Last play FG gives Packers 38-35 win over Giants
Rodgers completed passes of 24, 27 and 18 yards in a lightning-quick five-play drive to set up a 31-yard field goal by Mason Crosby on the final play, and the Packers remained undefeated and clinched a playoff berth with a 38-35 victory over the New York Giants on Sunday.
Not only did the defending Super Bowl champions qualify for the postseason for the third straight year, the Packers (12-0) clinched the NFC North later in the evening when Detroit lost in New Orleans.
"I'm not going to talk about 16-0 or anything, I think it's one at a time," Rodgers said. "We got the playoff spot, division, hopefully getting the first-round bye and then fortunate enough to be undefeated and I want to talk about something else."
The Packers still have a shot at a perfect season because Rodgers was remarkable after the Giants (6-6) tied the game with 58 seconds to play on Eli Manning's third touchdown pass and a stunning 2-point conversion run by D.J. Ware — a play on which Manning called an audible.
It wasn't enough, though — not with Rodgers making all the late plays on a day he also threw four touchdowns.
"Those are the fun ones when they end up like that," said Rodgers, who finished 28 of 46 for 369 yards in leading the Packers to their 18th straight win. "We've had a number of games we won by a couple scores. You get the ball on the 20, under a minute, and we get it down there for a chip-shot field goal, it's very rewarding. It probably (ranks) right at the top."
Rodgers started the Giants on their way to a fourth straight loss by hitting tight end Jermichael Finley with a 24-yard pass just over the hands of rookie linebacker Jacquian Williams.
"I thought it was mine. I thought it was mine," Williams said. "Like I said, it's a good throw and catch. He made some good throws."
The second throw covered 24 yards to Jordy Nelson down the left sideline and moved the ball to the New York 29. An 18-yard pass to Greg Jennings two plays later moved the ball to the 12. The third toss was a 1-yard loss.
Green Bay called time out with 3 seconds to go before Crosby delivered his winning kick.
"It was a huge drive," said Jennings, who also caught a 20-yard touchdown. "We haven't had one like that at the end in a while. It was very quiet in the huddle, actually. You could see everybody was focused. It's great to see what we could do at the end like that."
Coach Mike McCarthy smiled when asked about Rodgers.
"I'm running out of things to say about him," McCarthy said. "He's a great quarterback. Playing against the pass rush they had tonight, he hung in there and made the plays."
Rodgers, who was sacked three times and pressured many other times, also threw touchdown passes of 7 and 13 yards to Donald Driver and 12 to Finley in addition to the one to Jennings.
The loss was another heartbreaker for New York, which played exceptionally well after being blown out by New Orleans on Monday night. The Giants tied it by marching 69 yards in nine plays with a 2-yard touchdown pass from Manning to Hakeem Nicks and the 2-point run finishing the march.
The Giants' defense, however, could not stop Rodgers.
"When you get a chance to knock out the champ, you gotta knock him out," Giants defensive captain Justin Tuck said. "You can't let them hang around and fight off the ropes. You've got to knock him out. There's a reason they've won 18 straight."
The three-point victory was the Packers' smallest winning margin this season.
"We're 12-0 and we're focused on that," said linebacker Clay Matthews, who scored on a 38-yard second-quarter interception. "It's been something we've been talking about since we were 7-0 or 8-0. So we'll keep going from that."
For the Giants, everything wasn't terrible. Dallas also lost, leaving New York a game behind the Cowboys in the NFC East with four games to go. The teams will play twice over that span.
"It gives us relief to know we're still right in the mix," said Manning, who was 23 of 40 for 347 yards. "If we handle our business and win out, we'll be in the playoffs. It's a playoff atmosphere now."
Manning's touchdowns covered 67 yards to Travis Beckum and 4 and 2 yards to Nicks. Brandon Jacobs scored on a 1-yard run after a rare interception of Rodgers and Lawrence Tynes kicked two field goals with a 50-yarder in the fourth quarter pulling New York to 28-27.
Rodgers hooked up with Driver on a 7-yard TD with 3:34 to go to push the lead to 35-27.
However, Manning hit tight end Jake Ballard on two 15-yard passes and connected with Victor Cruz for 22 yards to set up the tying score that New York thought would send the game to OT.
Rodgers had other ideas, though, and the Packers continued their run at trying to match Miami's perfect season in 1972.
It's not surprising New York gave them a game. The Giants ended Denver's perfect season at 11 games in 1998 and they knocked off the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl in February 2008 when Tom Brady and company were a game from perfection.
Notes: Giants C David Baas was a late scratch because of headaches. Kevin Boothe moved from center to guard and second-year pro Mitch Petrus made his first start. ... Packers CB Charles Woodson suffered a concussion. ... Giants S Kenny Phillips sprained his left knee. ... Cruz had seven catches for a game-high 119 yards. ... Rodgers had a 106.2 passer rating, extending his NFL record to 12 straight games of 100 or better. He also has thrown at least two touchdowns in every game this season. ... The Giants inducted Carl Banks, Mark Bavaro, Alex Webster, Dave Jennings and the late Brad Van Pelt into their ring of honor at halftime.