FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The Patriots' string of routs is over. Their victory streak remains alive with help from a stunning kickoff return by 313-pound guard Dan Connolly.
Connolly rumbled 71 yards with what is believed to be the longest kickoff return by an offensive lineman in NFL history and Tom Brady threw two touchdowns, both to former Florida tight end Aaron Hernandez, as New England edged Green Bay 31-27 Sunday night for its sixth straight win.
The Patriots, who outscored their previous two foes 81-10, had their hands full even with Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers out with a concussion. Matt Flynn threw his first three pro touchdown passes in his place.
The game went down to the final play when Flynn, with the ball at the Patriots 15-yard line, lost it when he was sacked by Tully Banta-Cain and Vince Wilfork recovered for New England. The Patriots need one win to clinch the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs.
The return by Connolly, who later left with a head injury, set up Brady's 2-yard score to Hernandez, cutting Green Bay's lead at halftime to 17-14.
According to STATS LLC, the run by Connolly topped the 48-yard touchdown return by Atlanta's Mal Snider in 1969. Official records have been kept since 1976.
Trailing 27-21, the Patriots scored on Shayne Graham's 38-yard field goal with 11:05 left and went ahead 31-27 on Brady's second touchdown to Hernandez, a 10-yarder with 7:14 to go.