Published January 08, 2015
The New England Patriots are one of the NFL's best teams in the first half.
Just not as good as the fast-starting Green Bay Packers when they're at home.
That's where the Patriots (9-2) will be putting their seven-game winning streak on the line Sunday in their fourth straight game against a division leader.
"We're playing Green Bay in Green Bay," New England coach Bill Belichick said Tuesday. "That's where they've been very dominant, really, in terms of getting ahead and playing from ahead, first quarter. The numbers are staggering."
In their last four games at Lambeau Field, the Packers have outscored opponents 66-0 in the first quarter and 128-9 in the first half.
"It's got to be of historical proportions," Belichick said.
The Packers (8-3) are 5-0 at home and have won seven of their last eight games overall.
"They've been so far ahead of some of these teams that they've played early in the game it's like they're almost running out the clock in the middle of the second quarter," Belichick said.
"We've got to try to find some way to stay competitive in the game to at least turn it into a game and not be trying to play from 28, 31 points behind in the first half."
In their last two home games, Green Bay led Chicago 42-0 at halftime and won 55-14, then led Philadelphia 30-6 at halftime and won 53-20.
The Patriots also are unbeaten at home with six wins but are just 3-2 on the road.
In the first halves, they've outscored opponents 136-38 at home. But when they play on the road, as they will Sunday, their advantage is just 71-51.
That game will be the next test for the Patriots against a top team — and they've passed the first three with blowout wins — 43-21 against Denver, 42-20 at Indianapolis and 34-9 against Detroit.
Denver and Indianapolis were the highest scoring teams in the league entering those games. Now New England is on top, but Green Bay is a mere three points behind.
So it doesn't get easier for a Patriots defense that controlled quarterbacks Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck and Matthew Stafford in its past three games.
Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers leads the NFL in passer rating and average gain per attempt. He's second with 30 touchdown passes and tied for second with only three interceptions.
"I don't think it takes too long to turn on the film and figure out that Aaron Rodgers is playing at an extremely high level right now, and, obviously, even higher at home," Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said. "Every week teams are trying to figure out how to get him out of that rhythm and how to take him out of his game."
It's much tougher to do that when he's playing at Lambeau Field.
In five home games, he has 18 touchdown passes, no interceptions and a passer rating of 138.1
In six games on the road, the numbers are 12 touchdown passes, three interceptions and a 104.0 passer rating.
The Packers won the first two Super Bowls and play in a stadium where Vince Lombardi coached and Bart Starr and Brett Favre played quarterback.
Lambeau, opened in 1957, is the NFL's second oldest stadium. Only Soldier Field (1926) has been around longer.
"There's a great tradition there and their record is great there," Belichick said. "The thing that we have to focus on is just really our matchup this week.
"That's really more important to use at this point than Paul Hornung and Jerry Kramer and Don Hutson and all the other guys that have played there. Not to minimize what they've done, but (there's) nothing we can really do about any of that."
What they can try to do is keep the Packers from rolling to an insurmountable lead in the first half.
"We have to try to find a way to try to be competitive in their home stadium where they've played exceptionally well in recent weeks, just extraordinary," Belichick said. "It's going to be a huge, huge challenge."
Online: AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL