Packers were held to field goals, while the Patriots were able to score touchdowns. And the reason the Patriots were able to score touchdowns was Brandon LaFell.

LaFell came up with just five catches for 38 yards, but he maximized his effectiveness by hauling in two touchdowns. They weren’t easy either. On the first one, LaFell planted his left foot and broke outside to gain separation from Tramon Williams before making the catch just inside the boundary. On the second, he made an impressive over-the-shoulder catch just inside the left pylon — a 15-yard strike.

LaFell now has 53 receptions for 712 yards and seven TDs on the season, all career highs. Considering the long list of receivers who signed up with the Pats, only to suffer through various levels of failure, that’s certainly impressive for the fifth-year pro.

Rob Gronkowski
Again, Rob Gronkowski proved that he’s the world’s most unstoppable force when he’s holding the football in his hands. He led the Patriots with seven receptions, and his 98 receiving yards were more than twice as many as any of his teammates.

But it wasn’t the numbers so much as it was the sheer force that Gronkowski exhibited, particularly on a third-and-3 from the Green Bay 13-yard line late in the second quarter. Gronkowski caught the pass over the middle from Tom Brady, and he then slipped through a tackle attempt from Morgan Burnett, spun through a would-be tackle from Sam Barrington, barreled over Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and knocked Clay Matthews onto his back before finally coming down at the 2-yard line. It was a display of brutal power, one that Gronkwoski seemingly puts forth every weekend.

LeGarrette Blount
When the outlook looked bleak for the Patriots, a large number of voices on Twitter began making the call for Jonas Gray. But it turned out to be LeGarrette Blount to step up out of the New England backfield.

Facing a crucial third-and-1 to start the fourth quarter, Brady handed to Blount, and the 250-pound running back bulldozed his way through a host of green jerseys, and he just never stopped churning his legs. Blount gained 13 yards on the play. Sensing that they had a good thing going, the Patriots handed it back to Blount on the next play, and he once again bowled over anyone in his way en route to another 13-yard gain.

Two plays later, Brady connected with LaFell for a touchdown, cutting the Packers’ lead to just two points. It was made possible by Blount.

Blount, in his second game with the Patriots this season, gained 58 yards on 10 carries. He’s averaging 6.2 yards per carry in his two games in a Patriots uniform, and he figures to play a factor in December and January.

Julian Edelman
By Edelman’s own standards, a look at the stat sheet will tell you that it wasn’t a great game for the receiver. He caught seven passes for 48 yards, and given the lack of Packers punts, Edelman couldn’t even utilize his punt return skills.

But Edelman proved valuable in multiple ways. For one, he came up with a five-yard reception on a fourth-and-3 near midfield, a play the Patriots absolutely needed to make and a play that followed an eight-yard catch by Edelman.

And secondly, Edelman played through an injury that had him hobbling off the field in the first half. Edelman’s early career was spotted with missing time due to injury, but the 28-year-old showed his determination in not only willing himself back onto the field but also making an impact. He was not at his best, but he was still a contributor, which is something that didn’t go unnoticed by Brady.

“He’s a tough guy,” Brady said of Edelman. “He’s been fighting through it for the past couple of years. You know, he’s not a big guy and he gets little nicks, and he took a big hit there and he was able to come back out and finish the game. That’s what we needed. That’s what we need from everybody, it’s being out on the field, trying to help the team win, doing the best you can do and laying it all on the line.”

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Darrelle Revis and Devin McCourty’s Closing Ability
On the whole, Darrelle Revis played an outstanding game. But one play just before halftime proved to be a back-breaker for the Patriots, and he was at least party at fault.

Revis was in coverage on Jordy Nelson. Perhaps Nelson told Rodgers during the timeout that preceded the play that he knew he could beat Revis to the inside, because he did just that. Revis closed off the outside for Nelson, who ran an in-cut and caught a pass from Rodgers in perfect stride. Revis had no chance to catch up to Nelson, but Devin McCourty did. Yet Nelson outraced McCourty, just sneaking the football inside the front left pylon.

The play, a 45-yard catch-and-run, was huge. It came just after the Patriots scored a touchdown to close the Green Bay lead to 16-14. They hoped to take that into halftime, but instead the Packers led by nine, thereby forcing the Patriots to play from behind for the entirety of the game.

Jordy Nelson (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)

Jordy Nelson (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)

Offensive Line
For the first time since September, the offensive line was leaky. Very leaky.

The results of those leaks may not have shown up on the stat sheet — Brady was sacked just once — but the relentless pass rush kept Brady off balance for most of the game. Julius Peppers got his hand on two Brady passes, Clay Matthews whacked Brady’s arm mid-throw on one notable incompletion, the Packers totaled six QB hits and Brady was never able to really set up shop in a clean pocket.

After the trio of Dan Connolly, Bryan Stork and Ryan Wendell solidified the line after the slow start to the season, the unit was really a strength of the team. But they just got beat on this day.

Shane Vereen/Josh McDaniels
At this point in his career, it’s clear that Vereen is best-suited to be a receiving option out of the backfield. He can take the occasional inside handoff, but that’s hardly the best way to utilize him and his skill-set. That’s especially true with runners like LeGarrette Blount and Brandon Bolden on the roster.

So it was strange to see Brady hand the ball to Vereen for some between-the-tackles running three times. Vereen gained just six yards on the three runs. On the first, he was completely stopped in his tracks by Sam Barrington, knocked backward for a short gain of just two yards. He later could gain just one yard on a second-and-10 in the third quarter. The Patriots punted two plays later.

But it’d be hard to get on Vereen for not excelling at running up the gut, because that’s just not his strong suit. Instead, it’s worth wondering why Josh McDaniels thought those plays were good ideas.

They were just three plays, sure, but two of them came just before New England punts, and the other was a failed attempt to sneak one in for a touchdown from the 7-yard line. They were wasted plays, and in games this close, teams can’t afford to waste plays.

Stephen Gostkowski
Just last week, Stephen Gostkowski earned some praise during the Patriots broadcast for not missing a fourth-quarter kick since September 2012. Well, it’s time to reset the clock.

Gostkowski missed a 47-yard field goal attempt with 2:40 left in the game. Realistically, a successful kick there might not have changed much, as the Packers still would have been getting the football, leading by two points. Green Bay would still need to just convert one first down in order to be able to run out the clock, so missing the field goal didn’t sink the Patriots by any means.

But it was the degree to which Gostkowski missed — he missed so badly — that lands him on this list. The kick never once was on track to find its way through the uprights, and it nearly missed the entire net. It just was not at all what the Patriots would like from their kicker in that situation.

Read more from Michael Hurley by clicking here, or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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