Concerning Sunday night’s sack by Trey Flowers and Adrian Clayborn, timing was everything. But it wasn’t the first time Flowers blossomed against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.
By Bob Socci, 98.5 The Sports Hub
The 101st selection in the 2015 NFL Draft leaned on his left hand from his spot at right defensive end and bolted around left tackle to burst onto the scene in Foxborough.
Sure, his resulting blindside sack occurred in the first quarter of an all-but-forgotten preseason opener. Still, the opponent and play itself signaled that the long-armed lineman out of Arkansas was someone to remember — even after eventually swapping the No. 74 he wore on that night for the 98 he dons these days.
In that instance, Trey Flowers beat David Bakhtiari to bury Aaron Rodgers. Within minutes, after being twisted around on an uncalled hold and moving down the line to make another tackle, he was injured. Flowers’ mid-August debut was short-lived — 14 snaps in all — and his rookie regular season would consist of just four plays — all in Week 7 vs. the Jets — yet that first impression has lasted into early November of his fourth year.
On Sunday night, with Bakhtiari and Rodgers back in town, Flowers made his latest mark.
Roughly five minutes into the fourth quarter, the Patriots took advantage of a Packers’ fumble by taking a 24-17 lead. With the ensuing possession, Green Bay faced a third-and-7 from its 28-yard line.
Aligned inside end Adrian Clayborn, Flowers out-leveraged Green Bay’s left guard, instantly jabbing his left hand into Lane Taylor’s right shoulder and maneuvering under and around him. Simultaneously, Clayborn fooled Bakhtiari by starting outside the tackle’s left shoulder before looping around to the inside.
By the time to time Rodgers caught the shotgun snap from center Corey Linsley, Flowers was wrapping his thighs with Clayborn coming over the top. As Flowers and Clayborn executed the stunt, their timing could not have been better for New England’s one and only sack.
“It’s just something that the players really had talked about prior to this play, earlier in the game the way that Green Bay was blocking us, we thought we might have a chance to run this,” head coach Bill Belichick said on his Monday conference call, noting the coverage coinciding with the twist in the pass rush. “It was an excellent call by [defensive line] coach [Brendan] Daly [and linebackers] coach [Brian] Flores to kind of get this tee’d up because I thought it was a huge play in the game.
“We had a seven-point lead, which isn’t very much against these guys and to be able to get the ball back midway through the fourth quarter with a seven-point lead and get a three-and-out after we’d gotten the turnover the series before and scored, was really a huge — I thought it was a huge play in the game.”
Following a punt, Julian Edelman raced around the end for 17 yards and Tom Brady hit Josh Gordon with a 55-yard, line-drive dagger to make it a two-score game.
Pats 31, Packers 17. Seven minutes, 20 seconds to go. One more stop and the game was over.
When it officially ended, the 6-foot-2, 265-pound Flowers had played 72-of-74 defensive snaps and totaled five tackles and a half-sack, giving him 16 in his last 39 games. A week earlier at Buffalo, he operated more frequently on the outside, registering a pair of quarterback hits and a pass defended. Back-to-back, they were perhaps Flowers’ two best performances of the fall.
“Trey’s always been a pretty good run player. He does a very good job of using his hands and he’s athletic. He’s got good speed,” Belichick said after beating the Bills. “His overall playing strength, technique and quickness and athleticism on the edge, on the end of the line – he does a good job with all of that.”
Seven days later, Belichick continued to asses Flowers in all phases and at different places on the field.
“You know, a lot of times he’s playing inside, which he did quite a bit of last night,” Belichick said. “At his size, he’s just lighter than a lot of guys that play in there over the guard and at that position. So he does a good job of again, week-to-week, physically taking care of himself, being able to hold up and the techniques of playing inside, playing outside, playing on the open side, playing on the tight end side. He’s a very versatile and valuable player for us.”
Given Flowers’ value, the cost to keep him beyond this season, when his rookie contract expires, should be substantial. As a defender, he is a key to the game-to-game scheme flexibility that Belichick practices. Plus, a soft-spoken manner and selflessness make Flowers a good citizen in the Pats’ locker room and greater-Boston communities.
In those respects, he’s not unlike the Patriots’ previous 4th-round pick, a player of similar importance and continual improvement on the offensive side, running back James White. In the spring of 2017, after he and Flowers played major roles in New England’s Super Bowl LI comeback, White was rewarded with a new contract.
The same goes for another 4th-rounder, guard Shaq Mason, who was selected 30 slots later in the same draft as Flowers. This past summer, Mason got his; signing a five-year deal totaling $50 million, including $23.5 million in bonuses and guarantees.
News of Mason’s extension prompted questions to Flowers about his own contractual status. He vowed to “let that handle itself when the time comes.”
Flowers has since stayed true to his word, while taking care of business on the field. When indeed the time comes, hopefully he and the Patriots find common ground off it.
Because it sure would be nice to see Flowers put his left hand down, inside or out, when the Pats meet the Packers again in 2022.
You can hear Bob Socci on the call of the game on every game day for the New England Patriots, right here on 98.5 The Sports Hub. You can also hear him on his own The Gridiron And Beyond podcast at 985TheSportsHub.com.